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Poland, Hungary & Czech Republic on the War in Iraq

Eastern European contribution to the war with Iraq

Czech Republic

Czechs committed army specialists (357 people) - experts in combating chemical weapons to Iraq. USA has also asked permission for coalition forces to pass through Czech territory and airspace. Czech Republic gave similar assistance during the first Gulf War in 1991, and is unlikely to raise objections this time. Slovakia also send their 59 soldiers to join Czechs battalion. Czech's policy was friendly towards the USA but this may change because there was a change in a leadership recently.

Vaclav Havel, a charismatic leader of Czech's opposition during communism left office in Feb. 2002, after 13 years as president. Havel signed the "letter of eight" supporting U.S. policy over Iraq. He was considered as pro-American in his policy partly because he was closely advised by the deputy Foreign Minister Alexandr Vondra, a former ambassador to Washington. Vaclav Klaus became a new president. He is a conservative economist and he is much more in tune with a public mood that is skeptical towards the war. But he was not going to withdraw the Czech troops currently in Kuwait (March, 03). President Klaus recently told the troops that he was deeply proud of what they were doing; at the same time he says the government's policy must reflect public attitudes to the Iraqi crisis. So, in the future there is expected to be a turn from pro-American and pro-European Union policies.

Poland

On March 18, 2003 Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski announced sending up to 200 Polish chemical troops to take part in a US-led war with Iraq. They were going to help in case of use of chemical weapons. Their task would be cleaning up chemical poisoning from drinking water supplies and the ground to protect the civilian population.

Ironically Poland did never admit (until the pictures of Polish special troops were known all around the world) sending to Iraq 54 soldiers from its elite military unit called "Grom". These are the only soldiers from Eastern Europe involved in ground operations in Iraq alongside more than hundred thousands of American and British troops. They were deployed to secure Iraqi oil installations. The Reuters photographs showed masked GROM soldiers taking prisoners, scrawling graffiti on a portrait of Saddam and posing with U.S. Navy Seals holding up a U.S. flag. Also president Bush mentioned Polish active presence in Iraq, after that Polish government finally had to admit sending this special unit to Iraq.

Polish government is among the strongest and most trustful American allies in Europe. In spite of that Poland did not close Iraq Embassy in Warsaw as Americans requested. By the way, for all the years when there was no official diplomatic relations between the USA and Iraq it was Poland that represented American interests through its embassy in Iraq.

Hungary

At the end of 2002 Hungary allowed to use an airbase in Taszar to train up to 3,000 Iraqi opposition members. They were trained to use small arms for self-defense purposes. But Hungary did not send its troops to Iraq although it was among eight European countries that backed the USA.

Above countries (Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary) claimed that they are not at war with Iraq but they are just there for assistance.
Also Romania sent some chemical troops to Iraq. Among other Eastern European countries Bulgaria and Albania were also very vocal in their support of the USA. Both of these countries are not NATO members yet. Bulgaria was also the only country in UN Security Council (although without a power of a veto) which was expressing the full support to the USA before the war in Iraq.

Protests

Public opinion in Eastern European countries is generally against the war, although in lower numbers than people in Western Europe. Several ant-war protests took place in Budapest, Warsaw, Bratislava, Sofia and many other cities and towns in February 2003. In many cities these were the biggest anti-war protests even seen.

Public opinion polls

In the Czech Republic public support to the war felt from 50-50 in August, 2002 down to 12% without the backing of the UN Security Council and 22% with UN support.

Ref: http://www.radio.cz/en/article/38587

According to Reuters: "A TNS-OBOP survey showed 63 percent of POLES opposed sending troops to join any action against Iraq but 52 percent thought the country should give political backing to the United States for any such action." Polish public opinion is still very pro-American in its general views but it might change in America would be seen as a country imposing its laws on others. Pope John Paul II is a moral authority for Poles and he expressed strong opinion against the war. Poles are waiting to hear about smoking gun, if the weapons of mass destruction will be found Polish public opinion will forgive pres. Bush's attack to Iraq.

According to Reuters: "A Gallup poll in Hungary published on January 27 showed 82 percent of Hungarians opposed military action under any circumstances. The remaining 18 percent said they would support a war but of those, two thirds said that support would be conditional on U.N. approval."

Ref: http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L30567527 (this link is not active anymore)

Recommended reading(s):

Captive MindI also strongly recommend a famous book written by Czeslaw Milosz, Nobel Prize winner, entitled: The Captive Mind. Milosz examines the moral and intellectual conflicts faced by people of intelligentsia living under totalitarianism of the left or right. I read the book more than once and it is really good!

Of Paradise and PowerThe book below was an object of several commentaries in the press. The author was invited to many political discussions. It is really interesting! Of Paradise and Power: America Vs. Europe in the New World Order by Robert Kagan.

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