Losing the New Europe?


That was the headline on this Friday Washington Post op-ed by former Polish deputy foreign affairs/defense minister Radek Sikorski, who pointed out that the new democracies of Central Europe did their part in the Iraq war,

But it would be a mistake to think that they shared all of the United States' concerns about Iraq. While many in the region have sympathy with human rights arguments, most never felt threatened by Saddam Hussein, and they were skeptical of intelligence reports about his weapons of mass destruction. As a result, the public in the most pro-American country in Europe, Poland, opposes military involvement in Iraq 2 to 1—and that was before any casualties. Governments have chosen to participate nevertheless, because—unlike some West Europeans—they do not feel threatened by the United States, and they support U.S. leadership. They hoped their participation would produce feelings of reciprocal commitment: Surely, most believed, the United States would want to show that it pays to be America's friend.

Now it seems that Central Europeans will be disappointed.

Sikorski says the New Europeans are being shut out of post-war contracts, pressured to forgive billions in old Iraqi debt, and neglected in their military modernization programs.

But even more upsetting to Central Europeans is the way they are treated by the U.S. visa process. If we are such good allies, they ask, why can't we enter the United States without visas, as the French or the Germans? While Americans travel without visas to most of Central Europe, natives pay $100 for the privilege of applying for a U.S. visa, effectively subsidizing the U.S. immigration service, with no guarantee of receiving a visa. [?]

Last but not least, President Bush's words on Russia have been noted with dismay. "I respect President Putin's vision for Russia," Bush said at the recent summit with Vladimir Putin—"a country in which democracy and freedom and rule of law thrive." ? Every instance of unwarranted praise for Putin's increasingly authoritarian regime resurrects the specter of Yalta and undercuts faith in the United States.

Pointer via Euro Savant.


NEXT: A Gentle Reminder

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  1. After a bit of gratitude, Sikorski lists Polish grievances with the U.S. To what degree was Poland’s involvment a bribe to get some favors from America, and how much came from the desire to help others get out from under the boot of oppression after having spent so long under the heel themselves?

    Although the visa issues seems exceptionally unfair, Sikorski must remember that it is still early in the Iraqi process. If Iraq gets a governement, I’m sure it will have money for Polish contractors.

    Meanwhile, of Poland should feel attachment to the E.U. for all the soon-to-be-received largesse. Poland is in Europe, after all. Would it be preferable for the U.S. to fund Polish highways and subsidize Polish farmers, too?

  2. These people were obviously not paying attention when Bush put tarriffs on British steel and Pakistani textiles.

    Does anyone else find it disgusting that a government would whore out its soldiers for a fight it doesn’t believe in, just to gain the good graces of a major power?

  3. Meanwhile, of Poland should feel attachment to the E.U. for all the soon-to-be-received largesse.

    What “largesse” will the Poles be receiving from the EU? I don’t count a raft of regulations and restrictions as largesse, by the way.

  4. R.C. Dean makes a good point that EU regulations will not help the Polish economy. But having access to the European market without tariffs will certainly boost Polish industry.
    Also, Poles will be able to go to other countries in Europe in search of jobs.
    These are both important benefits for Poland, and probably more beneficial than subsidies the Bush administration might have offered.

  5. R.C Dean,

    You are a ignorant buffoon.

    Poland, etc. get tons of Euros for just joining the E.U. – or are you going to now discount the experiences of Ireland, Spain, etc., all of which, after joining the E.U., saw their economies soar?

    Right now, with tarriffs lowered, Poland exports as I recall three times the amount of agricultural products than it did just two years ago to those nations in the E.U. This level of export will only increase. Poland would be doing what it is doing without the real world examples of Ireland and Spain.

  6. BTW, the E.U. just won its challenge before the WTO of the US steel tarriffs. Shove it up your ass Bush and Rove!

  7. Joe,

    Maybe Poland, unlike it’s Western “allies”, values the relationships and friendships it makes with other nations, and is willing to help them out in their time of need.

  8. It’s funny, but I recall that very recently Poland got a raft of F-16’s as well as a sweetheart deal on offsets (which means America essentially funded the whole deal) and in-country manufacturing. That seems like a pretty tangible benefit for a close ally.

