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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Is defense Poland's big-gun issue?

Seriously. Don't start laughing yet.

I saw this yesterday and it got me thinking about some discussions we've been having about Poland-US relations, and where Poland fits in as an ally of the US in Europe.

Now, we all know that Europe is doesn't hold it's own when it comes to defense. The Americans have been nagging their allies across the pond to spend more on their militaries, but the Europeans (save Britain) seem reluctant to do so. There is wide agreement that Europe ought to have at least some sort of common fast-reaction force, but it is as-yet nowhere to be found. Europe would rather concentrate on just about anything but defense.

However, Poland is a different story. Due to their difficult history, Poles are especially defense-focused. Though unwilling to break the budget for teachers' and police officers' wages, Poland will be sending a full 1,000 more troops to Afghanistan, with the deployment starting this year and probably ending in February. That will cost money, but the tab will probably be picked up by NATO. Regardless, it shows you where Poland's priorities are. And while the Polish military may not be the world's finest, it's gaining experience - and technology - fast. They just picked up the keys to 48 brand new F-16 fighter jets, with all sorts of state-of-the-art, hi-tech gizmos inside.

Poland's Defense Minister Radosław Sikorski is a huge asset in this area. He's well known in both Europe and America: He graduated from Oxford and has British citizenship. He was an advisor to Rupert Murdoch on investments in Poland, was a resident fellow at the conservative think-tank the American Enterprise institute, as well as executive director of the non-partisan New Atlantic Initiative. He is married to American journalist Anne Applebaum. It is rumored that while he was a war correspondent in Afghanistan in the 80s, he was actually there spying for all sorts of Western governments. He's articulate, educated, and some would even say handsome.

Can a better pedigree for coordinating Polish defense policy and cooperation with the Pentagon within a European framework be imagined? Maybe. But this is darn close to as good as it gets.

Poland doesn't pull much weight on any other issue. Britain can't get the continent to take defense seriously. Maybe a two pronged assault - with Poland the second pincer - could get Europe to think more seriously about defense? Could defense be the issue that gains Poland the international heft it craves?


Blogger Top Cat said...

The topic is difficult, but easy compared to topics like "Bush" and "Islam" and "the clash of civilization"

Poland is locked into NATO and the EU, so yes, security is not at issue. Its economics. I think Poland should put their chips in with Germany because Germany has such a strong economy.

The young people will sort it out, but Germany is such an economic powerhouse that Poland is sure to succeed.

Poland adds to Gernamy's security already and they know it.

I believe for Poland to mount the fast track to economic prosperity, Germany is the ticket.

9/19/2006 02:39:00 AM  

Blogger Gustav said...

Of course defense is an issue - it's a big one. Since the US contributes most of the money and troops to NATO, it has a huge say about where NATO performs its activities. When the time comes that the US and EU disagree about where to send NATO troops, the EU won't have a leg to stand on - And it won't have a defense team of its own to clean up problems it feels need addressing.

And it's not a choice between Germany and someone else. Germany is Poland's biggest trading partner, but Russia, France and the US are all up there. Poland's economic future is in the EU - but when it comes to defense, it ought to hang with the Americans.

9/19/2006 10:15:00 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...


9/19/2006 11:54:00 AM  

Blogger Gustav said...

Thanks anon.

You're very helpful with the links to the defense ministry - but who are you? Do you have an opinion?

9/19/2006 12:05:00 PM  

Anonymous ignacy said...

He was with the American Enterprise Institute? So, what you're saying is that Poland's foreign and defense policy is now an offshoot of that particularly rabid Neo-Con think tank. Great.

9/19/2006 07:19:00 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

apropos the english "allies"...


9/19/2006 07:29:00 PM  

Blogger Gustav said...

Ignacy -
That he was a resident fellow now makes the Ministry of Defense an "offshoot" of the American Enterprise Institute?


Anon -
The story of Gen Sosabowski is an awful one. But his scapegoating by those particular British commanders (particularly Browning) doesn't mean the British aren't allies now. They're certainly moreso than the Russians at the moment, wouldn't you say? And doesn't the fact that there is a movement by British citizens to properly honor him say something?

