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By John Helmer, Moscow

With three tweets Radoslaw Sikorski (lead image, right), the leading Russia-hater of Poland, and his wife, Anne Applebaum (left), a member of a Russia-hating think-tank in London called Legatum, acknowledged on Monday that they have been ousted from the very frontiers they claim to be threatened with Russian invasion; dismissed by the very people they claim to have been representing; and discredited by the very souls they have been saving from devils they have been conjuring up for years. If you are in the propaganda and disinformation business, this is a bitter dose of something Poles no longer trust Sikorski or Applebaum to speak – the truth.

In Sikorski’s first tweet, he said (in Polish): “I have decided that I will not be a candidate in the upcoming parliamentary elections.” In the following tweet, he added: “I would like to thank the citizens of Bydgoszcz region for having given the honour to represent you [them] for a decade”.

Applebaum has said nothing directly. However, hours before Sikorski’s tweets, she announced that she knows “what it feels like to be the victim of a smear campaign.” The implication is that the outcome for Sikorski and herself has been caused by a campaign of smears – lies.

The Polish evidence on what has happened is readily available in recent election results for Bydgoszcz, Sikorski’s hometown and political seat; and in Polish media reporting of voter intentions and party planning for the parliamentary poll which will be held on October 25. In 2007, Sikorski’s first election, he led with 117,291 votes – far ahead of the other candidates in Bydgoszcz . His party, Civic Platform (PO), won 44% of the vote, compared to the opposition Law and Justice party (PiS) with 24%.


In 2011, when there was a 2.3% swing against the PO across Poland, the PO party vote in Bydgoszcz dropped 5 percentage points to 39%. Sikorski’s vote went down to 91,720, a loss of 22%. Proportionally, though, his share of the city vote dropped by just 3 points — from 28% to 25%. He appeared to be doing better with his constituents than his party was. Local media called him “a driving force for his party in the region”, and a “locomotive of the PO in his region”.

In May 2014 the election of deputies for Bydgoszcz for the European Parliament in Strasbourg attracted a turnout of just 22%, a third of the normal voter participation. The PiS gained on the PO countrywide, but in Bydgoszcz, Sikorski’s party remained ahead.

A year later this past May, the Polish presidential election resulted in a surprise swing against the PO, and the defeat of incumbent PO President Bronislaw Komorowski by the opposition PiS candidate Andrzej Duda. For that story, and its impact on Polish policy towards Russia and the Ukraine conflict, read more. In Bydgoszcz the position was quite different. Duda took just 41%; Komorowski, 59%.

The political numbers were as clear to Sikorski as to everyone else – so long as he was placed number-one on the PO list for Bydgoszcz, he was a near-certainty to win, and to keep his seat in the Sejm (parliament). That was in the last days of May. On June 10, the PO leader and Prime Minister, Ewa Kopacz, forced him to resign his post as Speaker of the Sejm. Sikorski told the Financial Times he was sacrificing himself. “I do this because I care about Civic Platform as it is the only party that can maintain the standards that Poland has earned . . . Her chances of re-election are more important than my personal ambitions.”

That wasn’t true, not in Bydgoszcz, nor in Warsaw. The Financial Times didn’t check with Kopacz, or with anyone else in Poland. Their views weren’t state secrets — what the prime minister and the PO party had decided was that even if Sikorski could hold his seat in his hometown, their chances of re-election were greater if Sikorski wasn’t on the PO list at all.

In June Sikorski may still have been hoping, as he intimated to the newspaper in London, that he could hang on in Bydgoszsz, even if Kopacz lost in Warsaw. He may also have been calculating on a personal comeback once she was out of the way.

The prime minister was calculating differently. Polish political analysts and the state radio, have reported that Kopacz (below left) wants to place in the number-one spot in Bydgoszcz a personal political ally, Teresa Piotrowska (right), currently Minister of Interior.

Teresa Piotrowska

At the Bydgoszcz poll in 2007, Piotrowska drew just 12,558 votes – a tenth fraction of Sikorski’s tally. Polish political analysts understand that Sikorski lacked the influence in Warsaw to preserve his place at the head of the PO list in Bydgoszcz; and that if he accepted the second spot, behind Piotrowska, he might fail to gather enough votes. This added up to two humiliations – one certain, at the hands of the prime minister, and one likely, at the hands of the voters.

sikorsky_apSikorski, says a Warsaw politician, “can play second fiddle to his American wife in some places, some of the time. He couldn’t play second fiddle to two Polish ladies – Kopacz and Piotrowska.” Polish political analyst Stanislas Balcerac adds: “Sikorski was never liked in his party. That’s also because he opportunistically changed party camps in 2007. So the PO doesn’t want to carry him any longer with all his heavy luggage, and reserves number-one on the list in Bydgoszcz for other people.”

Balcerac coined the term Radexit for Sikorski’s ouster. Witold Waszczykowski (below), a senior diplomat whom Sikorski fired from the Foreign Ministry in 2008, said this week: “I am convinced he was forced to resign.”

