I woke up this morning, went to BBC, and saw this breaking news: Polish President dies in plane crash. Lech Kaczynski was on his way to Katyn to mark the 70th anniversary of the massacre that was committed there by Soviet forces against the Polish inteligentsia, police and military. Speculations have already arised, with some people arguing that this crash is not an accident, and that the Russians did it on purpose because there was an 88-strong Polish delegation. This conspiracy theory came as a result of the strained relations between Poland and Russia which, according to observers, have been improving recently but, some say, Russia might have been behind the tragedy in order to liquidate a great deal of the Polish political elite and thus commence reestablishment of its sphere of influence in Poland.Their doubts are supplemented by the fact that the plane’s pilots were trying to land on the airport in Smolensk four times (!!!) but were denied their requests to do so due to inclement weather, and were advised to land in Minsk instead, the capital city of Belarus. To them, it makes little sense to deny a landing four consecutive times without any conspiracy behind it.
What made the Polish pilots and/or the Polish delegation unwilling to land in Minsk? According to GlobeFeed.com, a website that calculates distances between cities (surprisingly the directions feature on Google Maps wasn’t of much help), the distance between Minsk and Smolensk is roughly 280 kilometers (174 miles) straight line or hypothetically speaking a little more than 300 kilometers (186 miles) by car or by bus. This is a huge distance, especially for such a big delegation, and pilots’ self-confidence might have played a role in their decision to try to land in Smolensk too. Given these circumstances, the Poles cannot be blamed for continuing to try to land on Smolensk-North Airport.
Neither are the Russians or the plane (ill-reputed Tupolev-154) likely to be blamed for anything. It is just the bad weather conditions that caused this tragedy. Yes, Lech Kaczynski and some ministers have generally spoken not in a way that is likable to Moscow on certain issues such as energy security, including their tasks to establish partnerships with Ukraine, Georgia and the Baltic countries but these rhetorics and actions are not going to change after such a tragedy. And even if we assume for the sake of argument that Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev are the new Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin, they are aware that the deaths are not going to change Poland’s political course because the people who will replace them are not likely to be more pro-Russian. On the contrary, Russian leaders are trying to improve their relations with the rest of the world, including Poland, as acknowledged by the media. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev even signed START-2, which will decrease their nuclear weapons arsenal, with U.S. President Barack Obama.
The Poles can be blamed for one thing – having their entire delegation in one plane. According to the business continuity planning practice, which is usually applied in politics too, the Poles, especially with such a big delegation, should have flown by at least two or three planes. By doing so, at least the other planes would have landed somewhere else (Minsk, for example) safe and sound. The expenses wouldn’t be substantial for a country’s budget, even during this economic and financial instability, not to mention that they would be a lot lower than what now the Polish state will have to pay for burying the victims, appointing new people at their positions, and calling for – and organizing – new Presidential elections. Hopefully, this serves as a lesson not only to the Poles, but also to the world.