Weapons

“Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.” So thought Marcus Aurelius. But then, of course, he was not trying to grapple with Russia’s “non-invasion” of the Ukraine, where arming against the present has become a contentious question, another tricky problem for which the politicians have no immediate solution.

But they do have an answer, however, and that answer is no. Poland, one of the first off the blocks in expressing solidarity – whatever “solidarity’ means these days, little more than another passing wave on the sea of platitudes, it seems – with Ukraine when the crisis arose will not, according to minister of defence, Tomasz Siemoniak, supply Ukraine with heavy weaponry, such as Grom missiles, tanks or similar weapons.

Speaking to Gazeta Wyborcza, Siemoniak said that although he sees no impediment to the prospective cooperation between the defence industries of Poland and Ukraine, he wants to refer to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s reservations concerning arming Ukraine, saying that ”Chancellor Merkel has argued that the decision to supply weapons to Ukraine does not frighten President Vladimir Putin, because it will be difficult for Ukraine to achieve a level that is comparable to the Russian military, and it will only further exacerbate the situation.” Which is, I suppose, the diplomatic equivalent of shouting from the river bank to the drowning man that as you are not sure you can save him, you might as well not bother getting wet.

Actually, to be fair, proxy wars are not the ideal way to proceed either, with Russia arming the insurgents and the NATO, or whoever, arming the Ukrainian army. No, assuming that full scale war is out of the question – which it should be – a more effective way of proceeding would be, for example, to send a NATO fleet for cruise round the Black Sea with a bit of overflying of Ukraine and international airspace, to boot, just to show willing. But, alas, will is exactly what Putin knows the West lacks, along with the adequate military kit to make its will felt. Let’s hope that the talks on Wednesday in Minsk, between Ukrainian, Russian, German and French leaders are successful in bringing about a ceasefire, the implementation of which Siemoniak has said Poland supports above all.

Be that as it may, Poland has been named a leader in six categories in the European Foreign Policy Scorecard 2015 published by the European Council on Foreign Relations’ (ECFR). The results, which cover foreign policy activity during 2014, saw Poland ranked fourth (fifth really) overall on the leader board, the same position as last year. The ECFR said that Poland’s leadership focused on pushing a firm stance on Russian aggression in Ukraine, and it also invested great energy in ensuring that the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership continued to advance. On the debit side, Poland was given “slacker” status on two issues, fighting climate change and development aid and humanitarian aid, with the ECFR noting that Poland had cut its aid as a proportion of the GDP. In case you are wondering, Germany came top, a leader in 17 categories, followed by Sweden and the UK with 11, France with 8 and Poland with 6.

Poland’s foreign minister Grzegorz Schetyna, who took over from Radosław Sikorski in September 2014, said that “it is encouraging that our positive effect was observed in key areas such as the EU’s relations with Russia, the US and China.” Not only is the success of Poland’s diplomacy, he said, but it also reflects a broader trend, in that as a result of the political growth of the “eastern flank” of the EU, Poland is taking on more and more responsibility for the common European policy.

Which is why it must be a little disappointing for Poland that Germany and France are now leading for the EU on Ukraine and not, as suggested by Polish MEP, Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, Donald Tusk and Federica Mogherini, seeing last weekend’s visit to Kiev and Moscow by Chancellor Merkel and President Holland as indicating that the EU is deeply divided on the Ukraine issue, a division which Putin is exploiting. Perhaps, but more likely perhaps not for, figuratively speaking, if you are Putin, why speak to the monkey if you can speak to the organ grinder?

But back to Marcus Aurelius? According to him: “The secret of all victory lies in the organisation of the non-obvious.” It’s not entirely clear that these folk have yet grasped the obvious, alas.

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