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May 21, 2024

PI Newsletter #161


1.  Poland summons Belarusian diplomat over border incident

The Polish Foreign Ministry summoned the Belarusian charge d’affaires on Tuesday to discuss a violation of the Polish border by armed members of the Belarusian security forces.

Stanislaw Zaryn, the director of the National Security Department, tweeted on Wednesday that the incident was “another provocation” by Belarus.

The Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday that the conversation with Alaksander Czasnouski concerned “the intrusion of unidentified, armed, uniformed people armed with long weapons into the territory of Poland.”


2.  Poland, 44 other countries condemn Belarus for over migrant crisis

Poland and 44 other members of the United Nations, including the United States, Britain and Japan, on Monday condemned Belarus for human rights violations, including weaponising migrants on the EU’s external border, Poland’s PAP news agency reported.

In a joint statement, they said that illegal crossings of the EU’s external border were deliberately putting at risk and endangering the lives of third-country nationals, the Polish state news agency reported.

The document, which was read out in New York at a session of the UN Assembly’s Third Committee on social and humanitarian affairs and human rights, also expressed deep concern over Minsk’s failure to cooperate with international human rights mechanisms and “the total impunity” of those responsible for violating human rights.


3.  Failing to enter Poland some Iraqis return home from Belarus

Many Iraqis have decided to return home as they failed to cross the Polish border so evacuation flights have started taking them from the Belarusian capital, Minsk, to Baghdad, the spokesman for Poland’s special services coordinator said on Tuesday.

Poland has been tackling increased migratory pressure at its border with Belarus, blaming that country’s Alexander Lukashenko regime of deliberately engineering the crisis in an attempt to destabilise the EU. Areas adjacent to the border have been under a state of emergency since September 2.

“The first Minsk-Baghdad evacuation flights have started for some migrants,” Stanisław Żaryn wrote on Twitter. “Many Iraqis want to return from Belarus to their country.”


4.  Hungary and Poland yes, Spain no: the reasons for the leftist bias of the European Commission

The governing body of the European Union, the European Commission, is openly challenging one of the principles of democracy: equality before the law.

Hungary and Poland yes, Spain no: the reasons for the leftist bias of the European Commission

5.  No Time To Freeze

Europe finds itself mired in the most troubling energy crisis in recent years. And despite ample warning, Transatlantic leaders have for months demonstrated a reticence to take direct action and, in some cases, even to clearly define the Kremlin’s role in exacerbating the market challenges. As the crisis developed and deepened across summer and autumn 2021, observers might have concluded that policy-makers felt they had all the time in the world to respond. 

In fact, as a cold winter looms, time’s up. The transatlantic community, led this time by Germany, in compliance with its own July 2021 joint statement with the United States, must now advance sanctions aimed at stopping the Nord Stream 2 pipeline before it is too late. This failsafe was designed to provide a policy backstop in extremis after the Biden Administration decided in May to waive congressionally mandated bipartisan sanctions aimed at ensuring Nord Stream 2 could not become operational. The July joint statement says: 

“Should Russia attempt to use energy as a weapon or commit further aggressive acts against Ukraine, Germany will take action at the national level and press for effective measures at the European level, including sanctions, to limit Russian export capabilities to Europe in the energy sector, including gas, and/or in other economically relevant sectors. This commitment is designed to ensure that Russia will not misuse any pipeline, including Nord Stream 2, to achieve aggressive political ends by using energy as a weapon.”

Which leads us to ask: is the Kremlin currently attempting to use energy as a weapon or misusing Nord Stream 2 to achieve aggressive political ends? 

The answer is a resounding yes. 

No Time To Freeze


6.  From America, we hear stern warnings to Europeans. “Experts have stopped beating around the bush.”

In U.S. strategic circles, a discussion is currently underway on the future of NATO and the tensions that may affect Atlantic ties. The value of this debate, which is worth observing, lies in the fact that the experts participating in it have ceased to beat around the bush. Quite openly, they describe the new geostrategic situation where the United States and, consequently, Europe found itself.

