Posted on 10-04-2010
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut

Poland is in shock today as a plane carrying its President Lech Kaczynski, his wife Maria, the chief of the general staff of the Polish Army, the heads of all of Poland’s armed forces, the president of Poland’s national bank, and number of other members of the government crashed in Russia killing everyone on board.  Kaczynski was on his way to an event commemorating the Katyn massacre of World War II where the Soviet Union executed over 20,000 Polish POWs (including many senior officers).  Russia has never apologized for the massacre (Stalin conveniently blamed the Nazis) and the issue has hung heavy over Polish-Russian relations since the end of the Cold War.  But progress has been made and Kaczynski was on his way to a joint commemoration of the event with the Russians.  Needless to say, the symbolism of a large portion of Poland’s elite being struck down yet again near Katyn is hard to miss.

The impact on Polish politics is unclear.  Kaczynski was trailing in his attempt for re-election after a prickly tenure that generated tension with his European Union colleagues and Russia.  During his term Poland had the unusual experience of rule by identical twins (his brother Jaroslaw was Prime Minister from 2006-2007).

This is not the first time a head of state has been killed in a plane crash, but I am having a hard time recalling one which took out such a large portion of a country’s government and leaders of the armed forces.  While the world mourns with Poland, their governments should review their disaster contingency plans to limit the impact and paralyzing effect of such tragedies to their nations.

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