Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
No argument with you about the Polish energy oligarchs - the closest thing Poland has to the FSU criminal/state capitalism. Getting rid of them would be a wonderful thing, but it is not so easy considering the amount of money they've put into the politicians pockets and the existing legal rights they've obtained as a result. The Polish press, in between freaking out about Gazprom and Putin, has been in perfect agreement with you on this point. Opposition politicians generally have as well, at least until they get into government.

Where I disagree with you is that it is crazy to worry about the Russians blackmailing the Poles or that such an event would be certain to produce a strong reaction going beyond words.  The Russians have used the energy card in the past against the various FSU states, including the Baltics (before they joined the EU). I can't imagine they are all that worried about an EU where Germany lauds the Chechen elections as a shining example of democracy and France initially complains sotto voce about the Polish led efforts to overturn rigged elections in Ukraine before eventually going along. These are the two most powerful countries in the EU and they have made it clear over the past several years that they place a very large value on close relations with Putin and little value about what the Central Europeans might think. So even if you are right, I would call the situation analogous to Iraq's lack of concern over the US response to an attack on Kuwait. That's why I suggested that it would be a good idea for the EU countries to make a public declaration to both reassure the Poles and warn the Russians that any use of the energy card would have immediate and disastrous consequences, not just diplomatic but practical.

If you think that would be an unnecessary provocation of Russia consider that the Polish political, policy, and media elites are unanimous in viewing the possibility of energy blackmail as a very real threat. Regardless of whether they are correct or not, they will conduct themselves accordingly. I don't want Poland to go down the British 'special relationship' path. I believe that a Poland aligned within a strong EU is in the natural interest of both Poland and Europe. But that's not going to happen as long as the EU's two most powerful countries are seen as the friends of Poland's chief strategic threat - every single action by them will be seen through that prism.  

by MarekNYC on Thu Sep 8th, 2005 at 02:54:24 AM EST
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