Radoslaw Sikorski who at one time was Polish Foreign Ministry and tipped to become NATO Secretary General - his political fortune in Poland and Europe now shot to bits - has been reduced to hoping he can become a minister in the sinking post-Maidan Ukraine
This article originally appeared at Dances With Bears
Something funny happened to the clown in the laundry. When he went in, the pockets of his pants were empty. When he came out, they were overflowing with money. “What kind of washing detergent do you use here?” he asked.
Not even under the circus big-top, with a troop of elephants trumpeting in the background, does this sound particularly funny. But if you know that the laundry the clown means is a political metaphor (the elephants, too), then the audience will fall out of their seats with laughter. That was what made Bim & Bom (lead, left) , the most famous clowns to perform in Russia between 1890 and 1940, too endearing for the authorities, even the Cheka and Stalin, to stop.
In today’s tale, the clowns are Sikkie and Sakkie (right) — Radoslaw Sikorski, sacked foreign minister of Poland, sacked Marshal of the Sejm (parliament Speaker); and Mikheil Saakashvili, indicted President of Georgia. The money laundries in their performances are better known as think-tanks — the Polish Institute of International Relations (PISM), the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA), the Saakashvili Presidential Library. In this show the bit parts and pratfalls are played by Marcin Zaborowski, Anne Applebaum, Edward Lucas, and several Greeks.
A few days ago, in Kiev, Sikorski offered himself for appointment as a new official for the Ukrainian government. To start, President Petro Poroshenko (below left) announced he is appointing Sikorski a member of his International Advisory Council for Reforms, an initiative of the US Agency for International Development. Saakashvili was put in charge of the council by Poroshenko earlier in the year. Unlike the other appointees on the council, but like Saakashvili, Sikorski is unemployable at home, and of no name value outside Kiev and Washington.
If Poroshenko will succeed in his present scheme to replace Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk (above, right) with Saakashvili, Sikorski is positioned for a ministerial job under Saakashvili. “I support the country’s reform,” Sikorski was quoted as telling the Polish media after his council nomination, adding he is “delighted that Ukraine will be looking to learn from the Polish experience.”
On the other hand, if Yatseniuk proves to be stronger than Poroshenko and keeps the prime ministry, Sikorski has also put himself in the running with him . “I salute you, Prime Minister,” Sikorski tweeted, “for starting reforms of energy sector that other UKR governments promised, but you delivered.” “Nice to meet good friend Radek Sikorski,” Yatseniuk tweeted in less fervid response.
It is uncertain whether the US Government – it’s funding Saaksahvili’s council chairmanship and the Odessa governorate staff since Saakashvili’s appointment there in May — wants to do the same for Sikorski. The reluctance follows the publication of tapes of Sikorski’s table talk revealed him as foul-mouthed, two-faced, ungrateful towards the Obama Administration.
The Polish parliamentary election is now a month away, on October 25. The latest polls are showing that voters reject the escalation of conflict with Russia which Sikorski, the Ukrainians, and the US represent. This conflict the Poles understand to be triggering war zone migration flows which the government in Warsaw is accepting, but the voters will not. The two lead parties, the governing Civic Platform (PO) and the opposition Law and Justice party (PiS), have now exchanged the positons they have held in the Sejm since the 2011 election, when the PO was in front with 39%, and PiS behind at 30%. According to this month’s polling of voter intentions, PiS is holding its lead over PO, 35% to 24%:
The protest candidate against all, Pavel Kukiz, was down to 9%, less than half the 21% of the votes he drew in the first round of the presidential election in May. In the past week, Kukiz’s support has dwindled even further. The margin between the PiS and PO is holding firm at 11%, while the smaller left and right parties, the United Left (ZL), the Peasant Party (PSL), and the KORWiN coalition are contesting for the votes to cross the 5% threshold and take seats in the Sejm. The migration issue is polarizing the electorate to their disadvantage. With a month to go, just 11% of Polish voters indicate they have yet to make up their minds.
These figures mean that in Poland Sikorski is now entirely virtual. A politician without a single vote, he announced this week he counts 502,703 followers for his Twitter account. It is the role of the think-tanks to make the virtual appear to be real, and generate the income which Twitter, by itself, does not. For Sikorski the instrumental think-tanks are the Polish Institute of International Affairs (PISM) in Warsaw; and the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) in Washington.
On September 13, Polish investigative journalists Agnieszka Burzyńska and Michał Majewski investigated PISM and reported what its money is paid for, and by whom. The Polish state budget – at Sikorski’s direction when he was foreign minister – covers the overheads of PISM. But its research projects and publications are separately funded. It is this money, according to Burzyńska and Majewski, which puts “[Poland’s] foreign policy on sale”. The reporters analysed financing by Areva, the French nuclear power company, and Raytheon, the US arms manufacturer, to produce PISM research; this in turn promoted the Polish Government’s purchase of Areva reactors and Raytheon missiles.
