26 January, 2004

Expectations of Payback

Translation: Thaddeus Mirecki
Polish original Copyright © Presspublica Sp. Z o.o.
Used by permission

A close alliance with the United States is one of the highest goals and greatest achievements of Polish foreign policy since the time of regaining independence. The direction set by the first, Solidarity-based government of the Third Republic has been continued regardless of who holds the office of Prime Minister or that of minister of foreign affairs. The alliance with America, as a basic element of Polish national interest, has also been adopted by the post-Communists. So today it is no surprise that the current government of the Democratic Left Alliance [formerly the Polish Communist Party – T.M.] has such decidedly pro-American policies. It was Prime Minister Miller who signed the so-called Letter of Eight declaring support for the U.S. on the eve of the attack on Saddam Hussein. It was President Kwasniewski, together with the head of government, who sent Polish troops to Iraq. It is Foreign Minister Cimoszewicz who constantly supports American policies in the international forum.

Although all of this – and in addition, the decision to purchase F-16 fighters – did not gain us sympathy in Europe, we are convinced that this price had to be paid. [This newspaper] believed from the beginning – and continues to believe – that this political line is the correct one. Today, on the eve of President Kwasniewski’s visit in Washington, we must, however, inquire about the measurable effects of such politics. And whether our trans-Atlantic ally is providing adequate payback.

During the past year, Poland has provided significant political and military support to America – the maximum of which we were capable. What have we received in return? Besides declarations of friendship and expressions of gratitude from Washington – not much. Between the very concrete Polish contribution to the operation in Iraq, and the American response, consisting of mere gestures, there is developing a dangerous imbalance which may shake the foundations of our alliance. Polish politicians will find it ever more difficult to convince public opinion about the rationale of sending our soldiers to the banks of the Euphrates, if the public does not see tangible benefits of our friendship with America. Especially when we see that others – e.g. Turkey – receive very concrete financial evidence of American gratitude.

Is Warsaw a less substantial ally of Washington than Istanbul? Does it not deserve equally real expressions of friendship in the form of abolishing of visas, granting of contracts to Polish enterprises, or American investments in Poland? It is high time that George W. Bush and his administration provide answers to these questions to themselves and to us.

Jan Skorzynski [Deputy Editor-in-Chief]