Witold Waszczykowski

Sikorski’s “heavy luggage” is the tape-recordings which have been leaking into the Polish press from conversations he had with his confidants over several years. In one of the conversations, occurring just after the Crimea’s accession to Russia in March last year, Sikorski privately attacked the basis of his public policy, and added a racial slur to his contempt for President Barack Obama. “You know that the Polish-U.S. alliance isn’t worth anything. It is downright harmful because it creates a false sense of security … Complete bullshit. We’ll get in conflict with the Germans, Russians, and we’ll think that everything is super because we gave the Americans a blow job. Losers. Complete losers [murzynskosc – literally, dark-skinned slaves]”

Applebaum reacted, not by denying the veracity of the tapes, but by claiming their release “stinks of Russian infowar tactic.” Sikorski had been telling the truth, he admitted himself. “I thought that as people find out what I was thinking out aloud, it will be fine, because I’m honest. I wasn’t plotting there. I do not steal.”

Polish listeners to the tapes do not share either interpretation. Neither did Prime Minister Kopacz. “Today, on behalf of Civic Platform, I extend my heartfelt apologies [to party supporters who for the past year] listened to the tapes with disgust, irritation. As long as I am the prime minister, I will not allow for political games over the tapes during the electoral period.”

As damaging for Sikorski was the record of his calculations for job advancement — outside Poland. Over wine with his friend Jacek Rostowski, Sikorski sounded as if he couldn’t wait to leave Poland, and would say or do almost anything to get out. That may not have sounded like stealing to him; it did sound like a form of fraud to the Polish audience. As for the former, Sikorski’s use of public monies at the foreign ministry for his private pleasures has been under official investigation; the report on the evidence in the inquiry has yet to be released . For more, read on.

The leaking tapes reportedly run for 900 hours. The published excerpts from Sikorski lasted for less than 20 minutes. Last week, it was reported in Warsaw that there may be more to come from his uninhibited mouth. Without mentioning the investigation of the leaked tapes by the Ministry of Interior and the Polish intelligence services, the possibility was, according to the Warsaw press, that there are new revelations from the restaurant tapes, and also “older tapes recorded in other places”. Sikorski was “frightened” of fresh disclosures, the Polish media speculated – but not because they were a Russian “infowar” plot.

If there has been plotting against Sikorski, the Warsaw media and Polish analysts say, it has come from his own government, Prime Minister Kopacz, Police Minister Piotrowska, and the PO party. The first round of disclosures last year cost Sikorski his post as foreign minister. The swing of voter sentiment against the PO, and the projection of worse to come in October, have cost him his Speaker’s post and his seat as the first deputy for Bydgoszcz.

Henry FoyNone of this has been reported in the London or Washington media. The Financial Times, which led the promotion last year for Sikorski’s nomination to EU foreign minister, has tweeted through its correspondent for central Europe, Henry Foy (right): “When I arrived 11 months ago, #Poland was safely in the hands of @donaldtusk, @sikorskiradek, @Komorowski & @EBienkowskaEU. How times change. donaldtusk @sikorskiradek & @Komorowski PL lost 3 key RU hawks. In @EBienkowskaEU it lost superb executive. DT & EB natural leaders too.” Foy implies that “safety” aside, Sikorski wasn’t much of an executive, and something less than a “natural” leader.

Last month the Washington Post reported Sikorski’s loss of his ministry portfolio and Speaker’s post. It added anonymous authority for the claim that “Russia was behind the recordings and is maneuvering to exert greater control in the region. Under Civic Platform, Poland has been a close partner of the United States — sending troops to Iraq and Afghanistan — and a vocal member of the European Union.”

Christian LoweThis week Reuters’ correspondent for Central Europe, Christian Lowe (right), claimed Sikorski’s exit from Bydgoszcz was his own initiative. The headline implied Sikorski was the victim for having been a “vocal Kremlin critic.” In the New York Times run of Lowe’s report, Sikorski had been “a standard-bearer for people on both sides of the Atlantic who saw Russia as a threat.” Referring to Sikorski’s tweets, Reuters and the Times added: “Sikorski, who is married to Pulitzer Prize-winning author Anne Applebaum, gave no reason for stepping down and did not say what he planned to do next.”

The Anglo-American media have repeated the Sikorski-Applebaum tweets as fact. The Polish media have made a mockery of the tweets, and treated them as lies. This makes the tweets from Sikorski a very special form of fabrication, and not because they are false on the central point – Sikorski did not decide for himself to withdraw from the election in Bydgoszcz. Written and published in the Polish language, this is a claim Polish readers and voters do not believe.

So Sikorski must have intended his claims to be translated into English by readers in London and Washington, who could be counted on not to recognize what the Polish evidence shows. In short, Sikorski is playing with his native language, in order to make his lies appear to be authentic truths in his adopted tongue. The cynical calculation of this was what the bug under his dining table had already revealed.

There’s an obvious paradox: Sikorski and Applebaum have just been sacked by Poland for saying and writing a stream of things about Russia which nobody Polish believes to be the truth, and which the Sikorski tapes show he and his wife don’t believe either. So why should an American or Englishman, let alone governments full of them, continue paying for the broadcast of such lies, when inside Poland the voters dismiss them as cynical money-grubbing, and the Prime Minister of the country apologizes for the deception?

The answer is an infowar boomerang: Sikorski and Applebaum are in the business of disinforming their paymasters – noone else.

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