The reporters identify Marcin Zaborowski (photo), director of PISM, as personally involved in the Areva and Raytheon payments, and writing in endorsement of the reactors and missiles. In August, PISM’s website reported that the institute is now headed by an acting director, and Zaborowski is no longer listed on PISM’s official roster of experts. He has turned in his PISM job for a better paid one as the head of a newly established Warsaw office for CEPA. Here is CEPA’s announcement on June 15. Zaborowski’s new role, the think- tank says, is “to guide major strategic programs and organizational growth in CEPA’s Washington, DC headquarters while overseeing the institute’s strategy for expansion in the Central and Eastern European region, including the former Soviet space.”
The Polish investigators asked Zaborowski to clarify his relationship with the Areva and Raytheon promotions. “He did not want to talk to us,” they report. After refusing to respond directly, Zaborowski accused the journalists of “Russian propaganda”.
Warsaw political analyst Stanislas Balcerac comments: “PISM is a joke financed by taxpayer’s money. On its board sit people like Bartosz Jalowiecki, Sikorski’s friend whom he made ambassador in Luxembourg; Hanna Jahns, third wife of a former minister in [ex-prime minister Donald] Tusk’s government; and Zbigniew Niemczycki, an oligarch who has a nice hotel on the sea coast, where Sikorski goes from time to time.”
As Zaborowski moved across Warsaw to switch desks, CEPA released a paper by Zaborowski endorsing the Raytheon missile installation in Poland, “although the value of the contract, around $5 billion-$8 billion, is exceptionally high by Central European standards.” CEPA identifies Raytheon as one of its sources of money. Others listed include the US Defense Department and weapons builders Lockheed Martin, Bell Helicopter, Textron, and Sikorsky Aircraft.
The Polish Sikorski is included on the CEPA website as advertising the think-tank for providing “some of the finest analyses in Washington and is frequently discussed in the Polish government.” The endorsement refers to Sikorski as “Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland”, still.
From the funds that flow into CEPA from the US military sources, two of the analysts Sikorski has promoted, Anne Applebaum and Edward Lucas, are on the CEPA receiving end. Applebaum, Sikorski’s wife, is a member of CEPA’s Advisory Council and “senior adjunct fellow”. Her income was required for reporting by Sikorski when he was foreign minister. Their income statements can be read here. In 2014 Applebaum’s income was reported in Polish zlotys so that less trace of how much she was being paid from US sources is visible. Sikorski’s and Applebaum’s final income report for the six months of this year, before he was relieved of his post as parliamentary speaker, isn’t due until April of next year.
Lucas is listed at CEPA as Senior Vice-President and head of the Center’s Baltic Sea Security Program. Lucas’s most recent CEPA report, issued in June, is entitled “The Coming Storm”. Lucas warns: “ if the region’s security is not improved, NATO, the world’s most successful military alliance, could be revealed as powerless, perhaps without even a shot being fired. America’s role as the ultimate guarantor of European security would be over in a matter of hours.” So too the roles of Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Textron, Bell and Sikorsky. Not to mention the spillover effects for them all. “Such a humbling of America in Europe would have a huge and potentially catastrophic effect on security elsewhere. Allies such as Japan, Taiwan (Republic of China) and South Korea would find it hard to believe American security guarantees.”
Lucas makes CEPA’s pitch for an across-the-board increase in defence spending by the European members of NATO in order to fill the $100 billion gap he calculates between them and Russian defence spending (Lucas doesn’t count US defence spending in the “gap”). He also makes special endorsements for the Baltic states to buy Raytheon’s Patriot missile; JASSM, a long-range, air-to-ground missile for sale by Lockheed Martin and the Tomahawk missile for the Polish Navy. The latest model of Tomahawk is in Raytheon’s sales catalogue. According to CEPA, it accepts US Government grants “for specific projects approved by the contracting federal agency.” The think-tank says it “does not accept foreign government funding.” Not so CEPA executives. Exactly who is paying for Lucas to run CEPA’s Baltic Sea Security Program isn’t disclosed.
For CEPA’s reporting on Georgia, it’s necessary to start in Poland with Zaborowski. On his recent visit to Tbilisi, he reported immediately spotting that “former President Mikheil Saakashvili’s modernization drive certainly made an impact on the city’s architecture and its spirit.” As for the corruption and other criminal charges for which Saakashvili is being prosecuted by the current government, that depends, for CEPA and Zaborowski, on “where you stand in relationship to Russia and ultraliberalism.”
Back in 2011, Lucas was so keen on Saakashvili he recommended that “if Armenia had a Mikheil Saakashvili, it might be doing better.” He also quoted Sikorski on the “special contribution” Poland could make on how to fix “the process of transition across North Africa.”
