Many Americans are still stunned at the rancor and rhetoric of the 2016 presidential election, but the nation of Poland is busy proving that things could be much, much worse.
Lech Kaczynski was president of Poland until 2010 when his government aircraft crashed during a landing at Smolensk airport in western Russia, killing all 96 people on board. The official explanation offered by the Polish government headed by Kaczynski's successor is that a combination of factors, including pilot error, caused the crash.
However, the cause of Kaczynski's death has been a hotly contested political issue in Poland, with many Poles adamantly convinced that Kaczynski was the subject of an assassination attempt carried out jointly by Russian intelligence and Polish politician Donald Tusk, who was a bitter political enemy of Kaczynski.
The accusations have been so persistent that Poland's ruling Law and Justice Party — headed by Kaczynski's twin brother — has ordered the exhumation of Kaczynski's corpse and a renewed investigation into whether Kaczynski's plane was brought down by a bomb or other intentional act, as Kaczynski's supporters have long claimed.
This is not the first time the Russian government has been implicated in assassination attempts on Eastern European leaders. Prominent Ukranian politician Viktor Yushchenko alleged in 2004 that he was poisoned with Dioxin as part of the ongoing and increasingly acrimonious struggle between pro-Russian and anti-Russian political forces in Ukraine. Yuschenko's claims — and the scientific evidence indicating that he was poisoned at all — have been the subject of intense debate and controversy in Ukraine and Eastern Europe as a whole.
The latest developments in Poland will likely serve to add fuel to the instability of a region that struggles politically with the looming menace of Russian influence, which has been ever-present even since the Iron Curtain fell.