Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The German-Polish-Russian Triangle

Coming back from Berlin, one of the thoughts I am left with is the need for a trilateral Polish-German-Russian commission to meet and see what can be done to improve relationships.

At what point do you move beyond history? One of the German presenters made the case that one of the drivers of the German approach toward Russia is the recognition of the enormous damage caused by World War II and the realization that the best way to achieve German (and by their extension, European) interests is for a Russia that ends up being fully integrated into the European system. A strong Polish sentiment is for Poland (by extension, the rest of Central Europe) to never again be dominated from an imperial center, whether Moscow (or, left unsaid, Berlin).

Most Germans seem to think that Russia's eventual place is in Europe and that, despite fits and starts, Russia is moving along a European path, perhaps 15-20 years behind Central Europe, but still coming along. The Poles seem to think that now is the time to be fortifying Europe's eastern borders so that when Russia resurges again it will not be able to sweep westward.

The discussions on the Northern Stream pipeline that runs under the Baltic were particularly illuminating. The Polish view is that Germany still doesn't see Poland as a reliable ally and is willing to sell them out to get gas directly from Russia; the German view is that gas for Europe will still have to flow through Poland since the Baltic line can't supply all needs and resents the implication that Germany's policies have to be held "hostage" to Poland's inability to improve its relations with Moscow.

There doesn't seem to be much optimism for assuming that a common European approach can be developed if Berlin and Warsaw have substantive disagreements. Poland does not seem yet to trust its major European partners (esp. Germany, France and Italy) to look out for its interests and still prefers to have the United States present as an "unofficial European"--a view that doesn't go over well in other parts of Europe.

The sad truth is that every bad prophecy tends to be self-fulfilling.
Poles badly want their view of Russia to turn out to be true - if only to earn some respect from their new position as 'truly european state' and create their own small zone of 'strategic interests' on the former lands of Rjech Pospolita - hence they are doing verything they can to speed it along and seemingly illogically and un-neededly antogonize Russia. The historical dynamic of russo-polish relationship is unescapeable since mid 17 century - one side is certain it will improve its position by weakening and demonizing the other. Nothing much can be done about it since the only way R&P ever stop their dance is for both of them to become to weak to play these games. And I mean 'both', since weakening one will embolden the other. Germany can certainly play its own little game and even gain some credit by playing a middle-man, but only if it stops being overly supportive of one of the sides and try to stick to the neutral referi position. As for supposed integration of RUssia into Europe - I certainly hope that this particular pipe-dream will go the way of the turkish integration - and the sooner the batter. Russia as an entity will seize to be Russia if ever intergrate into either Big East or Big West. Therefore it will stick to its current position of the bridge - forever.
Nick, in response to this and your NI online piece. At some point you have to decide who you want to depend on for energy,. Mullahs, African strongmen, Arab sheikhs? Can see why Putin looks so much more attractive to Germans and others.
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