9/19/2006 09:56:00 PM  

Blogger beatroot said...

Top Cat!

You say because Poland is in the EU, NATO security is not the issue. But Britain is in both and security is becoming THE issue with them. In fact, security as an issue has over taken over everything else because of the reaction to terrorism, and that politics doesn’t really have an ideological character to it any longer. Security is all they got.

What’s interesting is: security is not THE issue in Poland. There is more of a struggle about basic political things like inequality, that kind of thing. The middle east and terrorism seems a long way away. And Poles don’t like it when their governments get involved in the ‘war on terror’ thing because they feel that that might just threaten their security.

9/19/2006 10:08:00 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...


9/19/2006 11:20:00 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...



9/19/2006 11:27:00 PM  

Blogger Gustav said...

Actually beatroot, I agree with you here - but when was the last time this government actually did something the people wanted it to do?!

What Poles do seem to want, what they can't seem to stop whining about is: R-E-S-P-E-C-T. I think taking a leading role on defense in the EU just might be the way to get it.

9/19/2006 11:45:00 PM  

Blogger Gustav said...

Anon -
I'm tired of following your non-linked links. Say something man.

Political haggling over a budget does not enemies make.

And a speech at the Heritage Foundation ... so?

What was your name again? Oh, right, forgot, no opinion, no name. Just links. We have to guess at your arguments.

Make one please.

9/19/2006 11:54:00 PM  

Blogger Top Cat said...


Its a different kind of security I was talking about. I was referring to the old fashioned kind like invasion from Russia. That won't happen, but a terrorist attack might.

You think they have the same feelings as Hungary? These newer democracies may be more fragile than we think. Who thought Hungary with problems.

Poland has so few enemies in the world. They make bold moves, but no one touches them.

I never doubted Bush would meet Kaczynski. Bush, Blair and Kaczynski are all in sinc. Presently, I don't see Bush profiting from this war. And the Poles get more respect with every day. I didn't know they felt that way. God, they don't face the day in and day out hatred and insults as the Americans.

9/19/2006 11:59:00 PM  

Anonymous ignacy said...

The AEI is quite the exclusive and elite Neo-Con club with it's influence spread all over the planet.

Yea, he probably didn't even fit in and I'm sure he wasn't in the least bit influenced by the Neo-Con elite in place there, hob-nobbing daily and being interchangable with or indistinquishable from Bush administration officials. And he's not beholden in the least.


9/20/2006 02:37:00 AM  

Blogger Top Cat said...

You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me?

9/20/2006 02:46:00 AM  

Blogger Gustav said...

Ignacy -
Now we've gone from him making the Ministry of Defense an "offshoot" of the organization to it "influencing" him. Quite a leap. And I'll admit that he was influenced. I'm no fan of the American Enterprise Institute, but that hob-nobbing with Bush administration officials sure makes him well placed to make some good defense related deals with Poland's American partners. I didn't say I agreed with his politics, I said that his resume could seriously benefit Poland on this issue.

Top cat - are you the anonymous non-link linker?

9/20/2006 09:51:00 AM  

Blogger beatroot said...

I think taking a leading role on defense in the EU just might be the way to get it.

Gimmie a break! The Eu should not, cannot and will not be involved in any meaningful way with defense. That is not what it is for. NATO is a defense thing, the UN is where the world sorts out its differences - or not. The EU is a trading union and should try and stick to that.

9/20/2006 12:06:00 PM  

Blogger Top Cat said...


9/20/2006 01:50:00 PM  

Anonymous ignacy said...

Anonymous (not me btw) may have been making a point about Kaczynski's appearance before the Heritage guys -- also intertwined with the AEI guys.

And look at Kaczynski's speech.


As to the offshoot vs influenced by conundrum. . . well, I guess Poland is not a US state, yet.

9/20/2006 04:21:00 PM  

Blogger Gustav said...


