January 28, 2005

WHAT OTHER EU NATION'S FRIENDSHIP IS WORTH HAVING?:

Poland, America's last friend (Sebastian Christ, Jan. 27, 2005, UPI)

There are basically three reasons why Poland views the United States positively.

First, America is freedom. The United States was the first country in the world with a modern constitution. Very few Americans know that Poland was the second. Inspired by the United States, the Polish Parliament, or "Sejm," in 1791 passed a progressive constitution.

The Poles also like to think in historical terms. America is the only power that (almost) never had any conflicts with Poland. The Polish people gratefully remember President Woodrow Wilson, who in 1918 became the first Western politician to support plans for the recreation of the Polish state -- a state that had disappeared from the map in 1795. Wilson's support proved key to the success of the Polish national movement.

During the Cold War, the Polish people never accepted the Soviet occupation, and of all the Warsaw Pact countries, Poland always displayed the most antipathy towards Moscow. Within a decade of the fall of the Soviet Union, the country joined NATO in 1999 and made it into the European Union in May 2004.

America, however, was seen as the foremost natural ally in resisting the Soviet occupation, and was looked to as "the land of the free."

To this day, President Ronald Reagan remains a popular figure in Poland due to his support of the free Polish labor union, Solidarity, in the early 1980s. The rise of Solidarity and its charismatic leader Lech Walesa marked the fall of Poland's communists.

The word "freedom" in Poland still has a stronger meaning than in the rest of the European Union. [...]

Second, Bush's Christian beliefs in Poland -- where 95 percent of the population is Catholic -- are taken very seriously. Two-thirds of Poles attend church regularly. [...]

Third, Poles long for the United States. America, in Poland, still sounds like the Promised Land. A large number of Poles live in poverty. A doctor's average income is about $400 per month. Public school teachers earn roughly the same. For most families, a car is a luxury item. Millions of Poles have relatives or friends who immigrated to the United States. The government in Warsaw estimates that 60 million American citizens have Polish roots, another reason for strengthened ties between the two countries. Given that the situation in Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania and Russia may even be worse, Poland has turned to the West, instead of where it historically belongs, in Central Europe.


Hasn't he just described why it historically belongs with America, not Central Europe?

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 28, 2005 9:51 AM
Comments

Chicago wasn't the 2nd largest city outside of Warsaw for nothing.

Except fruit-filled perogis don't do a thing for me.

Posted by: Sandy P at January 28, 2005 10:32 AM

I don't want to rain on the parade, but historically, Poland hasn't been the most useful ally in the world. They've tended to need to be saved from their stronger neighbors since at least 1683.

Posted by: Brandon at January 28, 2005 11:54 AM

Brandon:

As opposed to which other putative ally?

Posted by: oj at January 28, 2005 12:59 PM

Remember Lafayette. Oops

Posted by: h-man at January 28, 2005 1:26 PM

Even if you are right, that was then this is now. Poland is a growing country, not a shrinking or stagnant one like France or Germany.

Posted by: Bart at January 28, 2005 2:52 PM

Brandon:

On the other hand, they saved us a few hundred years earlier at the battle of Vienna.

Posted by: Mike Earl at January 28, 2005 4:20 PM

Michener's book about Poland is a good read if you're into historical fiction like I am.

I hope that their integration into the EU does not diminish their worthiness as an ally but it's almost inevitable as the generation that remembers Reagan dies out. Still, in many ways they are the most Western country left in Europe.

Posted by: JAB at January 28, 2005 9:46 PM

JAB,

Michener's book was not historical fiction, it was fictional history. He relied on Communist sources and research assistants and it showed.

Posted by: Bart at January 29, 2005 12:05 PM
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