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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Polish-American relations getting better and better

But has the American public noticed?

With the British public becoming more and more dissatisfied with their country's partnership with the US administration, the British-American "special relationship" seems to be losing traction. However, another European country - Poland - continues to strongly support American policy in Europe, and it seems ties are growing closer by the day.

American diplomats here express gratitude for Poland's unwavering support, and relief that they don't experience the same kind of problems that their colleagues in Western Europe face. "We see eye to eye on just about everything," a fairly-high up diplomat told me recently.

But being here in Poland, it seems the US is consumed with political strife - both sides of the political divide attacking each other, and not noticing that despite much of the bad press that the US gets, an extremely strong ally is growing in Central Europe.

Is this perception accurate? Has the American public forgotten Poland? I'd like to know what you think.

Wisely, it seems the Bush administration has not:

From Monsters and Critics.com
Poland's PM to focus on missile defence, Iraq in US

Warsaw - Making his first trip to the United States since taking office in July, Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski was expected to focus on the possible basing of missile defence in Poland and his country's role in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Kaczynski, who heads the right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) coalition government, is scheduled to meet with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Vice President Dick Cheney.

President George W Bush and Kaczynski are not scheduled to meet as the US president has in the past met with Lech Kaczynski, Poland's president and brother of the prime minister. Jaroslaw's aides have suggested Bush might, however, drop in on the meeting.

Kaczynski will also meet with House Speaker Dennis Hastert Thursday before meeting with John Krenicki Jr, the chief executive of global energy goliath General Electric Co.

Energy security is a top item on the agenda of the Kaczynski government, which is currently seeking to diversify suppliers and wean Poland from its heavy reliance on Russian fuel supplies.

Insisting energy security is a crucial part of national security, Poland is also spearheading a drive within the EU to frame a common energy security alliance for the 25-member bloc and beyond.

Kaczynski, 57, will also meet with heads of the large Polish community in Chicago Thursday and then fly on to visit the Fort Worth US military base in Texas on Friday. Kaczynski is due back in Warsaw early Saturday morning.

Prime Minster Kaczynski will be accompanied by several cabinet ministers including Defence Minister Radoslaw Sikorski and Foreign Affairs Minister Anna Fotyga.

As ardent anti-communist activists throughout Poland's pre-1989 communist era, President Kaczynski and Prime Minister Kaczynski both have a fondness for the late Ronald Reagan.

Reagan is still seen as a hero by the country's Solidarity opposition for his strident anti-Soviet politics and support for the Polish movement, which succeeded in peacefully toppling communist rule in Poland in 1989.

The law and order agenda of Prime Minister Kaczynski's PiS party in many ways resembles a US Republican approach. The party has promised to crack down hard on crime and corruption in public life and is also stridently anti-leftwing.

It is particularly critical of Poland's ex-communist Democratic Left Alliance party (SLD), which it blames for much of the corruption in public life.

The SLD lost both the presidency and government in elections held last autumn. The party's four-year term in office had been plagued by a string of high profile corruption scandals involving senior politicians.

Reagan and the Kaczynski brothers also share a personal history of being actors before becoming politicians. While Reagan was a Hollywood cowboy hero on the silver screen, the Kaczynski twins are famous in Poland for playing two very naughty boys in the children's' Polish cinema classic 'About Those Two Who Stole the Moon.'

After narrowly winning Poland's September 2006 general election, the PiS eschewed a long-promised coalition with the runner-up liberal Civic Platform (PO), instead allying itself with the populist Samoobrona farmers' party and the Catholic-nationalist League of Polish Families (LPR), Poland's equivalent of the fundamentalist elements of the Christian right in the US.

Recent polls show the LPR is rapidly losing public support, to the point where it would fail to re-enter parliament should elections be called. Support for Samoobrona remains steady at around 10 per cent, while the ex-communist SLD is also in danger of exiting parliament and slipping into political oblivion, less than a year after leaving government.

Surveys, however, show the PiS and PO running neck-and-neck enjoying roughly 30 per cent support each.

Some political observers in Warsaw have suggested the Kaczynski brothers are intent on creating a two-party system in Poland, along the lines of the Republican-Democratic divide of the US rather than the more volatile multi-party constellations which can be found in European politics.

