Thursday, January 13, 2011

Exercise in futility

It is hard to write anything about Poland today NOT related to the release of the Russian report about the causes of the April 2010 plane crash in Smolensk that killed President Lech Kaczynski, the first lady and dozens of other high ranking officials, among others, the head of the central bank and the chiefs of armed forces. The report released on Wednesday has dominated newspapers and TV reports and captured Poles' minds. It even forced Prime Minister Donald Tusk to cut short a skiing trip in Italy. Although I do believe the crash was a great tragedy, the whole hassle, damning comments, the report itself are really an exercise in futlity. Why? Let's look at the findings and the potential effects of the report.

The Polish airforce basically sucks - One element of the report not really being disputed by the Polish side is this one. The report clearly shows the whole flight was a series of pilot errors, mismanagement and disregard for security protocols. Only one of the pilots, even though they were military pilots from an ex-Soviet bloc country, spoke Russian! I would understand if they didn't speak English, French or whatever, but Russian?

Anyway, are the potential failings of the Polish airforce entirely new? No. All of this was known after a military transport carrying high-ranking air officials crashed back in January 2008 (Details). Reports after that crash read earily similar to the Russian's version. Was enough done following that crash? Clearly not.

Report tells one side of the story - Poland's biggest complaint is that the report entirely disregards the impact of how the Smolensk airport was prepared to handle the flight and any potential errors of Russian air controllers. Well what should one expect?! This is Russia we are talking about. The land of Vladimir Putin and Khodorkovskiy. Of course the report is one sided. How could anyone with an even remote sense of reality expect Russian officials to come out and say "we are partly to blame for a crash that killed the Polish president and nearly 90 other top officials. Sorry guys." Pleeease.

Doesn't tell the truth - This is funny in a dark way, but no one in Poland really cares about the truth behind the crash. It has become a political issue. It is yet another pawn in the ongoing Tusk-Kaczynski war of attrition. Tusk wants this chapter closed, it hurts its main foreign affairs project which is an improvement of relations with Russia. He of course damned the report as "unacceptable." After all Poles are outraged about this issue, elections are slated for October, and Tusk is ever the saavy politician these days.

Kaczynski doesn't care either: it will all be considered lies unless it shows the Tusk government is actually responsible for the crash. The vast majority of Kaczynski's supporters believe this was either an assassination or at least the result of major negligence on Russia's part. They will not hear otherwise and no report -- Polish, Russian, international... -- will change their minds.

There is also a silent majority. People who think it is a great tragedy that should be let go....

Me personally, I feel sorry for the families of the 95 people who have to re-live the crash through all of this and listen to us squable over the coffins of their nearest and dearest.

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