Polish president plane crash tests Polish, Russian leaders
Polish leaders appear to be quickly picking up the pieces after the tragic Polish president plane crash, which also killed much of Poland's political elite.
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The conspiracy theorists point out that Kaczinsky, a long-time anti-Communist activist, had been instrumental in bringing Poland into a "special relationship" with the US, promoting the Bush-era plan to station strategic anti-missile weapons near Russia's borders, and advocating the induction of Ukraine and Georgia into NATO.Skip to next paragraph
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"With all the peoples' love of conspiracy, I don't believe there will be any serious provocations about this," says Gleb Pavlovsky, head of the Center for Effective Politics, a Kremlin-sponsored think tank. "Of course there are some people who believe in the power of evil forces, and see their intervention everywhere, but that really looks absurd in this case."
But at moments like this, Russians must contend with their own country's tortured history, which has been the subject of intense domestic controversy in recent months. The era of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin is pocked marked with mass atrocities, mostly committed against the Soviet Union's own people, although some, like the Katyn Massacre, affected outsiders. Although it remains difficult to tear the historical shrouds from Stalin's domestic crimes, the Kremlin appears more willing to own up to the USSR's misdeeds against foreigners.
"It was not difficult for Russia to recognize the criminality of the Stalin regime and admit what was done at Katyn," says Mr. Markov. "In fact, we've done this dozens of times. It's difficult to find just the right way to to do it. Sometimes it seems there's nothing you can say that will make the Poles accept the apology."
Indeed, he says, Russian leaders have strongly emphasized that their own country's premier holiday, Unity Day, which is held on Nov. 4 – to commemorate the liberation of Moscow from a Polish occupation army in 1612 – is not at all anti-Polish "but a day to celebrate the recovery of Russia," after the historic Time of Troubles, he says.
"Relations between Moscow and Warsaw are likely to remain difficult," says Mr. Konovalov. "But there are good reasons to hope that we'll be able to engage in reasonable dialogue about our differences. Sometimes a joint tragedy can play the role of a catalyst, to enable a process that ends acrimony and brings two sides closer together."