Elbridge Colby, Associate Secretary of Defense in the Trump administration and one of the authors of the 2018 Defense Strategy, recently published The Strategy of Denial: American Defense in an Age of Great Power Competition. In an interview, the author said that the main problem facing America today is that its policy is not adapting to the strategic challenge of China’s growing power as it strives to become a hegemon in Asia. This is reflected in the fact that the United States continues to pursue a policy of military presence in various parts of the world, including those that were key to its interests during the Cold War years, such as Europe and the Middle East, even though America no longer has the strength to be present everywhere. The U.S. has to face the realities, and, according to Colbie, this transformation is happening right in front of our eyes. This means that the United States will have to concentrate its forces and resources on fighting the main threat, i.e., the Chinese one. This shift of geostrategic emphasis will force the U.S. to focus on the Indo-Pacific region regardless of political declarations.

The first reason for this is that otherwise, it will be impossible to stop the Chinese drive for domination. In turn, Beijing’s dominance of Asia continues, which has become the fastest-growing and already wealthiest continent in the world. It will allow China to build its exclusive sphere of influence, which means getting America out of there. In such a situation, it is only a matter of time before Beijing threatens the American continent. Then, it will be too late to do anything, and only the recognition of Chinese domination in the world will remain. Not only will the era of liberalism and Western values ​​end, but freedom on a global scale will be subject to significant restrictions, and the unique American position will go down in history. So China is forcing a change in the U.S. strategy, not a change in the mindset of Washington’s elite. This situation will cause and is already compelling the American elite, according to Colbie, to decide on a geostrategic presence and a military commitment. In the opinion of the American strategist, avoiding them or postponing them will lead to a national catastrophe. Therefore, the United States, and this is what is happening in his opinion, should start thinking strategically. It is not about formulating some “clever plan” to defeat China, but about building what can be called a strategic framework – that is, a system for assessing the situation, defining priorities, and formulating a clear hierarchy of choices. The starting point must be the iron rule of the American “grand strategy,” which states that any attempt to dominate any continent by a local player is a threat to American interests. Currently, such a situation exists only in Asia. According to the American expert, Europe is free from this kind of threat due to the equal potentials of Russia and the Western countries. China is already the strongest on the continent in which 40 percent of the world GDP is created. What is worse, other regional players, due to their geographic location and historical experience (this hampers the politics of, for example, Japan), may face insurmountable problems in creating an efficient coalition that would stop Chinese ambitions. The United States must assume this role of building a force blocking Chinese hegemony in its own interest. However, the creator of the coalition, which inevitably consists of states connected with each other by only one factor, in this case, the fear of Beijing’s growing position, must undertake a lot of effort to ensure that individual interests of the coalition members, including China’s “salami strategy,” do not prevail. The overriding principle used in such situations by the state constructing a multilateral alliance must be the credibility of its own involvement, as it was in Europe after World War II, where Americans had to come, where they had to fight, die, and stay for their alliance to survive. The same logic will now work in Asia but not in Europe. In light of the scale of the challenge and the dwindling resources at Washington’s disposal, this will force America to leave Europe. If the conflict with China enters a hot phase, this process will accelerate. If then a military conflict began in Europe, e.g., on its eastern flank, the United States would not only be unable to come to its aid, but as Colby says with disarming frankness, it should even save ammunition without sending it to the old continent. From the point of view of national interests, they will need it much more in Asia. These are the realities of contemporary geostrategy, and Europe needs to understand what is happening.

Andrew Michta, the Dean of the Department of Strategic and Security Studies at the European Center for Security Studies, speaks in a similar vein in the periodical 1945. In his opinion, what is currently happening in the relations between the Western world and China, and in connection with Moscow’s increasingly assertive policy, should be a “wake-up call” for European leaders and encourage them, before it is too late, to take a serious approach to their own security. According to Michta, a war between the United States and China is more likely today than ever since the 1950s, i.e., since the conflict over the Taiwan Strait. If war breaks out, the stake will be not only a change in Asian security architecture but something much more important.

If China succeeds in discrediting U.S. security guarantees for Taiwan, argues Andrew Michta, (then) the security architecture in the Indo-Pacific will collapse, echoing the U.S.’s position in other theaters.

In this situation, it is surprising, argues the American expert, to what extent the elites of the largest European states do not want to accept this essentially simple conclusion. This short-sightedness of the European elite, expressed in German energy deals with Putin or the French tendency to flirt with the Russian regime, has already led Russia to return to European politics as one of the players in the game. Worse yet, as Michta points out, Moscow’s growing assertiveness does not increase the readiness of major European states to contain it but instead creates a tendency to “manage” relations with Putin. What are the consequences of this approach?

Argues Michta, the only countries on the continent that have invested heavily in their armed forces are those that were once conquered and occupied by the Soviet Union, with Poland at the fore.