The next true test of party popularity is expected November 12, when Poles will vote in local government elections.

It may not have made the papers in the States, but there were also several touching ceremonies commemorating the September 11th attacks on Monday. Largest of these was the unveiling of a monument in Kielce which expresses solidarity with Americans.

Cross-posted at Redneck's Revenge. Check out the comments there to see what conservative America thinks.


Anonymous ignacy said...

Seems like the bottom line is that all politicians across the globe will lie, cheat, steal, go to war and/or whore for oil.

As has been the case all along,however, Poland will get doodly-squat from the Bush Administration other than an abundance of empty promises (and a missile base that will piss off everybody else thus hurting Poland's standing in the EU and vis-a-vis Russia.

9/13/2006 01:33:00 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

But being here in Poland, it seems the US is consumed with political strife - both sides of the political divide attacking each other, and not noticing that despite much of the bad press that the US gets, an extremely strong ally is growing in Central Europe.

Is this perception accurate? Has the American public forgotten Poland? I'd like to know what you think.

I would say that unfortunately, this is true. The politicians are fighting terribly and the main topic is Iraq and Afghanistan. We know we are unpopluar around the world, so Americans are choosing to look inward, at least my sense in Washington.

I know Poland is a good friend of the US because I know everything about Poland...its something I was born with. :)

Top Cat

9/13/2006 04:19:00 PM  

Blogger Gustav said...

ignacy - Do you think that oil is the only thing motivating Poland's warming of relations with the US? I don't. I think that they simply realize being an ally to the US is in Poland's interest.

As far as hurting Poland's standing in the EU - I don't know how much more it could be hurt. There IS an argument to be made that the missle base could protect Europe too (which itself doesn't spend enough on defense) - But I'll agree that the Kaczynski's are so terrible at diplomacy - especially within the EU - that they won't be able to make that argument effectively.

As far as Russia goes - let them get pissed off. They'll cut off the oil and gas at every little tiff anyway.

TC - It's sad I think. And I also think that when one brings up the question of Poland's loyalty to liberals, they're apt to say: "but that government is a bunch of gay-hating conservative pinheads anyway" - which is true. But what they're missing is that any Polish government, be it conservative, liberal, or populist, would most likely still be a strong ally of the US. Poles and Americans just seem to "get" each other. I dunno why.

9/13/2006 05:02:00 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Gustav, I must admit I have always been treated very kindly during visits to Poland and I can't say the same in other European countries.

Top Cat

9/13/2006 05:19:00 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, and please call me Top Cat, Beatroot said it first and its starting to grow on me. :)

9/13/2006 05:21:00 PM  

Blogger Gustav said...

Fine Top Cat - but I reserve the right to call you TC (ala Gus=Gustav, BR=Beatroot, RT= Redneck Texan) for expediency's sake.

And I made a similar point over at RR (= Redneck's Revenge). I've had experiences where I was introduced as being from the US in some European countries, and the person I was being introduced to - without even knowing me! - literally cringed.


There are growing prejudices against Americans on this continent, for all of the residents' highfalutin talk of respect for other cultures.

9/13/2006 07:37:00 PM  

Anonymous ignacy said...

Again, I still say oil is the *bottom line* although there are certainly other economic considerations (but these never really have panned out, have they? And despite all the promises). The US has been courting Poland for years with mere hints of this reward or that... promises about easing visa restrictions etc ... and the Poles have sped to the bait only to wind up with nic, nic, nic.

I really don't think the Bush administration or the American public gives a rat's ass about Poland and Poles. For the most part and acrross the political spectrum in the US, Poland and Poles in general are only considered, still, in the context of (anti)Polish jokes and attitudes.

9/13/2006 07:48:00 PM  

Blogger Gustav said...

the Poles have sped to the bait only to wind up with nic, nic, nic.

Nothing? - Is that what you consider NATO membership?

But that was before the whole oil thing, wasn't it.

Funny. Poles were still pro-US even back then, before everybody was convinced Bush's adventures in the Middle East were "all about oil".

