Are we able to fairly assess the role of Lech Kaczynski 10 years after the Georgia war?
Published: August 15, 2018
On August 12, 2008, Presidents of Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Latvia went to Tbilisi. Many years have passed since these tumultuous events. Therefore, it should be easier to calmly assess the role of Lech Kaczynski in these important developments of our times.
It is important to finally assess Russia's reaction to the actions of Lech Kaczynski, to his famous words about Russian imperialism and his prophetic statement that "today Georgia, tomorrow Ukraine, the day after the Baltic States, and then maybe it's time for my country, Poland.”
Since the early hours of the morning on August 8, 2008, Georgia was in a state of ineffable war with Russia. The first days of August experienced continuous provocations from Russia, which formally was on a peacekeeping mission in South Ossetia but de facto was a party to the conflict. In response to the continuous shelling of Georgian villages, Georgian forces attacked the South Ossetia capital of Tskhinvali on the night of August 7 to 8.
It is not clear who advised President Saakashvili to go on attack despite the advice of Washington and Warsaw to never succumb to provocation. Unofficially it is said that this was one of the extremely anti-Russian "hawks." As it often happens - Moscow's agents are frequently the ones who give the impression of being Moscow greatest enemies.
Russia claims that its actions were a response to the Georgian offensive, but reliable sources indicate that the first Russian units entered into South Ossetia already on August 7. Above all, however, no one denies that the outbreak of the war was preceded by many days of provocations from the Russian-South Ossetia sides, as Moscow tried to overthrow the pro-Western Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili virtually from the moment he took office.
The role of the President of France
Georgian offensive collapsed at the time when the Russians sent to battle regular units of the Russian army. By strange coincident these units were ready for battle, with weapons, fuel, ammunition and food as for the duration of the war, and were located right next to the place of the conflict explosion.
At the start of the war, the EU Presidency was exercised by France and that is why Nicolas Sarkozy undertook the mission to resolve the dispute. The problem was that he was totally unprepared for this mission and therefore quickly agreed to the Russian proposals for a peace agreement, in which there was no word about a guarantee of Georgia's territorial integrity.
Even worse, President Sarkozy in negotiating with the Russians not only agreed on the record that the status of Ossetia and Abkhazia will be the subject of discussions, which made Georgia de facto protectorate of Russia, but also accepted a very vague timetable for withdrawal of the Russian army from Georgia. As a result, the Russians are slowly withdrawing, but not before destroying the infrastructure, looting the countryside, and planting mines along the way. For the President of Georgia any clauses that called into question the formal boundaries of his country are unacceptable. The question shall be asked whether such result from the very beginning was the goal of Moscow strategists. The rejection of such agreement would give Russia the reason to continue the war.
On August 12, President of France begins his trip to Tbilisi. At the same time, to Georgia goes President of Poland, together with the leaders of three countries of the European Union and the President of Ukraine. A race against time starts who first arrives in Tbilisi. Moscow hopes that Nicolas Sarkozy arrives first. A question is often asked whether a Russian attack on the capital of Georgia is still possible at the time, when Lech Kaczynski and the other Presidents arrive in Tbilisi. It has been confirmed that on the 12, 13 and 14 of August the Russian army was located near Gori, less than 70 km from Tbilisi.
At noon on August 12, satellites showed that Russian armored vehicles form marching columns in the direction of Tbilisi. When Nicolas Sarkozy meets with President Saakashvili, the Georgian President already knows that he has the support of the United States, and he knows this directly from his guests, who are in direct contact and consultation with Washington. President of Georgia refuses to sign the text negotiated by Sarkozy with the Russians, but at the same time accepts its political aspects. He does not have to capitulate, but he also makes concessions. This way he does not lose face (which in the Caucasus could also mean the loss of power or even life), but at the same time he does not give Moscow an excuse to continue the war and attack Tbilisi.
The French diplomacy agrees to modify the text and to delete the words that actually meant the end of the independence of Georgia, and convinces Moscow to accept that change, but an agreement itself was to be finalized by the US Secretary of State. Nicolas Sarkozy is gaining in the polls and only insiders know that he was first used by the Russians, then humiliated by the President of Georgia, Poland and United States. A little known fact is that a few months after the end of this war, Ambassador of France in Moscow Stanislas de Laboulaye is recalled from Moscow and reassigned to the prestigious, but not important post in the Vatican. Unofficially it is known that it was a punishment for opposition to what President Sarkozy offered to Moscow. There was a very sharp confrontation between the two of them on this issue.
Famous words of President Lech Kaczynski
Russia's reaction to the actions of Lech Kaczynski and his powerful words about Russia waging imperialistic war, and his famous quote "today Georgia, tomorrow Ukraine, the day after the Baltic States, and then maybe it's time for my country, Poland," was significant. The Russians, always respecting the strength and character of the opponent, spoke with greater respect, though of course combined with a clear dislike, of the President of Poland than President of France. Russian diplomats did not hide the fact that the diplomatic initiative of the Polish President has changed the dynamics of the situation and caused the changes in the prepared in advance agreement.
