Streetwise Professor

September 13, 2010

The Fog Surrounding the Crash Remains

Filed under: Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 7:06 pm

The airplane crash in dense fog outside of Smolensk that killed Polish President Lech Kaczynski and a large portion of Poland’s military, intelligence, and civilian leadership was supposed to have represented a watershed in Russo-Polish relations.  Putin hastened to extend condolences to Poland, and promised an open and thorough investigation.

But the concept of “open and thorough investigation” is utterly alien to Russia.  There are odd, not to say disturbing, aspects to this inquiry that cash shadows over the entire event.

To begin with, the Russians treated the crash scene as an intelligence bonanza, systematically rifled the crash site, and returned personal effects but kept items of potential intelligence value.

Most peculiarly, the air traffic controller who was in charge when the plane crash “retired” three days after the crash, and Russian authorities claim that they cannot locate him.

Sure they can’t.  Look, people in Russia don’t move that much.  And when they do, the Russian security forces have ways of finding them.  Do you think a material witness in anything involving, say, Yukos, would be allowed to vanish into thin air?  Me neither.

There are other troubling aspects.  The Poles have not had access to the black boxes, and there are anomalies in the transcripts that the Russians have provided to the Poles.  These transcripts were not signed by the only Polish representative allowed to listen to the boxes.  (I have not read whether he refused to sign, or whether there is some other reason for the fact his signature is missing.)

Now maybe this is just a case of old Russian habits dying hard.  Moreover, this investigation lies on a dangerous fault line in Polish politics.  Polish Russian policy is a matter of intense political conflict.  Kaczynski was fervently anti-Russian and wanted to orient Poland decisively to the West.  The current government favors a much more accommodating policy to Russia, as illustrated in this opinion piece in The Economist.   The opposition is adamantly opposed to this, and therefore has every incentive to raise questions about the investigation to cast aspersions on Russia.  So these accusations must be interpreted cautiously.

But facially, the revelations about the investigation raise doubts about it.  And by raising doubts about the investigation that inevitably raises questions about the crash itself.

As always seems to be the case, Russia’s chronic–or is it congenital?–inability to deal with issues such as this in an above board fashion is self-defeating if there is nothing to hide, and the crash was as initially reported: the result of pilot error perhaps caused by Kaczynski’s recklessness in insisting on landing.  But such investigative shenanigans could be quite rational if the truth is more sinister than that.

Will we ever learn anything approximating the truth?  I doubt it.  Which means that the crash will just be another chapter in that long running saga of mysterious, enigmatic, and riddle-ridden deaths in Putin’s Russia.

* Commentor a.russian recommends Andrei Illarionov’s treatment of this matter:

“Professor, the best coverage of Kaczynski’s death that I’ve seen is in the blog of Andrew Illarionov (in russian)
One of the commenters there insists that the plane was intentionally directed 1 km away from the airport

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  1. Diane West forgot to mention secret Russian weather control machines. The drought of 1932, the harsh winter of 1941, and the “sudden fog” in April. But meddling with nature has consequences, and the godless Russkies have been punished with a drought.

    Comment by So? — September 14, 2010 @ 12:00 am

  2. From Diana West’s article:

    “This may well follow an odd, post-crash agreement between the two countries, whereby Russia provides Poland with recordings of the black boxes and Poland controls the recordings’ release (typical Russian-Polish agreement).”

    So there is an agreement, agreement the Polish signed. Do Polish people actually read what they sign? Do Polish people listen when they are told to land elsewhere? Obviously not!

    No wonder it took only 30 years to dismantle the Rzeczpospolita. 😉

    Comment by Leos Tomicek — September 14, 2010 @ 10:13 am

  3. Is this a joke? That article was face-palm retarded.

    Comment by Richard — September 15, 2010 @ 10:18 am

  4. Professor, you are really letting yourself down buying into these kind of wild conspiracy theories. What’s the Polish word for 911 troofing?

    Comment by wanda — September 15, 2010 @ 10:42 am

  5. Wanda,

    A lot of people don’t realise that this sort of murderous behavior is all too possible with the Russian government.

    After all, it would not be the first time.

    Look how long it took them to admit to the 1st Katyn massacre.

    Comment by Andrew — September 16, 2010 @ 5:08 am

  6. Andrew, I hear the same argument from the 911 troofers. It’s absurd. The #1 argument against it is that the Polish or US government would be all over it. Oh, right, the troofy come-back is ‘they are in on it, too’ – probably because of 9/11, so that the Russkies don’t spill the beans on that one. Ay-yah. Self-insulating conspiracy theories remain troofing, even if it is about the Enemy.

    Comment by Wanda — September 16, 2010 @ 6:43 am

  7. PS: Katyn is your proof for the Russians killing the recent Polish government? Heck – I guess the Lousitania is proof for the US covering up for 9/11. Did the US government ever admit their involvement in the Lousitania provocation? See – just goes to show how much murderousness they are capable of. Or the Gulf of Tonkin incident? Did the US ever admit to that? Ha – just goes to show that they would be capable of 9/11 as an inside job. Geez, man – with that logic, everything is possible. As I said, the Professor and you have gone troofy.

    Comment by Wanda — September 16, 2010 @ 6:46 am

  8. Wanda, look at the Moscow apartment bombings to see the difference between the US and Russia.

    Russian media announced one of the bombings several hours before it actually happened.

    Why do you think Litvinenko was dosed with radioactive material?

    Unfortunately some governments (usually Russian or pro-Russian) are quite happy with murdering anyone who gets in their way.

    By the way, the Lusitania (please learn to spell) was no provocation, it was not carrying more than the allowable amount of small arms ammunition, and was not a legitimate target for the U-Boat that sank it.

    This was confirmed by a dive on the vessel run by the Grandson of the U-Boat captain who found that the explosion was caused by the torpedo hitting empty coal bunkers (steamship remember) which ignited the (highly explosive) coal dust, then exploded the high pressure steam pipes.

    There was no US government involvement.

    Comment by Andrew — September 17, 2010 @ 12:12 am

  9. @Wanda. Get a grip. It is clear from what I wrote that I acknowledge that this story might be something that reflects primarily on Polish domestic politics, and that it is quite possible that the original story is correct. Read my original posts on the crash and you’ll see that was my initial take. But I also said quite clearly then that this was an opportunity for Russia to show it would truly be open and transparent in the investigation, and that a failure to do so would be counterproductive. And it is evident that they have failed to do so. Again. This has given air to this story.

    Re the Polish gov’t being all over it-wrong. That’s part of the point. The government is reversing Kaczyinski’s policies, engaging in rapprochement with Russia, and doesn’t want this to interfere with that. In particular, the current government despises Kaczynski.

    My basic point stands. Whatever the truth, Russia is past master at behaving in a way that puts itself in the worst light. Whenever it whines about the way it is portrayed in the Western press it should look in the effing mirror, because that’s where the primary blame lies.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — September 17, 2010 @ 1:57 am

  10. […] Professor writes about the ongoing inquiry into the April 10 plane crash that killed the Polish president and 95 […]

    Pingback by Global Voices in English » Russia, Poland: “The Fog Surrounding the Crash Remains” — September 22, 2010 @ 4:47 am

  11. […] Professor writes about the ongoing inquiry into the April 10 plane crash that killed the Polish president and 95 […]

    Pingback by Fly to Poland » Blog archive » Russia, Poland: “The Fog Surrounding the Crash Remains” — September 22, 2010 @ 5:51 am

  12. There is no doubt that the russophobes can milk this tragedy even harder.

    Comment by Ostap Bender — September 23, 2010 @ 11:42 pm

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