Polish support of the US is connected primarily not with economic concerns - it has much higher economic stakes in the EU - but rather with defense concerns. Rightly.

I really don't think the Bush administration or the American public gives a rat's ass about Poland and Poles. For the most part and acrross the political spectrum in the US, Poland and Poles in general are only considered, still, in the context of (anti)Polish jokes and attitudes.

I think you're only half-right here. Conservative America seems to be coming around to the idea that Poland is a good friend, but you're right the "Polish-joke" stereotype definitely dominates. That needs to change, and the administration could do more to make that happen.

But I also think that the administration does appreciate the importance of Poland - especially as the leading force in building a pro-American bloc in the EU out of the new Central-European entrants.

Thus, the US supports Poland in nearly all of its diplomatic endeavors (remember Kwasniewski and Ukraine?) - and acts as a very important counterweight to Russia. Poland would be much more vulnerable to Russian pressure without the US on its side.

The US also helped Poland to buy both F-16s and Boeing airplanes on very advantageous terms.

More could be done in the way of visas - but don't expect it from this administration. It's impossible for it to take the lead on a policy of allowing more Poles into the country when trying to project an image of protecting the country from evil terrorists from abroad and getting tough on illegal immigration. Remember, visa policy is determined by Congress, and so far every proposal to include Poles in the Visa Waiver Program has died long before it got to the President's desk.

I'll agree that the US could repay Poland's recent loyalty better - but to accuse the US of completely disregarding Poland is going too far.

9/13/2006 08:16:00 PM  

Anonymous Chuck said...

I think that there is a mutual lack of understanding. I don't think that Poles understand Americans any better than Americans understand Poles. Partly, that stems from the lack of Central European history taught in US classrooms, partly it comes from the grainy black and white stories from WWII, and partly, it comes from the cold war. It has been my experience that Poles are a warm people who enjoy life and who enjoy being great hosts to visitors. Poland does not interest the press here, so it gets little or no coverage. A good public relations campaign by the Polish government in the US could encourage more interaction between Americans and Poles; especially considering it is easier for Americans to travel to Poland than vice versa, given the visa problems. Why do most Americans just go to Western Europe? I think it is because they are unaware of the treasures that await them in Central Europe.

9/13/2006 10:32:00 PM  

Blogger Gustav said...

The Poles don't even have a proper lobbyist in Washington. A good public relations campaign - ha!

Have you seen our Prime Minister-President duo? - Not a great public relations team. You're right it's needed Chuck, but I'm not optimistic that it will happen anytime soon.

9/13/2006 11:51:00 PM  

Blogger Gustav said...

Poland's new leader touts alliance

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice welcomed Polish Prime Minister Jaroslav Kaczynski to the State Department on Wednesday, praising his country as a "fierce fighter in the defense of freedom."

Appearing with Rice at a brief photo session before a luncheon meeting, Kaczynski said the goals of both countries can be summed up in one word: "freedom."

During their meeting, they were expected to discuss the possibility of Poland serving as a hub for a U.S. missile defense project.

In an appearance at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Polish Defense Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said there have been "exploratory, low-level, technical consultations" between Warsaw and Washington on the Pentagon's interest in possibly establishing a missile defense site in Poland. But he said there was no substantial progress on this topic during the prime minister's current visit.

"But if we are asked to host such a base, of course we will answer in the spirit of alliance solidarity," he said, adding that in such a case, Poland would probably want additional security support from Washington.

"I need to prove to the Polish people and to parliament _ because such a base could not happen without a bill in (parliament) _ that as a result Poland's security would increase," Sikorski said. "As you know there are concerns over that." Some argue, he said, that "such a base would be a target, it would be a target of nuclear strikes or terrorist threats or increased penetration by foreign intelligence services. In other words, there would be down sides, and I would need to go before parliament and say why, overall, it's a good package."

The U.S. missile defense site in Poland or elsewhere in Europe would expand the range of countries that the United States could, in theory, defend against long-range missile strikes. It also would provide a defense of U.S. territory against long-range missiles fired from the Middle East. The current U.S. missile defense bases _ in Alaska and California _ cannot protect all of the United States against a missile from the Mideast.