Two years later, in December 2013, by the time Saakashvili had left Tbilisi, Lucas wrote to recommend his example for a new US policy for Kiev – “ Georgia… had such leadership in the Saakashvili era. But this factor is simply missing in Ukraine.” Was Saakashvili himself paying for this? And did the money originate from the US Government through Saakashvili’s Security Council or his own think-tank, the Saakashvili Presidential Library?
According to US law, the Georgian government is a foreign one. Because of an old statute aimed at Germany in the 1930s, it is obliged to register the Americans it hires, and the money it pays in the US for American lobbying operations. The Saakashvili record can be followed in the files of the Foreign Agents Registration Unit of the US Department of Justice.
Starting in 2009, immediately after Saakashvili’s war against Russia had ended badly (for him), he registered Gregory Maniatis, a Greek-American (photo), as his agent. So long as Saakashvili was president, he paid Maniatis to finance a campaign officially labelled “support generally for the foreign and domestic policies of the Government of Georgia, including Georgia’s relations with Russia.” After Saakashvili was indicted in Tbilisi, and fled to the US, Maniatis was engaged by the “United National Movement of Georgia” (UNM), an opposition organization Saakashvili left behind in the capital.
Maniatis insisted on getting his cash up front. From 2009, when he trousered an initial €360,000, Maniatis took $1.7 million over four years, plus expenses. If state money was fungible in Tbilisi in that period, this may have been a small fraction to return to Washington of US Government payments for Georgian military and police operations. In total, Saakashvili’s administration was given $419 million during the Maniatis lobbying contract.
In 2014, on the UNM tab, Maniatis received $42,000 for six months to September 30. This year, once Saakashvili moved to the Ukraine on the US Government tab, Maniatis has been short-changed. He reports that from this month to February of next year, he is being paid just $15,000.
Saakashvili’s script for Maniatis is the same now as when he was fronting for the government. Again according to the Justice Department files, Maniatis’s task has been “building partnerships and relationships with relevant US audiences and constituencies, including the administration, the US Congress, think tanks, and other organizations, as well as the media.” There is no record of direct contacts Maniatis made with US Government officials or members of Congress. The think-tank trail is obvious.
A source close to the US Embassy in Athens says Maniatis got his start when a group of wealthy Greek-Americans hired him to promote their interests with George Papandreou, then the Greek prime minister. Papandreou then hired him to for political promotion of Papandreou in media aimed at the Greek diaspora. “He was Papandreou’s man,” the source said from Athens this week. “He got money to connect rich Greek-Americans to support Greece. The whole matter became a fiasco because [the Greek-Americans] wouldn’t contribute. That’s how Maniatis started. Papandreou’s connection wired him into other lobbying.”
When Alexander Stefanopoulos, a Greek reporter, investigated in 2010 he found that Maniatis’s job was to persuade US think-tanks that Papandreou was more open to US Government and business influence than his father Andreas Papandreou had been. The money for Maniatis’s mission to the American think-tanks came from a Greek think-tank, financed in Athens by Papandreou with state budget money. The Greek investigation also revealed the names of several front companies through which Maniatis was selling his services, initially in Athens, then in Tbilisi.
The intermediary between Papandreou (photo), Maniatis, and Saakashvili was another Greek, Alex Rondos (right). His record on Russia can be followed here, when Rondos had stopped calling himself Papandreou’s advisor, and was titling himself advisor to Saakashvili. After Rondos had moved from the Greek to the Georgian payroll, Greek government auditors uncovered controversy in the handling of Greek state aid to Georgia through think-tanks reportedly controlled by Rondos and Papandreou.
The Maniatis file in the Justice Department doesn’t reveal what Maniatis did to persuade CEPA executives Lucas, Zaborowski and Applebaum to produce Saakashvili promos. Maniatis himself has moved on to another US think-tank; he is now titled “senior Europrean policy fellow” at the Migration Policy Institute. This reports its funding is from the State Department, George Soros’s Open Society Foundations, and a handful of European government organs.
Saakashvili has also created his own think-tank. He announced his call for donors in a promotion published year ago in the New York Times. This reveals that “Mr. Saakashvili is writing a memoir, delivering ‘very well-paid’ speeches, helping start up a Washington-based think tank and visiting old boosters like Senator John McCain and Victoria Nuland, the assistant secretary of state.”
The newspaper also disclosed that Saakashvili’s home in New York was “his uncle’s apartment in a tower on the Williamsburg waterfront, where he luxuriates.” In the financial history of Georgia, Saakashvili’s kin are famous. The story of Uncle Timur (Alasaniya, his mother’s brother) was spelled out here in the case of the privatization of Madneuli, Georgia’s richest mining company.
Saakashvili hasn’t disclosed the name of his think-tank, nor has he registered it as a foreign agent in Washington. Instead, Saakashvili claims to be collecting money for it through the Saakashvili Presidential Library in Tbilisi. The library website identifies the think-tank, but when the links are opened for its staff, research projects, and publications, the pages are empty. Not so, the bank accounts.