Should Poland build a close relationship with the USA?
Should Poland become a close ally with Eastern or Western Europe or choose just the USA? This question was never more actual, more "hot", that it is right now. In a couple of weeks, 7-8 June, 2003, Poles will choose in the referendum whether they want to join European Union or not. The outcome of the referendum is unclear. Although the majority of Poles indicate their moderate support towards joining the EU the turnout may be less than 50% which is necessary for the referendum in Poland to be valid. Since the current government is devoted very much to joining EU the time for the referendum was expanded to two days, which is unusual in Polish political history. There are many reasons to be uncertain about the outcome. We were discussing the benefits and shortcomings of joining European Union in several articles in the past. Just click the highlighted text if you are interested. This article is a continuation of a series of articles about the place of Poland in Europe and in the World.
Recently Poland was invited by the USA to lead a part of peace forces in Iraq alongside the USA and Great Britain. It is quite a significant honor considering that Poland is one of the new NATO members (since 1999) and also the ex-communistic country of Soviet block. Some Polish journalists and politicians are a bit afraid of this sudden increas of American interest in Poland. They are worried that it may cause the increase of Euro-phobic feelings and the strengthening of a belief that Poland does not really need Europe. Instead - the close bonds with the USA are sufficient for Polish future prosperity and political stability.
Let me focus on the most recent developments in bilateral Polish-American relationship.
Current American administration of George W. Bush is probably the first one that appreciates Poland as an ally - a sizable country in Central Europe and also as American friend. Poland is seen as a potential leader of East-Central Europe but also a loyal American ally. Not only Polish government but also the people are generally very friendly towards Americans. Surveys show that Poland's 38 million people are among the most pro-American in the world. I was explaining in some previous articles why Poles attitude towards America is so good compared to other European countries, check Eastern Europe position on Iraq. In summer 2002, Polish president Kwasniewski and his wife were honored with a state dinner. It was just the second state dinner of George Bush Jr. 18-month administration; the first was in honor of Mexican President Vicente Fox.
This state dinner was probably a part of American strategy of building new allies in the place of old friends - "new Europe versus the old Europe", I will talk more about it in deeper context in following articles. It is also an appreciation of a warm welcome of the president Bush in Warsaw - during his first official visit in Europe. Bush was met with protests on the streets of EU capitals, some Western Europeans politicians and journalists criticized him, lectured him and laughed at him. This was not a case in Poland where the president was greeted enthusiastically on the streets by crowds waving banners with welcome and support and also by the official government. Bush definitively did not forget his warm welcome with the Polish elite at Warsaw University.
The next step to strengthen Polish-American relationship was the purchase of the American F-16 fighter craft. Poland agreed to buy 48 U.S.-made F-16 warplanes at a cost of $3.5 billion. They
will be replacing Soviet-made MiG fighters as Poland upgrades its military to NATO standards. American deal comes with a compensation package for USA investment in Poland, business deals and transfer of modern technology over the next ten years. This also comes with the offset deal which involve over 40 American companies to work jointly with Polish companies.
Alongside the purchase of 48 planes from Lockheed Martin Corp., Polish and US officials concluded a compensating agreement for US investment in Poland, business deals with Polish manufacturers and transfer of advanced technology over the next 10 years that the government valued at a minimum of US$7.5 billion. The offset deals involve nearly more than 40 US companies that will work jointly with Polish firms. In spite of that deal packages Western European accuse Poland of choosing the Americans because of the political reasons and they are probably at least partly right. Poland chose the American offer over the Swedish-British Gripen and France's Mirage 2000.
The Polish Revolution: Solidarity (Third Edition) by Timothy Garton Ash, Timothy Garton Ash
The Haunted Land: Facing Europe's Ghosts After Communism by Tina Rosenberg
Of Paradise and Power: America Vs. Europe in the New World Order by Robert Kagan.