According to a schedule released before Kaczynski's arrival, he was to meet with President Bush at midafternoon, but White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said there was no such meeting on Bush's schedule.

She said a meeting was planned with Vice President Dick Cheney. "If the president were to drop by, we would let you know," she added.

The visit is Kaczynski's first since becoming prime minister in July.

The administration has been grateful for Poland's troop presence in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In Iraq, around 900 Polish soldiers currently command a multinational division south of Baghdad. Poland also has about 100 soldiers in Afghanistan as part of the NATO force.

The United States has been examining the feasibility of setting up a missile defense capability in Europe for several years, and discussions have been held with Poland and the Czech Republic about hosting them. Potential sites in both countries have been visited for a small number of long-range interceptor missiles and radar.

At present, no missile defense sites have been installed outside U.S. territory. The goal would be to protect Europe against possible attack by intercontinental-range missiles.

Kaczynski aide Leszek Jesien said no final decision on the issue is expected during the prime minister's visit.

Government spokesman Jan Dziedziczak said the agenda also includes talks on the situation in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, Poland's eastern neighbors.

Kaczynski plans to meet with business leaders and representatives of the Polish and Jewish communities. He also will attend a ceremony in Fort Worth, Texas, on Thursday marking the handover of the first of Poland's 48 new F-16 fighter jets.

9/13/2006 11:53:00 PM  

Anonymous ignacy said...

So Dubya couldn't fit Kaczynski into his schedule. A bit of a snub and a portence of things to come?

What could the Poles have done not to get into NATO? And was it so much a matter of being pro-US or more a matter of being wary of the Russians?

Also I'm really not all that clear why Poland needs the F-16s. To use in the Middle East? To guard against attack from Germany or Russia?

Oh and I saw an interview between one of Faux News's blonde talking heads and Kaczynski. Seems she was twisting a gut not to start laughing through the translation.

Yes, the matter of visas for Poles died in Congress before it ever got to the President's desk. Who's been controlling Congress for the past decade? Hello? If Bush cared, why can't he lead his own party?

Boeing and the US aero industry hasn't been doing all that well, so any deal certainly didn't disadvantage them. Some might say it was a government handout... socialism for the corporations, capitalism for the rest of us.

Pro-US doesn't necessarily equate to pro-US-missile base, at least not vis-a-vis the majority of the populace. I'm afraid the government, however, will go for it especially given the lure of the oil. And you're right, the Russians will be pricks and the Poles will wind up with the missle base and a pipeline but no oil.

Go figure.

Maybe the jokes have some legitimacy.

9/14/2006 01:19:00 AM  

Blogger Redneck Texan said...

I think the relationship between the US and Poland is about as good as can be expected, and like you said, getting better.

But whats your benchmark?

Are you expecting the relationship to be on par with that of our historical Anglosphere partners?

They speak our language. We have fought and died beside them many times in the past. We share common cultural values.

Our relationship with Poland might someday rise to the point of US-Japanese relations, but until the Poles start speaking English, or we fight more battles side by side, the relationship is what it is.....pretty good and getting better slowly.

Is there a possibility that Poland's leadership could slip towards the left in the future, and siding against America more often than not will become as fashionable in Poland as it is elsewhere in the EU?

If Poland's current conservative government fails to deliver everything they promised, will that translate into political gain for the socialists?

Are you wishing failure on the current conservative leadership in Poland, like many of your leftist American friends are here, if that helps them regain power?

9/14/2006 04:02:00 AM  

Blogger Michael Farris said...

"If Poland's current conservative government fails to deliver everything they promised, will that translate into political gain for the socialists?"

Uh... the Kaczynski's _are_ socialists, socially regressive (as opposed to 'conservative') socialists who tax and spend and spend some more.

Left and right don't allign in Poland the same way they do in the US.

Roughly, fiscal conservatives tend to be more liberal/progressive socially (comparitively speaking) and the more conservative/regressive social types tend to run up big deficits as they try to buy votes.

Remember, the original Solidarity movement was not at all about free markets and capitalism, their ideal was something like Sweden in the 60's (without the progressive social ideas). The Kaczynskis are from the faction that think the movement was betrayed by pragmatists and free-market ideologues that have increased poverty.

