Poland rearms — Italy, which regards Russia primarily as an export market and at any rate does not live next door, tends to consider Russian neo-expansionism as a kind of sophomoric prank by Putin: basically stupid, but not the kind of thing that you would let ruin your revenues. The countries of the former Warsaw Pact instead remember very clearly, and are alarmed—as a result, they are rearming.
Poland has recently announced that it will purchase American Patriot missiles for a total value of $7 billion, around 6.2 billion euro. This is a surface-to-air missile meant to defend very large fixed targets, things like military bases and cities. It became well-known when it was used to counter Iraqi Scuds launched against Israel in the 1991 Gulf War. The Patriots are part of a Polish military “shopping list” with a total value of 33 billion euro, which also includes German Leopard II main battle tanks, American F-16 fighters, new Polish-built FFG-7 class frigates and Norwegian Kongsberg costal defense missile.
These are thing that cost vast amounts of money. Poland—with the support of its allies in the Visegrad Group: which includes the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary—as well as from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia and, further south, Romania and Bulgaria, will pay for them through government grants, bank financing and export credits.
Poland’s own armaments industry too is growing strongly. It got its start re-modernizing leftover Soviet weapons after the Cold War, but by 2014 the country could already offer five entirely new artillery and missile systems—both of Nato standard and both firing new “smart” munitions, far superior to the materiel they replaced.
The Polish model is admired and is being carefully studied by the other countries of the “Western East,” and some of them are thinking of trying to copy it. In other words, Poland has positioned itself—credibly—at the head of the defense of North and Central Europe: something like the Roman limes, the defensive line in the Germanic North manned mostly by barbarians and intended to keep other barbarians out of the effete and much weakened inner EU, ah, that is, Roman Empire…
We solve the ‘Southern Question’ — The perception of the Italians that their country is fundamentally divided along North/South lines into a rich and modern nation bordering Switzerland and a tragically poor and underdeveloped South has left them blind to the country’s East/West internal divisions.
You might try asking Italian dinner guests to correctly order the following cities according to which is furthest west and furthest east: Rome, Naples, Venice and Trieste.
The great surprise is that Venice, at 12°19′55″East, is, by a hair, the westernmost of the four. Rome lies at at 12°28′58″E. By far the easternmost is Naples, at 14°15′00″E. Yes, Naples is east of Trieste (at 13°48′15″E), and by quite a fair amount. It lies on roughly the same longitude as the Slovene city of Ljubljana.
Even within Northern (or ‘Western,’ at this point) Italy, the misperception persists. Most Italians would take Turin to be north of Bologna—and it is, very slightly, by well under one degree of latitude—but Turin is above all to the west of Bologna, by nearly 4 degrees of longitude. Bari, down toward the “heel” of the Italian boot, is situated a good bit further east than Zagreb, in Croatia.
It is very satisfying to be able to solve the eternal riddle of Italian domestic policy. Rather than a “Southern Question,” the Country has got a “questione orientale”—an “Eastern Question”—instead.
The French economy blasts off — France’s GDP has amazed analysts by suddenly growing at a totally unexpected 0.6% in the first quarter—that is, at twice the rate of the growth of the presumably powerful German economy, 0.3%.