If war breaks out in Asia in such a situation, we will experience “a level of sincerity in Atlantic relations that we have not observed since World War II.” What will this honesty be about?

“It is not because of a strategic project,” writes Andrew Michta, “but out of necessity that the Indo-Pacific theater will attract America’s full attention in the foreseeable future, to the detriment of Europe.” The creation of the AUKUS tripartite security pact involving Australia, Great Britain, and the United States is only the most apparent manifestation of America’s strategic adjustment to the situation in Asia. It also shows that Washington is looking for practical solutions to stop Chinese expansionism, backed by real military power and political commitment. In a real crisis, where vital interests are at stake, diplomatic subtleties quickly fade away, as evidenced by the recent disagreement between Paris and Washington over Canberra’s annulment of the submarine agreement with France.

So, suppose war in Asia breaks out. In that case, the courtesies will run out, and “our European allies should expect more blunt talks and direct inquiries from the United States about national security and defense.” This will happen because after 20 years of budget cuts and a focus on counter-terrorist operations, the state of the U.S. armed forces, argues Michta, is that they can only fight one war at a time with an opponent of comparable strength and short, limited in scale and time, operations in another theater of hostilities. And this means, to put it bluntly, that a “window of opportunity” will open for Vladimir Putin, who may then want to dictate his terms. All of this taken together means, according to Michta, that we have entered the time of new Atlantic relations, unnoticed by the public. The United States is not only tired of endless discussions among its European allies about the need for them to spend 2% of their GDP for their own safety. It is not about fatigue, however, but about geostrategic necessity. Today, NATO has to decide whether it will be a real military force capable of countering aggression or a discussion club that constantly debates the obvious. The reality has changed. Summing up, Michta writes that Europe is still vulnerable. The war with China for control of Taiwan means America’s departure from Europe and Putin’s “window of opportunity.”

If that happens, the American expert concludes, and European allies do not stop Russia, then the international system built after 1945 will implode, rendering the existing institutions and norms that have served the West well over the past seventy years – meaningless. Therefore, the burden rests with America’s European allies: will they take steps to rebuild NATO’s military might?

Michta ends his article with a rhetorical question. Still, his message is unmistakable – we may be dealing with the collapse of the world order that has served the interests of the collective West well. If this happens, it will be the result of the short-sightedness of the European elites, which are likely to suffer the most as a result of such developments. America can do it, but can Europe too?

Marek Budzisz

For years, a journalist (TVP – Puls Dnia, Życie, Radio Plus), advisor to two ministers in the government of Jerzy Buzek. Analyst, entrepreneur.

7.  China is on the retreat in Central Europe. US pressure can accelerate the trend.

[…] A Czech delegation visited Taiwan in August, breaching the mainland regime’s ban on political contacts with what it regards as a rebel province. Nothing much happened. Much-touted diplomatic and trade sanctions have not deterred Lithuania, which this year spearheaded a revolt against the Chinese-led “17+1” framework for trade and investment with Europe’s poorer countries and plans to open a “Taiwan office” in Vilnius. The chair of the Taiwan Friendship Group in the Lithuanian Seimas (parliament), Matas Maldeikis, has announced plans to lead a delegation to Taiwan in December.

Lithuania is gaining support for what initially seemed like a lonely, risky stand. The European Parliament has demanded that the EU boost ties with Taiwan. In unusually tough and lucid remarks this week, the normally somnambulistic Josep Borrell, the European Union’s foreign-policy chief, described Taiwan as a “like-minded partner”, whereas mainland China is a “systemic rival”. He expressed solidarity with Lithuania. So too did the rather more impressive European Commission Vice-President, Margrethe Vestager.  The United States wants Taiwan to participate “meaningfully” in United Nations bodies such as the World Health Organization and climate-change negotiations.

But talk is cheap. American attempts to counter mainland Chinese influence operations in Europe have a billion-dollar hole in them. That is what the then Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, promised at the Munich Security Council in February 2019, for the Three Seas Initiative (3SI). This outfit is an admirable attempt to boost connectivity between the Adriatic, the Baltic and the Black Sea — roughly the same area covered by the Beijing-led 17+1.

The combination of American and European geopolitical backing and financial firepower should be irresistible. And the 3SI countries are making progress: a “golden weld” last week marked the near-completion of the new gas link between the Baltic states and Poland. A submarine power cable between Lithuania and Poland will be finished in 2025.