The paradox of history is that Lech Kaczynski has more respect in Moscow than in Warsaw. In Warsaw, the focus was on the fact that Lech Kaczynski wanted to force the pilot to land in Tbilisi, and not in neighboring Azerbaijan. Critics of the President are only superficially right because it was the pilot who was responsible for the life of the President and four other leaders. The pilot was right in refusing to fly into the capital of Georgia, since the airspace over Georgia was controlled by Russia. But President Kaczynski was also right because he knew he had to get to Tbilisi before President Sarkozy, who played for everything but not for Georgia.
Furthermore, it is also worth pointing out that at that moment the Russians could afford a lot but not to shoot down the plane with the Presidents of four EU countries and Ukraine. Especially that these leaders were traveling in consultation with Washington, whose troops were at that time in Georgia for maneuvers, but not taking part in battles. Also of note shoud be that Vice President of the United States Dick Cheney opted for a missile attack on the Tunnel Rokisjki, whose destruction meant that the Russian forces would be cut off and unable to provide logistical support. On the evening of August 12 not only the fate of Georgia was decided but also whether Russia and the West would enter a new cold war, and whether this cold war would spill over into a hot war.
Meanwhile in Poland, President Kaczynski was attacked not so much by pro-Moscow forces, but first and foremost by those who felt that Poland should not take a different stand than that of Paris or Berlin, even when Paris takes the position that the independence and boundaries of countries, of which Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain would say that "are far away and we don't know anything about them," do not have fundamental importance.
Initiated by Lech Kaczynski and - as many do not know or do not want to know - coordinated with the administration of the United States of American trip meant of course an open conflict with President Sarkozy. However contrary to what was being said, it did not mean breaking of any "European consensus," because Paris never even tried to work out any consensus. Instead France claimed the rights it never had by virtue of exercising the Presidency of the EU.
The EU Presidency does not give any right to impose singlehandedly on other states France’s point of view and ignore the opinions and comments of other EU members. What President Sarkozy wanted to do meant that in addition to transforming Georgia into the Russian protectorate, he tried to create a precedent that decisions in the EU are made in Paris and Berlin, and the rest can, as President Chirac would put it, "use the opportunity to keep quiet."
Are we capable to apologize?
Today, more than 10 years after these important developments, we can see that President Kaczynski was right not to back down then, and he was right in his prediction that Ukraine would be the next.
10 years ago, however, many in Poland did not appreciate the stature of President Lech Kaczynski, and others insulted him so badly that even the Russians acted with greater respect. The 10-year perspective and a war in Ukraine is enough to owe him an apology.
Author: Witold Jurasz, President of the Centre for Strategic Analysis www.oaspl.org, onet.pl
Photo: Solidarity Rally in front of Georgian Parliament, August 12, 2008; Radek Pietruszek, PAP
Click on the thumbnails below to view screen dumps from the detectors used to examine the wreckage and seats from the Polish president's plane crash in Smolensk. An "X" denotes the presence of the detected explosive substance and its type. The underlined Polish word "Probka" or "probka" in the screen dump 1 and 2, means "Sample"
Why did they all fly on the same plane?
Synopsis: January 12, 2013, Toronto, Canada. The wife of the late Deputy-Minister of Culture Tomasz Merta: "What I am about to tell you now, are suspicions - and not even my own - but, rather the [suspicions of the] individuals in the inner-circles of the [Polish] military... I heard a statement that was made - but, I am not taking any responsibility for how credible, or not credible it is. [I heard that] had the generals and journalists' not been re-assigned to different aircraft, it wouldn't have been the Tupolev [Tu-154M], but rather the Casa [transport aircraft] that would have been taken out.
Because the Generals were no longer onboard the Casa, there was no reason for it to get airborne. And for this reason it was the Yak[-40] that flew off to Smolensk. This Casa [transport aircraft] was never examined in any way. It was not subject to any examination. Aside from a single note in the deposition given to the military, no one was interested why this aircraft didn't fly [to Smolensk]. Perhaps, this is someones crazy phantasy, but perhaps it isn't.
Some [Polish] military personnel had suggested, that it [the Casa] had to stay behind at the Okecie military [tarmack], so that the explosives could be removed from it - because they were no longer needed [...] I am only repeating what I was told."
"Disarming" Explosives ...
It is worth for us to retrace the entire process of "disarming" the case of explosive substances at the crash site. It all started with the publication of Cezary Gmyz in "Rzeczpospolita" on October 30, 2012, and information that the detectors, which were used by experts in Smolensk (in late September and October) showed traces of TNT and nitroglycerine.
As it turned out, the journalist was also reporting about the indication of Hexogen. The storm broke. The prosecution denied the publication, and ultimately, the editor-in-chief of "Rzeczpospolita," Cezary Gmyz and two other journalists lost their jobs. The entire editorial staff of one of Poland’s most popular weeklies, "Uważam Rze", was also silenced.
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