The Price of Principles

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www.kremlin.ru, Creative Commons

What price is it worth to pay for fundamentalness, for consistent standing by the declared values, for loyalty and for maintaining alliances and friendships and, finally, for fighting for one’s own affairs which so often require some sacrifices in a short- or long-term perspective? Viktor Orbán points out to one of the obvious solutions to how to cut the Gordian knot of those dilemmas in a fast and easy manner.

Everything has its price. From time to time all of us face the truth in this proverb and seldom do we get a chance to deem it false. Politics – which is on both levels, the internal and international, a power game – is therefore a part of social life that is strongly affected by that phrase.

What price is it worth to pay for fundamentalness, for consistent standing by the declared values, for loyalty and for maintaining alliances and friendships and, finally, for fighting for one’s own affairs which so often require some sacrifices in a short- or long-term perspective? What price can be paid in a multilateral agreement, in which there are citizens holding a ballot paper and who can be impatient and often value more the very basic matters (after all, it’s their natural right)? In face of the current, tense international situation those questions seem to be fundamental and valid.

Viktor Orbán, the Prime Minister of Hungary – a country Poles are really fond of and to whom they feel a sort of nostalgic unrequited love – points out to one of the obvious solutions to how to cut the Gordian knot of those dilemmas in a fast and easy manner. The current Russian policy towards its eastern neighbours – which, except for geography, share also their recent geopolitical history – poses two problems. First, the intuitive solidarity with the weaker, the oppressed one that is refused the right to make decisions with regard its geopolitical stance in Europe on its own – here I mean, naturally, solidarity with Ukraine, its citizens, the militants, the patriots and the casualties of Russian aggression. I mean that it’s a “problem” in the sense that it is conducive to taking stance towards this country and its people what, in consequence, leads to a moral self-evaluation of the stance we have taken. Even for the ice-cold hearted politicians it isn’t easy to conduct such self-examination. Second, the question of whether we’ll be next if Ukraine falls. It’s one of the most urgent questions in Latvia and Estonia but only a fool could say that there is no real danger for Poland and Hungary.

So there are two problems on one side. On the other side there’s money. If a politician – as the majority of Polish political class does, at least in the two parties with a real chance of holding the reins of power – responds to those two dilemmas in a manner that ‘antagonizing Russia is one true option there is’, he or she must take into consideration that financial losses will be a natural consequence. And let’s not fool ourselves: the longer this aforementioned tension lasts, the more people will be dissatisfied with the reduced inflow of money. The price of loyalty to Kiev, the price of standing up to our liberal-democratic values, to the right of self-governance and national independence will increase along with those values the price paid for our vital geopolitical interests (thus moving the spheres of the real Kremlin’s influence away from the Polish borders). The stage when only the margin-monsters as Mateusz Piskorski or Janusz Korwin-Mikke were fighting with the pro-Ukrainian politics (and eventually only reinforced it by their complete lack of credibility) is coming to an end as the presidential candidate of the Polish People’s Party (PSL) turns his back on values and points his finger onto the financial aspect of politics.

Adam Jurbas postulates what Orbán is already doing, but maybe in a softer version. Orbán is interested only in cash, not in values. His disregard for values or (to make it sound more proudly) for ethos of Western democracy continues for years and is expressed in many constitutional reforms or a positive evaluation of the model of the political system of modern China. He therefore easily avoids the topic of Ukraine’s right to sovereignty, self-reliance in international politics and territorial integrity. He shrugs his shoulders to the news of Ukrainian casualties at the same time eagerly claiming that in exchange for financial bonuses he will take Kremlin’s propaganda of Kiev’s Nazism and “civil” war at face value, he will try to block further sanctions and maybe he will even consider Zhirinovsky’s suggestion to move the Ukrainian borders to the benefit of the western neighbours. So it seems that what we’ve mentioned as the ‘first problem’ is for Orbán no problem at all – his nationalistic views allow him to face the mirror with content. What about the second problem? Does Orbán not see the potential danger of sucking his country into the sphere of Russian influence? That we don’t really know. Maybe – as many Western-European commentators point out – he really thinks that such a scenario is a complete nonsense. Maybe the idea of implementing a new Western-European project without liberal democracy and with conservatism and culture of a “strong individual” holding power – what Kremlin is pushing for with its well-paid partners in the European far-right – on the ruins of a dissolved EU instead, simply suits the Hungarian prime minister in terms of ideology. Even if not fully and completely, it still isn’t putting him off enough to make him give up the ‘sweet fruits’ of, let’s say, the new gas agreement.

I’m glad that in the year 2015 I’m Polish, not Hungarian. I’m glad because the attitude of the part of Polish governing class which decides on the direction of state policy towards this key matter is closer to my expectations and my sensitivity. Gas will cost us more (we already pay much more than anyone else does) but at least we will have no trouble in facing the mirror. Poland behaves as decently as it could. It’s a shame, though, that the example it sets isn’t followed by the countries of the (at this point presumably already “the late”) Visegrad Group.

Translation: Olga Łabendowicz

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