But the 3SI lacks clout and oomph, not least because the US has not made good on its promise. “We haven’t seen a dime” says a senior official in the region. The $1bn grant turns out to be a $300m loan. And even that faces legal hurdles before the money is paid out.

American officials respond irritably when pressed on this. Chinese ones are chuckling.

[…] What is the administration waiting for?

On the Move


8.  Pure Excrement (Part 1)



There are three ways to obtain goods and services: production, trade, or theft (including theft by fraud). The first two are the domain of capitalism, the last is the province of various ideologies asserting a collective’s right to the lives and everything else of the individual. Yes, political philosophy is that simple. It serves the interests of intellectual con artists to make it more complex, the diversion while they steal your money and your life. Humanity’s steps forward have been the fruits of production and trade; its steps backward the toxic weeds of its rulers’ theft and violence.

Businesses produce and trade. Consequently, it’s in the long-term interest of business people to defend the principles necessary for production and exchange: freedom and its economic expression—capitalism—and a political system that fully protects individual rights and strictly limits the power and scope of government. Unfortunately, that ship sailed long ago in this country, the occasional protest from a business person drowned out by the chorus cheering the latest accretion of government power and diminution of liberty, hoping to profit or at least shelter from it.

We’ve reached the point where approval of government polices, no matter how insane, has become a condition for doing business. Any executive who publicly disapproves risks incurring the wrath of the government and could be dismissed by the board of directors as acting contrary to the best interests of the corporation.

That’s strictly in the short-term, though. What government compels is usually contrary to logic and opposed to sound and ethical business. It was clear before and it’s even clearer with the Covid response: business must challenge government if it’s to be anything but the subservient junior partner in a fascist, totalitarian regime.

Pure Excrement, by Robert Gore

9.  Pure Excrement (Part Two)


Who can argue with prevailing business practices? If corporate-debt-supported stock options, wiping out competitors via regulation rather than honest competition, buying bureaucrats and politicians, endorsing the reigning ideology, and political pull are the road to riches, how can you fault the executives for taking it?

The executives have sold their souls and have no interest in the hard road to redemption. They’re in varying degrees of alignment with the global governance cabal for which Covid and climate change are the Trojan horses. There are the marquee names—Gates, Bezos, Dimon, Zuckerberg, Soros, Schmidt, Thiel, Musk—paid up members of the Davos cabal and irretrievably evil. Then there are the vast majority of executives, mere go-along-to-get-along pawns. Any arguments to them have to be phrased in terms of their mushy philosophy—if you can call it that—unprincipled pragmatism.

The best pragmatic argument—because it appeals to fear, an emotion stronger than greed or power lust—is Jack Ma. The people who run governments are a fickle bunch, unmoored to any concept of honor. One day you’re one of the richest men (people with things hanging down between their legs) in China, the esteemed builder of multinational technology conglomerate Alibaba, and a Communist party stalwart. The next day you’ve been “disappeared” and your company has been pulled off its pedestal by jealous functionaries. You only reappear after long reeducation and quiet contemplation of the gospel according to a totalitarian collectivist (Xi Jinping, On the Party’s Propaganda and Ideological Work, Beijing: Institute of Party History and Documentation of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, 2020, for those yearning to peruse classic communist claptrap).

Pure Excrement (Part Two), by Robert Gore


(Please note what is of interest to the individuals at the Center for Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies)

At the University of Pittsburgh

Queer Taxonomies: Gender and New Post-Soviet Cinema

The Man Who Surprised Everyone

This film symposium will contribute to a broader understanding of sexual normativity in Russia, whether our working understanding of that category operates with a notion of “queer” as endlessly fluid or whether it is identified with fixed boundaries across historical breakpoints. Join us for the screening of two films and follow-up discussions with filmmakers and scholars on three questions. We will explore how our understanding of queer theory is rooted in definitions within contemporary US culture, ask whether queerness lends itself to a transregional definition, and consider what Russian queer cinema can reveal about unacknowledged Anglo-American assumptions.

Friday, 5 November, 1 PM EST

The Man Who Surprised Everyone (Russia, 2018, dir. Natasha Merkulova and Aleksei Chupov)

Stasia Korotkova, Founder, Queer Screen

Todd W. Reeser, Director, Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Program University of Pittsburgh

Dan Healey, Professor of Modern Russian History, University of Oxford



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