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Poland and America Drift Apart

August 16th, 2010 at 4:45 pm David Frum | 5 Comments |

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My latest column for CNN.com looks at America’s relationship with Poland and our shrinking importance in Central and Eastern Europe.

Twenty years later, Poland has become a stable democracy. It has joined NATO and the European Union. True, wages remain low by Western standards. And to the eye, Poland still shows the scars of its communist past: Half the population still lives in communist-era high-rise slabs.

But things get better every year, visibly better even than during my last visit two years ago: new homes, new stores, improved roads, new stations opened on the Warsaw subway. Poland scored the highest growth in the whole European Union in 2009, suffering not a single quarter of negative growth during the global recession.

So that’s all good news for the Poles. Now the thought-provoking news for Americans: America’s place on the Polish mental map seems to shrink every year.

When Poles dream of leaving the country, they think not of Chicago but of London. A Pole can work legally in any large EU country, and an estimated 1 million do, sending home more money than Poland earns from all its U.S. trade. Meanwhile, Poles need a visa even to visit the United States.

Polish business is oriented toward Germany, by far the country’s largest trading partner and investor. Poland buys and sells less with the United States than it does with the Czech Republic.

Theoretically, the United States remains very important to Poland’s security. Through NATO, the U.S. has guaranteed defending Poland against Russia, with nuclear weapons if necessary. But Russia is behaving itself well toward Poland these days.

When Russia did behave badly — for example, embargoing Polish meat exports in 2005 — it was the threat of European economic retaliation that changed Russian minds. The U.S. has opened new military bases in southeastern Europe — in Bulgaria and Romania, but none in Poland. There are practically no U.S. soldiers stationed here.

If anything, Poles might feel that they are doing much more for the United States than the United States does for Poland. Polish troops fought in Iraq, and fight now in Afghanistan.

Click here to read the rest.

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5 Comments so far ↓

  • mlindroo

    > Polish support for U.S. geopolicy has twice ended in humiliation for Polish governments.

    > In 2005, sources inside the U.S. government leaked the news that Poland was
    > permitting the CIA to detain captured al Qaeda terrorists in secret in Polish prisons.
    > Poland was threatened with the loss of its EU voting rights and subjected
    > to an EU investigation.

    > Then in 2009, the new Obama administration abruptly canceled a proposed
    > U.S. missile defense system based in Poland and the Czech Republic.

    Translation: the Polish government was dumb enough to embrace stupid neocon policies deeply unpopular with Polish as well as Western European voters… E.g. Polish opinion polls suggest almost twice as many Poles (56%-30%) agreed with Obama’s decision to cancel missile defense.

    MARCU$

  • easton

    So that’s all good news for the Poles. Now the thought-provoking news for Americans: America’s place on the Polish mental map seems to shrink every year.

    Not to me, this is great news, it shows the Poles are becoming more and more truly independent and free. And as to culture, of course the Poles love Hollywood and McDonald’s as much as everyone else. It seems that you are talking pretty much only about politics:

    “Then in 2009, the new Obama administration abruptly canceled a proposed U.S. missile defense system based in Poland and the Czech Republic.”

    You, of course, ignore the fact that the US pressured Poland to accept them in the first place and that a poll of Poles showed the majority were against it. One need only look at a map to know the utter folly of it. The Kaliningrad Oblast is directly on their border, and if Russia had any ill designs towards invasion, the missile defense or lack thereof would be the least of all our worries.
    And as to the notion that Iran will lob missiles at Poland, whatever for? If they are going to commit suicide as a nation, Iran will do it to create a funeral pyre of Israel.

    As to Poland, it will long be a friend and ally of the US. I am happy that it will be more as equals then this dominant view of Conservatives that they should be a client state.

  • abk1985

    I really don’t know why Frum wrote this column, except for the fact that he went on holiday in Poland. So American influence in Poland is decreasing. So what.

    It seems to me that Poland’s natural turn is toward the West and its natural partner is Germany. That seems counter-intuitive given the World War Two mentality, but the positive interaction of Poles and Germans has been a constant for a thousand years and only the ideology of modern nationalism and perhaps what Freud used to call the “narcissism of minor differences” obscures this. So I am glad to see this positive reconciliation between these two peoples, and again, given the history, it should be economically productive for both of them.

  • jakester

    i Suppose based on tragedies in WW ll and the ultimate betrayal to the Soviets at the end, Poland is a textbook case in supporting a small encircled nation. Does anyone know where & when the last deadly pogrom against the Jews occurred?

  • SFTor1

    The sooner we stop putting expensive weaponry all over the place the better. Especially something as worthless as said “missile defense” system.