A blog by an American expatriate living in the heart of New Europe

"It's a lateral transfer" -- George W. Bush, 43rd President of the United States
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Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Is it or isn't it?

Is Poland growing in significance for the U.S., or isn't it? My inkling, with the importance of the Boeing contract, Bush's mention of Kwaśniewski at every opportunity, and Bush's trust of him during the Ukraine crisis -- not to mention Poland's involvement in Iraq (reports say that today 3 Polish soldiers died -- bringing the grand total up to 16), tell me that Poland is a growing power, and indeed, a more important ally to the US than it was just a few years ago. But I'm living here, and I must admit that I WANT the situation to be that way. You folk out there don't have that bias, so, what do you think?

Here's an article from the Los Angeles Times that says Poles disagree. Please remember that Poles are generally ornery to begin with.

Here's an excerpt:

"It's like this," said Polish legislator Henryk Dzido. "America and Poland are a married couple. The husband -- America -- is a despot, cheating and fooling around on his Polish wife. But she still loves him. Then one day the man tells the wife she has to support herself, but, not to fear, because he will still be her husband."

Before everyone starts in with the "We saved their asses in WWII, and this is the thanks we get?" line, please remember that Poland wasn't saved -- it was abandoned by the US to the Russians at Yalta, and that America's involvement in WWII wasn't completely altruistic. However, Poles do remain thankful to Americans for what they did do (a great deal, admittedly), and Poles are probably the biggest Americophiles in Europe, if not the world. It has been said that the Poles love America more than Americans ...

So, how big of an ally is Poland to the US really?


Blogger Gustav said...

Hm. No comments on this one. I think I have my answer.

12/16/2004 10:20:00 PM  

Blogger Redneck Texan said...

Well, I will say that I think Poland is approaching the same level of importance here politically as any nation in Europe with the exception of Britain.

Economically I think their influence still lags behind the UK, France, Germany, and Italy and maybe Sweden. But I think no European nation has as much potential for "increased influence" with America in the next century than Poland.

What are the staples of Polish-American trade anyway?

12/16/2004 11:57:00 PM  

Blogger Gustav said...

Foreign direct investment from the U.S. dropped for the first time since '89 in 2003: from 8.7 billion to 8.3 -- putting it in third place behind France and the Netherlands. It will probably drop further this year.

Economics is pulling Poland towards Europe. It's placed perfectly -- it can distribute its vast amounts of cheap food to all of Europe (and without tariffs since May) from its very central position. And now, anyone in the old 15 can work here without restrictions (except a residency card), bringing European business closer. Poles can now work in Ireland, Britain and Sweden without restsriction, and in the Netherlands with very few. These countries are benefiting from Polish workers -- they fill needed positions, pay taxes and, because they work for less, keep inflation low. All of this indicates that more EU countries will be anxious, not reluctant to pull down their restrictions before the maximum 7 year period. European telecom companies are eyeing Poland's market greedily, and they stand to make billions if they invade.

Take all of this into account, and consider that U.S. investment is dropping, and the picture for economic ties does not look good.

Most of the business that Poland does with the U.S. has to do with higher-tech things. Pratt and Whitney build fighter engines (including soon the F100 for Poland's own F-16's), Hewlett Packard is set to make a big investment here. Motorola, 3M, and Masterfoods all have a significant presence here.

But as far as I can tell, Poland doesn't export much to the States. Perhaps some "miscellaneous manufactured goods" -- Poland makes some great computer components.

What the US really likes is when Poland IMPORTS their stuff, and it's easy to see why. Watch the airline news come Christmastime/New Year. The national carrier, LOT, has a big decision to make: Boeing's 7E7 or Airbus' A330. The US is offering very generous financing to LOT if they buy Boeing. For LOT, cost is issue #1. It's fighting for its survival. It will really piss the Europeans off though if Poland buys American planes again.

I say again because 2 years ago, the Polish government decided to buy 48 F-16s for the Army. This was a substantial boon for Lockheed Martin, and there were some European governments (who had defense contractors who needed the business), who were none too happy about that. Since then, Lockheed Martin has proceeded to fulfill its offset obligation to the tune of 26% OF 2003's SCHEDULED INVESTMENTS.

Pratt and Whitney's investments of $57.3 millon bring that higher a bit, but the investments would have been made regardless -- P&W has been here for 29 years; and the new jobs here translate into lost jobs in the US

Money talks, so you can understand why some Poles feel like they're getting the silent treatment from their "despotic husband".

Politically, things are much better, I agree. But the visa program has got to change. It's the thorn in the side of American-Polish relations.

And the War in Iraq is becoming less popular. In 2003, 40% of Poles favored Polish involvement. Now, that number is 26%.

And the Poish political debate is turning more towards Europe as well. Issues like: What stance should Poland take on this or that issue in the EU (like Turkey)?, and How should Poland stand up for Ukraine in the EU? (while Turkey has a chance to enter the EU sometime soon, Ukraine has been tossed in a group of "neighbor" countries that includes places like Morocco), are big topics on the political talk shows.

I don't know how many Poles noticed GWB's trust in Kwasniewski to handle Ukraine, but I noticed. It was the right decision, but even more, it showed that Bush had thought that Poland had "grown up".

Unfortunately, the Poles got tired of being treated like children long ago.

But the Poles are a conservative folk, and very Catholic. Suspicion of Islam runs deep, which is why some still support the war effort. On the other hand, even more devout Catholics are against the war, since their hero, Pope John Paul II (incidentally, Gustav used to live on John Paul II street in Warsaw. That was another Warsaw station), says they should be.

Wikipedia on the Polish economy: here.

12/17/2004 01:47:00 AM  

Blogger Andrew said...

The major thing that would prove Poland's importance to the US: ENTRY INTO THE VISA WAIVER PROGRAM.
How can we push for action on this on this matter?

12/18/2004 07:27:00 AM  

Blogger Andrew said...

Nice panorama! Where is it taken from?

12/18/2004 07:28:00 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I got the panorama from e-Warsaw. I work in the Millennium Plaza. Remember where that is? Can you find it in the picture?

The clock -- it's meant to show the time in Warsaw, but I'm afraid it just might show the time of whereever the person who's looking at my site is. So, Andrew, is the clock showing local time or is it 9 hours ahead? Red, it should be about 7 hours ahead of your time (You're in the central time zone, right?-- if you're in Mountain, then it should be 8 hours ahead of you).

12/18/2004 03:37:00 PM  

Blogger Andrew said...

Its showing local time (pacific).

12/18/2004 06:10:00 PM  

Blogger Gustav said...

Darn, I was afraid of that. Off it goes. Anybody know where I can get a java clock or something that shows only MY time?

12/18/2004 08:08:00 PM  

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