Polish pro-American attitudes are mostly pragmatic, the US has never 'burned' Poland that badly and is considered too far away to be a direct threat.

FWIW in estimating my students' political leanings, over the last ten years they've gone from being _very_ pro-American toward now being much more pro-EU, specifically pro-Britain (something about visas and the right to work and being closer).

Poles are proud as a rule and dislike being condescended to which how they perceive the US attitude (as well as that of France and Germany).

The predominant attitude towards America from my students seems to be vaguely positive but not tremendously interested (and there's a definite feeling that Poland's gone out of its way for the US and gotten little or nothing in return).

9/14/2006 08:53:00 AM  

Blogger beatroot said...

Top Cat
The name comes from an old American cartoon on British TV when I was small. It was my favourite.


Benny, the little one down the bottom, always used to call Top cat 'T.C.'

9/14/2006 12:09:00 PM  

Anonymous ignacy said...

Michael Farris: What you write above, at least vis-a-vis your students' leanings, is very much on the mark I'd say. And you seeing it too is comforting and reassuring at least to this old dog. And as I recall, Daddio, Top Cat was a cool, jazzy cat who sorta came off like a white guy acting Black but not badly. Last, the US really needs to get over the "speaking English" deal as a prerequsite for alliances or it is really going to be shit out of luck in forging and maintaining any.

9/14/2006 12:35:00 PM  

Anonymous ignacy said...

Also, I figured I'd repost this just in case it got lost in the shuffle:

Nah, I think Minor League Baseball is even weirder but Cricket sounds like it could give a run for the money.

Alburquerque Isotopes
Toledo Mudhens
Modesto Nuts
Myrtle Beach Pelicans
Winston-Salem Warthogs
Lansing Lugnuts
Cedar Rapids Kernels
Batavia Muckdogs
Williamsport Crosscutters
Everett Aquasox
Portland Beavers
Colorado Springs Skysox
Bowie Baysox
Tuscon Sidewinders
Idaho Falls Chukars (WTF?)
Oren Owlz
Chattanooga Lookouts
Montgomery Bisquits
Tennessee Smokers
Carolina Mudcats
Asheville Tourists
Charleston Riverdogs
Columbus Catfish
Delmarya Shorebirds
Greensboro Grasshoppers
Hickory Crawdads
Lakewood Blueclaws
Savannah Sand Gnats
Corpus Christi Hooks (at least it wasn't Nails)
Midland Rockhounds
Wichita Wranglers

There are many more. These are just the ones I thought weird.

9/14/2006 12:43:00 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, Ignacy, thats my new name..."white guy acting black".
Americans always think of PJII when they think of Poland. They know Poland is a good ally in the war on terror. I guess we maybe even still getting used to Poland's name being in the news.

Top Cat

9/14/2006 01:46:00 PM  

Blogger Gustav said...

Thanks for all the comments everyone. It was a rough day at work, so I've only been able to get to them now.

ignacy - Bush not meeting with Kaczor is a snub, but I think it has much more to do with the fact that he's about to lose a midterm election and campaigning is more important than diplomacy right now. If he met with the commie Miller, there's no diplomatic reason to snub a solid ally like the Duck.

Poland might not need F-16s, then again it might. One thing is for sure: Poles are more concerned than their Western European counterparts with defense. There are historical reasons for this.

And those hilarious minor league baseball names didn't get lost in the shuffle. Being a Detroiter, I'm for the Toledo Mud Hens.

RT - My benchmark is Germany, France, other western European States. Despite arguments, the US cooperates and consults with them very closely. Poles aspire to that. And those countries don't speak English either.

I wish success in the endeavors by this government I support, and failure to those I believe are unwise. There is a very good chance that Poland could turn leftwards - especially in light of the points Michael made (if the youth of this country decide to vote). That would mean more tension with the US, but less than what we see even in conservative-run countries like Germany.

Michael - Bang on.

Top Cat - but why did you call yourself TC originally?

9/14/2006 10:01:00 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...


9/15/2006 12:50:00 AM  

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