I'm pretty sure that was the point he was trying to make - Kaczynski spoke with a right-wing think tank and Sikorski was a member of one. But the reason anon didn't make any point himself, or argument, is because I think he knows it would be a weak one. So what if Kaczynski made a speech at a conservative think tank, and Sikorski was a member of one.

They are both conservatives.

And on the Kaczynski point- if I were the leader of an up-and-coming Central European state, I would speak at plenty of conservative American institutions - America is run by conservatives, so its natural that he'd want their support. They have lots of influence on the Bush admin.

Earlier you, and now anon, seem to be hinting at some kind of American-backed ultra-conservative conspiracy inside Poland's government.

There's no conspiracy. It's very simple. About a year ago, Poland elected a conservative government - that's it.

9/20/2006 06:43:00 PM  

Blogger Gustav said...


The EU is a trading union and should try and stick to that.

Many would agree with you beatroot - Does this mean you do not support further political union, by constitution or otherwise? (I'm honestly asking for your opinion here, the question is not rhetorical)

And what about when there is a conflict which concerns the EU but not the US? Such as the Balkan Wars or the Kosovo conflict. Some argue that because the US wasn't interested until the situation got out of hand, that NATO reacted too slowly. They argue that an independent European force could have saved lives. Don't you think an EU military orgazation could prove useful in such a situation?

9/20/2006 08:39:00 PM  

Anonymous ignacy said...

OK, a shared (and -- for my two zloty -- frightening) agenda, not a conspiracy. Thing is, whose interests will ultimately be served?

Thing is I'll bet the Republicans are going to get their asses handed to them in this fall's congressional elections. What's up in two years is anybody's guess.

9/20/2006 09:45:00 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"There's no conspiracy. It's very simple. About a year ago, Poland elected a conservative government -that's it"


of course there's no conspiracy gustav ,but i just do not understand why most of the us hate/do not like kaczynski.?

i just do not get it why the us like the ex communist kwasniewski ,the anti nato Geremek ,and "hate/disrespect" the ex solidarnosc member ,and nato enthusiast kaczynski.?

9/20/2006 10:10:00 PM  

Blogger Gustav said...

ignacy -

I'll agree with you on the shared (and frightening!) agenda. As I've stated before, I think that PiS' political philosophies strongly resemble the neocon movement in the US. I'd like to know what you think about that, since BR disagrees and thinks I'm imposing American political thinking on Polish politics.

Anon - thanks for iterating your argument, especially this interesting one. As I said above, I think the PiS agenda (using big gov't to advance socially conservative policies) resembles the neocon philosopy - and many neocons seem to agree. Thus, it's my experience that a lot of Americans (especially in this admin) do like Kaczor n' friends. And the divide goes straight down US political lines: American "liberals" don't like the Kaczynskis because they're religious, conservative, and have an anti-gay rep, while American "conservatives" love them for the same reasons. Since the country is divided almost 50/50 I don't think it's fair to say that Americans don't like the Ducks. But then again, that's only my internet experience. I don't live there in the States anymore - so reality could be different. If it is, I'm not sure how to explain it.

9/20/2006 11:01:00 PM  

Blogger beatroot said...

Many would agree with you beatroot - Does this mean you do not support further political union, by constitution or otherwise? (I'm honestly asking for your opinion here, the question is not rhetorical)

In the new enlarged EU the only way forward is to expand the open market bit and lay off the political union bit. It is simply not possible to get 25 - 27 nations to agree on things like social or defense policy.

9/21/2006 08:46:00 AM  

Anonymous ignacy said...

Gustav: There's obviously some commonality but there are differences, too. Their concern for social welfare and unionism may just be talk but it ain't talk the Neo-Cons produce. Notably, Premier Duck talked in his Heritage speech mostly about comeupance (sp?) to the post-commies. And when you say the dux are religious, tis true, but they are pro-death penalty, seem to be pro-war vs. Islam and supportive of Israeli militarism (not so with the Vatican), and obviously big on vengence with little if any mercy vs. the post-communists. They seem to have completely perverted the message of JP2 aside from gays and the use of gumy (rubberz).

And btw, whachoogot against the Daily Kos?????

