Thoughts and prayers go out to Poland and the loved ones of those lost in this tragedy.
Polish pilots of the government airliner that crashed on Saturday in Smolensk, killing the country's president and other dignitaries, were warned not to land because of adverse weather conditions, Sergei Ivanov, Russia's deputy prime minister, said on Monday.
He said an initial examination of the flight's black box recorders showed the crew had been clearly warned it was not a good idea to try to land the plane.
The airplane descended in thick fog and clipped some trees, crashing several hundred metres short of the runway.
Lech Kaczynski, Poland's president, was killed, along with 95 others, including many dignitaries on their way to ceremonies at Katyn forest, not far from Smolensk – one of the places where the Soviets executed more than 22,000 officers in 1940.
Politically speaking, what are we to make of this? I have to admit that my first thought was of suspicion. Check out this article that lays out the case for skepticism much better than I ever could (h/t Melekiop):
Has anyone thought that maybe the Russians did it?Yeah. Me, too.
This plane crash over the weekend, the one that killed the Polish president and decapitated the Polish government, are we completely sure it was an accident?
Because, if it was, it was an accident that did the Russians a lot of good. And if it wasn't an accident, it fits right in with Russian ambitions for renewed empire....
Here's the history and the situation.
Russia has been a nation and culture bent on conquest for centuries. It has repeatedly through time dominated, invaded or conquered any number of peoples and countries across portions of Europe and Asia. The Soviet Union, the last such Russian empire, collapsed less than a generation ago because of pressure from the United States, inherent defects of socialism and communism, bankruptcy and a thirst for independence among its chattel states.
With Poland in the lead.
It was the Poles who first effectively stood up to Russian communism. That resistance was one point in a long and savage history of Russian oppression of Poland. Ironically, but maybe not coincidentally, the Polish leaders flying to Russia over the weekend were doing so to commemorate the anniversary of a Russian attempt to decapitate the Polish government and society. Allied with Hitler early in the Second World War, the Russians gathered together more than 20,000 officers of the Polish army and systematically killed them all. It was an attempt at cultural and national genocide, hoping to strip Polish society of its leaders and thereby render Poland easier to conquer.
It worked, and there's a part of me that wonders if Russia has tried it again.
Because Russia clearly wants back the nations it held captive during the Soviet era. And it is engaged in violent conflict to get them back.
In Krygystan within the last week, for example, mobs many believe were armed and goaded by the Russians have toppled a pro-West president, trapped more than 1,000 American airman at a U.S. air base, declared alliance with Russia and called for the closing of the American base – an important military supply route to Afghanistan.
Russia is also involved in ongoing military tensions with the Republic of Georgia, tensions which include a Russian military invasion and occupation of parts of Georgia.
And then there's Ukraine, where the president was the target of an assassination attempt – he was poisoned with dioxin – that many believe was arranged by Russian agents.
Notice the trend. Ukraine, Georgia and Krygystan were friendly to the United States. They all were once in the Soviet Union. They all have been in the targets of Russia.
Which brings us to Poland and its president.
Lech Kaczynski was pro-American. He rejected the influence of both the European Union and Russia in favor of alliance with the United States. He actively sought membership in NATO and he very much wanted to be under the umbrella of an American anti-missile shield. He wanted to be out from under the threat of Russian nuclear attack.
Kaczynski was embraced by George W. Bush but rebuffed by Barack H. Obama, and the nuclear arms-reduction treaty that Obama signed just last week with the Russians came with the public proviso that the Russians would abandon the treaty if America developed any technology to protect itself or anyone else from Russian nuclear bombs.
And now Lech Kaczynski is dead. With him are the senior commanders of the Polish military, the leader of the nation's central bank, leaders of parliament, top businessmen and social leaders.
Poland is decapitated.
In the same town where it was decapitated 70 years before.
Poland's pro-American leadership has been wiped out. As the last major former-Soviet vassal to want friendship with the United States, Poland's government is gone. Like Georgia and Ukraine, it has met misfortune.
In a plane crash that was, before any sort of investigation, immediately declared the result of pilot error. The Russians have said that the Polish pilot repeatedly ignored the advice of Russian air traffic controllers and flew into trees and the ground.
That seems unlikely.
Pilots obey air traffic controllers, pilots avoid flying into the ground, it is extremely rare for a plane to crash.
And it has been more than 50 years since fog has been an impediment to modern instrument aviation.
And to top it all off, Vladimir Putin is in charge of the crash investigation. That's the same Putin who was a career officer in the KGB and who ordered Russian troops into Georgia, and who would have ordered any attack on the Ukrainian president.
So forgive me for being suspicious.
There's my two cents.