To it's great discredit Poland did not sign up to the Oslo Treaty banning cluster munitions last year when almost every other nation in Europe did-except, of course, Russia. The USA, predictably enough, did not sign it either.
There is nothing surprising in the refusal of Global Players like Russia and the USA but Poland is not a Great Power. On the face of it, there might seem nothing to lose by banning these indiscriminate and inhumane weapons.
So the Polish refusal has been rationalised in a number of curious ways. In an interview with Gazeta Wyborcza in September 2008. the Polish Defence Minister Bogdan Klich claimed he had not endorsed the Dublin Convention because,
'This isn't just a whim. We need those weapons to defend our territory. In fact, a debate has been going on about this type of munitions'.
How on earth cluster bombs are essential for 'defending' Poland and against whom is unclear from this statement. Whether he has in mind firing cluster munitions against Russia or Belarus or whether he thinks their use in mortar attacks in Afghanistan constitutes 'defence'.
Yet the callousness and stupidity of Poland's leading politicians doesn't stop there. The Stop Cluster Munitions coalition had a Ban Bus that went to Warsaw on November 15th which reports,
'An unwise comment by Polands Foreign Affairs Minister Mr. Radoslaw Sikorski, that he had survived a cluster bomb attack and it wasn't that bad, made it easy to get media attention. Stories about the campaign and the ban were run on TV and radio and in the press. The Ban Bus, CMC and ICBL team met with Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Mr. Przemyslaw Grudzinski. They reiterated their call on Poland to sign the CCM in Oslo and to ratify the Mine Ban Convention without further delay. The officials stated that Poland needs to keep landmines and cluster munitions just in case and that it would use them only in self-defense, on its own territory. Which was commented on by Branislav as pure MADNESS'.
Clearly, Radek Sikorski was either trying to be funny or else he doesn't give a fig about those who get blown up by unexploded cluster bombs.
After all, he is a member of the American Enterprise Institute, a think-tank for neoconservatives who believe fervently that the military industrial complex is good for the USA and for the liberation of the globe from the "Axis Of Evil".
Sikorski no doubt thinks the arms industry is good for Poland which is why he was so quick to sign the deal to build the missile shield following the propaganda campaign in Poland to portray Russia as the aggressor against Georgia in the conflict of August 2008.
War and weapons are always good business. Krasnik in Poland is a large producer of cluster bombs based in Kielce and sells the vast majority of its munitions to the Polish military. They account for 10% of sales to it, or more, according to Krasnik spokesman Dariusz Szlafka.
Chief of General Staff Gen Franciszek Gągor justified it to Gazeta Wyborcza thus,
'There are no humanitarian weapons.... 'Our munitions have inbuilt security features. If a missile doesn't explode, it will go into autodestruct mode after a specified period of time. So while this isn't a "humanitarian" weapon, it's a selective one. There's no possibility of it killing a person who happens upon an unexploded shell like this'.
There is something very Kafkaesque about the logic employed by Polish generals and politicians.
General Gagor states that there are 'no humanitarian weapons' as all are designed to kill.
Yet presumably not all are designed to kill indiscriminately and nobody could claim that, as with nuclear weapons, that their collective use would be so universally destructive as to ensure mutual deterrence.
However, to state that there are 'no humanitarian weapons' only to then go on to say with reference to a cluster bomb that 'whilst this isn't a humanitarian weapon' implies the underlying logic that some weapons might be more humanitarian than others. Which is alluded to by calling cluster bombs 'selective'.
Now it certainly is 'selective' for the many civilians who happen to come across them and get blown up or have limbs blown off. Obviously they won't get blown up if the bomblet has already 'gone into autodestruct' but he doesn't say what the 'specified time' is and if someone 'happens' on it before it will explode.
The claim that Poland needs cluster bombs as a defence against Russia is also absurd.
Firstly, Russia is just not going to invade Poland because Poland is already part of NATO and Article 5 states that any attack upon it would constitute a collective attack on all NATO members. So this argument is spurious.
Secondly, the only place where Polish troops have cluster munitions in practice has been in Afghanistan where they are equipped with mortars containing them. Afghanistan is not a war that has much to do with defending Poland from Russia.
Thirdly, the refusal to sign the convention is really also part of some petty nationalistic power game. Russia did not sign it, so Poland won't. Because we do not like Russia and Russia is our Eternal Enemy.
The malicious and petty Lilliputian desire of small people to stamp their feet and shake their little fists at the Russian Brobdingnag to bait it is one is no less vainglorious than Saakashvili in Geoegia is when thumbing his nose and ramping up the rhetoric at those nasty great Russians.
This was the reason last september just after the Russo-Georgian War for the doltish President Lech Kaczynski riding in a motorcade towards South Ossetia with Saakashvil only for it to be fired on by mysterious gunment alleged to have been Russian backed Ossetian militias.
It was an act of provocation, designed to boost Kaczynski's nationalist credentials at a time when the popularity of his PiS party is somewhat low and when millions of younger Poles have shown what they think of Poland's petty minded chauvinistic nationalism and bigotry by migrating.
More generally, Poland's elite see NATO as an organisation that can be used to settle a historical grudge match with Russia. By baiting the bear, they can then run back to the USA and the West who can lecture the 'big bully' about it's aggression.
As the Warsaw Business Journal Reports,
Poland has argued that it won't sign the treaty until the same is done by its neighbor Russia. Polish generals have also said that the country cannot afford to produce a different weapon that would be more precise. Among the supporters will include the majority of EU and NATO member states.
Essentially the Polish politicians and generals are just playing power games with Russia and are sulking that NATO did not take a tougher line line on Russia. For cluster bombs are no more orecise than the grad rockets fired by Georgia and Russia in the recent conflict.
Yet significantly it was Georgian forces who initiated hostilities when its forces killed 15 Russian peacekeepers and then proceeded to rain death and destruction down on Tskhinvali on the night of August 7 2008, killing 400 people as they slept.
Presumably, the Polish elites are thinking they need cluster bombs in the same way Georgia needs them.
Yet why the generals would need a weapon that was 'more precise' against a non-existent and purely theoretical invasion that would, if used, end up blowing up as many of their own citizens is curious.
It isn't as if Polish troops would ever be in a situation like Georgia unless they attacked Russia.
According to Amnesty and other rights groups like HRW,
... cluster bombs, which were deployed by both Georgia and Russia, resulting in numerous civilian casualties and the contamination of large areas of land with unexploded ordnance.
Giorgio Gogia of HRW said,
"Many of the [displaced farmers], after returning, could not collect their harvest because their fields were contaminated by clusters bombs posed by both Georgian and Russian troops".
The existence of unexploded cluster bombs is set this winter to compound the suffering of ordinary civilians as the cold winter in the Caucusus sets in. Perhaps this is what insane Polish generals and politicians mean by 'defence' and 'protecting' their civilian population.
What is shameful and hypocritical is that PM Tusk and others like Radek Sikorski were part of Solidarity which was officially committed to non-violence in trying to organise the transition from Soviet imposed Communism to democracy.
Now they refuse to sign a treaty that even Britain has signed and that would stop the killing and maiming of thousands upon thousands of civilians, men, women and children.