9/21/2006 05:06:00 PM  

Blogger Gustav said...

they are pro-death penalty, seem to be pro-war vs. Islam and supportive of Israeli militarism (not so with the Vatican), and obviously big on vengence with little if any mercy vs. the post-communists

Exactly. This is exactly the same kind of religiosity the neo-cons promote.

I'm glad that the Daily Kos has made the net such a powerful force for liberals, but he attacks centrist democrats (notably the democratic leadership council) as if they were the devil incarnate - or at least that they are the next worst thing to the devil incarnate, which I suppose he feels is Bush/Cheny et al. I prefer to think of myself as a centrist democrat, believing in free markets because I see first hand how they create prosperity and bring jobs, while believing that government can still be used to help the little guy (particularly by regulating the market properly, but not meddling in it). I am also a social liberal. I believe that there is common ground between Democrats and Republicans, and the best way of taking the country forward is finding the places where we agree, and working together. I do not believe Republicans are the enemy.

On too many of those points, Kos and I disagree.

9/21/2006 07:24:00 PM  

Anonymous ignacy said...

And you're happy with the foreign policy of the DLC folk?

And there's more to Kos than just Kos.

WTF is going on in the Dux gov't from your perspective with K canning Lepper, and all?

9/22/2006 02:44:00 PM  

Blogger Gustav said...

And you're happy with the foreign policy of the DLC folk?

-Can you be more specific?

And there's more to Kos than just Kos.

-True -- but I find many of his contributors take the militant line. I've enjoyed some posts there, and I appreciate the dialogue the site creates (it's still on my blogroll), but I must admit the site turned me off enough that I don't visit often.

-As to the Ducks and Lepper, I hope to post more on that soon -- I'm swamped at work, so I can't post at the moment. Definitely within the next 24 hours - maybe after the smoke clears.

9/22/2006 03:01:00 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

lepper just wanted more money for the farmers ,for the nurses ,for the teachers ,for the coalminers ,for the trainmen ,for the old peole ,for the schoolchildren ,for the unemployers ,for the...

it makes ~ zloty...

The effects of such politics you can see in hungary with a budget deficit expected to surpass 10 percent of Hungary's gross domestic product this year — the largest in the European Union.

9/22/2006 06:57:00 PM  

Anonymous ignacy said...

Neck and neck with the Twins and Tigers...

9/22/2006 09:33:00 PM  

Anonymous Appletree said...

That's some love letter to Radek, the thinking man's grunt. His solo run on the 1,000 troops (1,000! I bet the Taliban are quaking) is undoubtedly a cause of the collapse of his party's coalition with Samoobrona. That's a good result in my book, but not for Radek's party: maybe he is a spy after all, some kind of a double agent.

And just why should Europe be spending so much more money on defence? We haven't made quite as many enemies as some countries that could be mentioned.

9/22/2006 11:41:00 PM  

Blogger Gustav said...

Welcome Appletree,

Europe should spend more on defense if they want the US to start spending less. If the Americans thought they had a strong military ally on the other side of the Atlantic, they wouldn't be so freaking paranoid. The American people are very scared right now, and will continue to spend over half of their tax revenue on defense for the foreseeable future, if they believe that Europe is weak enough to be overrun by terrorists, much less militarily defeated by a rising China, India, or Russia -- all of which are spending more on defense.

Then maybe the US wouldn't go around starting wars out of fear.

But then again maybe not. Europe doesn't seem to be hurting for enemies these days either. The countries Denmark and Italy come to mind - though I suppose it wasn't them you thought to mention. "Less defense spending" isn't making Europe any friends.

I believe the Polish troops can do some good in Afghanistan, not only in bringing enough peace to the country until this democracy can defend itself, but also to allow the US to save resources - and this war will be over quicker.

Security in Afghanistan is in Poland's interest. If putting faith in the Polish military is the straw that broke this coalition's back, so be it.

9/23/2006 12:53:00 AM  

Blogger Redneck Texan said...

