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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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The US' new (old) best friend

The Bush administration received two late Christmas presents from Polish Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz's administration today. Despite pressure from the EU on the two issues, Poland has both concluded its investigation into the "secret torture gulags" (with no result) and has announced that it will extend its troop deployment in Iraq until the end of 2006.

These moves run counter to the policies of some of Poland's biggest trading partners, France and Germany, who both opposed the war in Iraq and have led the charge in the EU for deeper investigation into recent claims that the CIA has secret prisons in the territory of Poland.

The question is whether all of this ass-kissing will get Poles the inclusion into the Visa Waiver Program they demand.

Or perhaps the populists over at PiS believe they're just "doing the right thing"?


Anonymous Robert said...

We are moralist Catholics so in an old fashioned way we assume that US would not forget Poland when it would be in need of help. At least that is how I would read Kaczynski's mind or the Kaczynskis'.
And yes they do believe they are doing the right thing. Their advisors are watching BBC and CNN for news. Remember Kwasniewski? this guy was glued to US and UK TV network news and then went around the world to propagate the right couses. Well he was a skilled politician compared to the idiot we have now for presidency. He is bound to fire into his own (our?) foot on international scene (as if anybody cared!) pretty soon but may be good for our internal affairs.
Peace. Aren't those polish mushrooms awsome?

12/27/2005 11:01:00 PM  

Blogger Gustav said...

in an old fashioned way we assume that US would not forget Poland when it would be in need of help

Well, you know what assuming does.

Here's a novel idea: Maybe they are doing the right thing - with Iraq at least. Better for global stability if it doesn't look as if the US' entire coalition isn't abandoning Iraq.

As for the secret prison inquiries: Bah humbug. Let the UN or EU or whoever do whatever investigation they want. I find it highly improbable there was any torture afoot.

Then again, are they doing the right thing for the Polish people considering they're alienating important trading partners?

PS - the mushrooms are great. They put them in the pierogies.

12/27/2005 11:23:00 PM  

Blogger Gustav said...

Of course it's not that they think that they're only doing the right thing. All of foreign policy is tit for tat. I wonder how they think this loyalty will be rewarded. I have a feeling they're in for a big disappointment

12/27/2005 11:41:00 PM  

Blogger Michael Farris said...

The thing is, most Polish people realize that visa free travel is not very likely. I bet they'd be thrilled with easier less humiliating visas.
- could be able to get visas without travelling to Warsaw
- if you're turned down, your application fee is partially/fully returned (or the fee were 20 dollars instead of 100)

But, the visa program is designed to be a profit maker, so there's no way that anything will happen as long as Poles are willing to put up with the cost/humiliation factor. And for the present, they seem quite willing to. They bitch and complain but put up with it. Anyone who knows anything about Poland knows to not pay attention to what people say but to what they do.

Now a well organized (and disciplined) boycott would change things, but I don't see that happening.

12/28/2005 12:59:00 PM  

Blogger ~JS said...

Hey, you need to change your subject line to: "Poland: Ass-Kisser or only country in Europe with a Spine?"

So what if Polish policy irritates it biggest trading partners?, lest we forget the recent Russian-German gas pipeline deal - hey, they bypassed the Baltics and Poland!...granted this was done prior to the new German administration, but it does send a message...

Poland, more than most other EU countries understands not only occupation but violent suppression of civil liberties throughout their history -- so, perhaps someone like Sadam Hussein ruling Iraq resonates more with Poles than other EU countries, and when they make a statement about it, like in Iraq...try to keep this in mind...

Furthermore, Polish support for USA goes back to pre-USA history with, for example, Kosciusko during the Independence War...would you also suggest that Poland was an ass kisser?

And is it really a putdown to be accused of not acting like the French in foreign policy?...

History will decide how Poles are remembered for helping Iraqis, not the blinded in Bush hating haze libbies...

Its ashame that opinion has become so polarized on this issue, that one can't even express a bit of nuance on the issue without being accused of ideological treason...North Korea could learn alot from us on this one...

12/28/2005 02:13:00 PM  

Blogger Michael Farris said...

js~ I might be more inclined to agree with you if I was aware of politicians actually, you know, talking about how the Polish presence could help Iraqis.

From what I remember (in the Polish media) it seems that most policy makers end up talking more about US-Polish relations rather than what Iraq or Iraqis want/need.

I tend to defer to the Iraqis I know (one of the larger subsets of Arabs in Poland) in my opinions on that country and I don't hear them saying much about Polish participation one way or the other (strange but true). I'd love to see a secular civil society emerge from Iraq but I'm not holding my breath.

12/28/2005 03:36:00 PM  

Blogger Gustav said...

JS -

The point is, that when Germany and Russia do it, they're doing something "bad", ie, making unilateral decisions that could heavily impact other members of the Union. Some might argue that Poland's decision to stay in Iraq heavily impacts the security of anti-Iraq-war members, although I wouldn't.

[S]o, perhaps someone like Sadam Hussein ruling Iraq resonates more with Poles than other EU countries, and when they make a statement about it, like in Iraq...try to keep this in mind...

I would keep that in mind, JS, if it were true. The fact is that time and again Poles have stated in numerous surveys that they want nothing to do with their troops serving in Iraq. - So the only statement they are making is that their views on the matter are broadly in line with the rest of Europe's. Why aren't Polish politicians at a national level representing the people better? I haven't seen one Polish politician campaign on a policy of getting Poland out of Iraq as quickly as possible - yet that's clearly what the polls show the public wants.

After Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz burned potentially very useful political bridges with his break away from the British during the recent EU budget negotiations - all to appease the domestic audience.

Indeed, all of Poland's snubbing of EU partners on the entire gambit of issues running from the UniCredito-HVB merger to equating abortion with the holocaust (rebelliousness you seem to equate with "having a spine") are all only manifestations of popular Polish public opinion. Yet, they buck the trend with the US, who just happens to be bankrolling Polish military activity in Iraq, and who has promised a further $100 million in military aid. Of course, that aid hasn't quite made it here yet. So you'll excuse me if I call it ass kissing.

Furthermore, Polish support for USA goes back to pre-USA history with, for example, Kosciusko during the Independence War...would you also suggest that Poland was an ass kisser?

You can't be serious JS. At that time, the US was an ally of the French, and at war with the British. A lot's changed, hasn't it? Are you contending that countries continuously maintain the same allies throughout history? Come on.

And while Kosciusko was great, I wouldn't use him as a barometer of "Polish support for the USA". He was a soldier without an army - which is why he joined the American one. I doubt it had anything to do with some inherent Polish-American brotherhood which you insist exists.

12/28/2005 06:33:00 PM  

Blogger Gustav said...


The thing is, most Polish people realize that visa free travel is not very likely. I bet they'd be thrilled with easier less humiliating visas.

The visa process will be humiliating as long as Poles have to jump through more hoops to go to the US than an Americans who come to Poland.

One of the biggest inconveniences caused by Poland's unequal footing with the States was Polish citizens being granted a visa and flying to the States, only to be turned back by immigration there, and flown back. Last year, one of Bush's "gestures" to the Poles was to place immigration officials in Warsaw who could deny passenger entry to the US before he got on the plane - sparing him the 8 hour flight back. Thanks Dubya!

That hasn't changed Poles' demand that they be treated on an equal footing as Americans in Poland. I agree they'll continue to put up with the inequality, though I'm not sure for how long, since it makes increasingly less political sense.

12/28/2005 06:50:00 PM  

Anonymous Robert said...

Visa free travel will happen only if the refusal ratio at US Embasies in Poland goes below 3% - says US administration. It kind of make sense to me. Why would US accept more illigal immigrants ( many Poles overstay their visa time - I did! ;) ) or have "tourists" from Poland who's main interest is to find a job.
I have onced applied for US visa and while waiting for my turn could see who was waiting in line to "visit" US - I didn't make any sourvey but I'd say 85% people in line were cooking some lies to tell the US clerk. 50year old guy standing right in front of me when asked "What is your purpuse of vist to US?" answered that he had his own real estate and some land for which he had some pappers and that he had no intentions to leave Poland for good. He was so nervous, expecting to be examined that he decided to put all his arguments on the table at start yet couldn't tell anything about his cousin he was so desperate to see in US nor what kind of relation he had with that cousin - and these were the following questions from the clerk. All he could say was he wanted to visit his cousin. Should he be given tourist visa? Standing behind him I "knew" guy had some kind of construction job set up ...
Don't get me wrong! As a Pole I am for no visa travel for Poles. Because I did overstay my visa I don't want even want to apply for next visa and risk loosing 100 USD for chating with US embassy clerk and this time I'd realy go for 2-3 weeks to see some friends and have latte.

12/29/2005 02:44:00 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kosciusko was more than a soldier without an army. He was the founding father of Polish democracy equivalent to George Washington. Since than Poles have always been Americanphiles and I cannot think of a major dispute between US and Poland.
Cold war does not count as Poland was held at gunpoint and appreciated US leading the fight to preserve free world from Communism.


12/29/2005 03:38:00 AM  

Blogger Gustav said...


I don't have any problem with Poles coming to the US to work. Polish travel to the US should be visa-free. period.


He was a soldier without an army before he went to America. Later in life he led a heroic military career, I'll grant.

And if the Cold War doesn't count, then it's easy to say that there has never been any major dispute between the US and Poland, because it excludes 50 of the most turbulent years in history. Anyways, it's easy to love the enemy of your oppressor.

For the rest of America's history, Poland was more or less controlled by another state. That leaves the last 17 years for a 'major dispute' to appear. Give it time.

Demographic studies show that while the older generations are still enamored with the US, the shine is wearing off for the young. Sure, there hasn't been a major dispute in recent memory, but that doesn't mean there will never be one.

12/29/2005 11:44:00 AM  

Blogger Michael Farris said...

I'll repeat and add some new info, jmo - but I'm right.

The US government doesn't give a rats ass about illegal workers who don't blow things up or start mafias. No matter what the government says, there are always plenty of loopholes for illegal workers to make it in and start laboring. The same goes for people overstaying their visas, if you otherwise obey the law and don't get welfare, the US government doesn't really care (and by how long? there's an automatic extension of a month or so after the written end of most visas).

The visa program for countries like Poland is a for profit business and as long as Poles line up and pay their money, there's no reason for the US to change its business model. It's called supply and demand.

The fact that the US government seems to be able to get whatever it wants from the Polish government while giving nothing in return is gravy from it's point of view.

If governments were people, Poland would be the girl infatuated with the cool jock. She does his homework and washes his car for him hoping he'll ask her out some day. Of course he has no intention of ever doing that but he's happy to smile at her once in a while and point out that spot on the fender she missed.

12/29/2005 12:04:00 PM  

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