Monday, June 20, 2011

I just love the headline

F-16s Threaten Königsberg.  Not my headline, but that of StrategyPage:

In a move certain to agitate Russian nationalists, Poland has signed an agreement allowing the U.S. Air Force to base warplanes and transports in Poland. Thus, within two years, the U.S. plans to have F-16s and C-130s stationed in Poland. This is seen by Poland as a further protection from Russian pressure and threats. For over two centuries, Russia has regularly threatened, and often seized parts of, Poland. Russia is not happy with anything that might prevent more such moves in the future. Since the United States is a nuclear power, Russia will be constrained from moving on Poland as long as American troops are stationed there. But the Russians will definitely not like it, and this pleases the Poles a great deal.

This is a complicated part of the world. For example, Poland borders a small part of Russia; Kaliningrad. This is the former German city of Konigsberg (founded by German invaders in the 13th century). Konigsberg was taken by Russia in 1945, and ceded to them (and renamed Kaliningrad) as part of the many political changes resulting from the end of World War II. All the Germans were expelled from Konigsberg, and the area was resettled by Russians. This was part of the destruction of Prussia, the easternmost German province, and long the jumping off point for German invasions to the east. When the Soviet Union was dissolved in 1991, Russia hung on to Kaliningrad, even though it was now surrounded by non-Russian territory.
I suspect this is a move to assuage the Poles after the Obama administration, in a move understandable only to them, threw Poland under the bus to get the dubious START treaty with Russia.

When I was flying through Düsseldorf on my way to Rome, I did notice something that struck me as possibly significant.  There were flights out of Düsseldorf to major cities in Poland, including the formerly German cities of Gdansk and Wroclaw.  The flight status board listed the Polish city names, but after them listed their original German names, Danzig and Breslau, respectively.

Those names have not been used since the Polish-German border was moved to the Oder-Nieße line after World War II.  The border was moved both to give Poland a natural defense against potential German aggression, but also to make up for Soviet Russia stealing half of Poland's territory, pretty much what it took with the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939.  Germany protested, but upon reunification signed a treaty with Poland recognizing the Oder-Nieße line.

Using the names of Danzig and Breslau does not seem to be consistent with that treaty. 

I also noticed that when East Germany was incorporated into the Federal Republic of Germany, the Communist provincial borders, which were strictly utilitarian and had no historical basis, were reorganized into the largely historic provinces.  All except one: the province originally called "Mecklenburg," basically the area bordering the Baltic Sea, was now called "Mecklenburg-West Pomerania" ("Mecklenburg-Vorpommern" in German).

Pomerania is no longer German.  It, along with Silesia and the southern half of East Prussia were given to Poland after World War II.  The northern half of East Prussia is now the Kaliningrad Oblast, largely a military base.

Curious that the Germans would use the name of a province that is no longer part of German territory.  Were they setting up a claim to get it back?

Finally, there were persistent rumors after the reunification, and sporadically since hat time, about revisiting the status of Kaliningrad Oblast.  Kaliningrad, built on the ruins of  is a manufactured city, with no history and no culture, in the Stalinist-Marxist mold.  By all accounts, Germany would like to have Königsberg back, and there were rumored discussions of Germany actually buying the province.  With Russia under Putin, no such transaction is likely to take place.

I realize these are all little things -- use of place names, rumors.  Probably nothing, but sometimes little things can be indicative of something much bigger lurking under the surface.

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