I cant tell yall how strange it is to watch Gus defend American foreign policy with a liberal twist to it. Its about as weird as the Bush-Hating Liberal American politicians that defended Bush this week after he was verbally abused at the UN by a neo-liberal full blown Socialist piss ant from Venezuela.

The fact that Chavez got out of New York alive should allow you distant observers of America to realize that all of that Bush-Hitler nonsense you soak up at Daily Kos is total, out of touch with reality, bullshit. It is nowhere near an accurate representation of America outside of those blue dots on our election map.

Gus is quite a bit left of center for a typical American, and even he can distinguish between partisan hype and treasonous socialist propaganda.

But let me ask you Eastern Europe dwellers about the mindset of the average redneck born and raised in your neck of the woods.

Are the people in Poland not really overly concerned about the threat posed by the angry Muslim masses further south, but on the same landmass?

Most Americans consider the Muslim world to start at the Turkish border, but Eastern European history books should have devoted at least a chapter or two to the past Muslim excursions north of the Turkish border that left scars that remain today on the cultures that were occupied in the past? The Muslims have come close to Poland's borders before....you would think the Polish, and especially Eastern Europeans south of Poland, would be more Islamophobic than those "paranod Americans" with an ocean between themselves and the spread of a violent religious ideology.

Or did living in a failed Socialist model for so many generations force economic concerns to far outweigh the luzury of a defensive mindset?

Does the fact that they dont see themselves as a first strike target of an Islamic nuclear bomb make them less concerned about being under an Iranian nuclear umbrella?

Does the fact that Eastern Europeans have experienced first hand what its like to be conquered, many times, affect how less "paranoid" they may be about defeat than Americans, who have never experienced defeat followed by occupation are?

Europe as a whole seems hardly burdened by dealing wuth the threat of Islamic cultural warriors, and more concerned about current economic prospects than the demographic data that suggests the faster breeding Islamic immigrants and their descendants pose to the future fabric of European culture. Those rapidly expanding Islamic communities are going to be demanding representation that reflect the Islamic values they have brought with them in the coming generations. I can see the ingredients for a future bloody street to street ideological fight to the death coming up later this century.

It looks to me like Europe should be the point man in the war on Islamic terrorism. They are on the front line. I wonder if / when the ethnic cleansing on European streets begins in earnest they will be able to muster more than a few token troops for defense?

9/23/2006 02:12:00 AM  

Blogger Michael Farris said...

Redneck, nb. all the following is purely based on personal experience.

Basically, Poles have differing ideas about Muslims and Islam.

There's a small indigenous Muslim group in the NE of the country (from Tatar stock) which is known for its patriotism and mild religious practice. Recently they've become slightly more orthodox (as in stopped observing Xmas and Easter and pubicly not drinking so much) but are profoundly secular in outlook.

Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, which used to be a mostly Polish city named Wilno. Was known simultaneously as the Jerusalem of the north (there are still Yiddish speakers there) and the Mecca of the north for its large, well-integrated Muslim population.

Whatever symbolic value the battle of vienna might have for American hawks, Poland has a long tradition of very good relations (diplomatic, academic, commercial) with Turkey and some parts of the Arab world.

Most Muslims in Poland now (a small group) are either former university students who stayed (esp Iraqis) and small business people. In both cases they are reasonably well integrated and the nature of Polish infrastructure means that ghettos are unlikely to appear. There's no welfare class of Muslims as in some west european countries.

Most Poles aren't terribly concerned with the idea of the WOT. They don't like OBL and his ilk (and prejudice against Arabs is strong, even, especially, among people who've never met one, prejudice against turks is somewhat less) but they're not afraid of the middle east.

9/23/2006 11:29:00 AM  

Anonymous ignacy said...

The fact that Jesse Owens got out of Germany alive should allow you distant observers of Germany to realize that all of that anti-Hitler nonsense you soak up at Daily Kos is total, out of touch with reality, bullshit.

___ The above is sarcasm in case it slips by anyone....

9/25/2006 08:37:00 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ever heard of the "Trojan Donkey" ?
It very much applies to Poland.

9/27/2006 10:42:00 PM  

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