    As far as the visa issue goes, my cousin raised it on a visit over the summer, to which my response was that if the US DIDN’T have a visa requirement, every Polish woman over the age of 40 would be over here working as either a nanny or a housekeeper. The day the economics are reversed such that Americans are streaming into Poland to take low-paying, cash-only jobs on tourist visas is the day we lift it.

  9. Fingerowner,

    If countries like Spain and Ireland are to provide an example, Poland will take about ten to twenty years for its economic miracle to be noticed. Right now old E.U. countries – the UK, Germany, Italy, France, etc. – are building new plants (automotive, chemical, etc.) in the new E.U. in order to take advantage of the coming integration. The same thing happened when Spain entered the E.U.

  10. 1. He’s not asking for bribes but for three specific things, in repricocity for support. Let’s take them in turn:

    a. Contracts and Iraqi debt relief. Somewhat correct. Though I don’t think that relevant – the Polish government has not made a big deal out of this. The above poster who noted that if Iraqi becomes stabilized Polish firms will get contracts, is probably right.

    b. Modernization of their armies. I think this is a legitimate proposal. As far as the F-16’s go, yeah we got’em, but we paid for them because the deal was slightly better than buying Mirages from the French. This was hardly a hand out. Well, maybe a small one.

    c. Visa proposal. Would be nice but completely unrealistic. Someone’s cousin above is essentially correct. However, increasing the immigration quota or something of the sort would’ve been nice.

    d. Sucking up to the Russians. Totally valid point.


  11. radek,

    Regarding the Russians, I reminded of that political cartoon by Krauze from the early 1980s; the one which displays a bunch of sheep eating on grassland surrounded by a fence and guarded by a wolf. The caption reads something like “Long Live Friendship of the Wolves and the Sheep” in that characteristic Soviet propaganda style. 🙂 I tried to find a copy via Google, but was unsuccessful.

  12. For those interested in some more info on the F-16 deal, this link should prove interesting. The offsets seem to be… ahem… quite a bit larger than the deal itself…


    …not that it’s a bad thing, mind you. I’m all for seeing the old country as chock full of American investment and influence as it can get.

    The whole discussion of Polish attitudes towards the Iraq question strikes me as positive from a certain point of view – the country has matured enough politically to no longer embrace America as the source of unquestioned wisdom, as it did in the early 90’s. Early enthusiasm, while touching, seems to have been replaced with a more sober outlook. And that sobriety, coupled with intelligently formed and well-intentioned criticism in Iraq and elsewhere, should make Poland a more valuable ally.

  13. Poland is a great ally and they certainly should be recognized as such. With regard to visas, unfortunately our immigration people are like every bureaucracy, same rules for everyone and nobody home in the head.

  14. A hundred bucks? A hundred bucks? Try getting married to a foreign national then try to get her a resident visa. My wife is cheap, cheap and would not use an immigration lawyer but we had to pay more than US$2,000 each, to the INS, for her and her daughter to get the famous green card. And it took 25 days less than two (2) years. She is from a country that has a long history of being pro US. The arrogance of those bastards at the INS is…is beyond arrogance.

  15. And don’t forget Poland’s strategic, long term interest in having the US’ good will. Russia is a big, unfriendly neighbor.

    Meanwhile, the Polish government is now just beginning to raise issues like post-war contracts and easier visas. If the US ignores them them for an extended period of time it will show ingratitude, but this should be viewed as an early stage in the negotiations.

    It’s the Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister’s JOB to be the squeaky wheel, reminding the US to grease it.

  16. 1. INS has a long history of being complete idiots. As an American I advocate taking the entire INS department, standing them against a wall and shooting every 10th person. Nothing less would get them working evidently.

    2. Poland isn’t going to get the same deal that Spain and Ireland got. Those two countries recieved huge stipends for joining the EU. But the current EU has rendered most of the benefits largely moot. All infrastructure improvements are now going to be distributed over the space of 1-2 decades. Which means it would probably be faster and cheaper for Poland to simply pay for it herself.

    3. While the EU won, so far, on the steel tariffs it’s also true that the EU is blocking a huge number of American exports. Since the EU is planning on a 100% tariff on American exports I fully expect Bush and Rove to implement a 100% tariff on ALL EU exports. One trade war is as good as another. And what the hey, we don’t need you.

    4. Post-war Iraq contracts are being almost compeltely funded by American taxpayers. That fact alone allows America to stipulate who gets what contract. Considering that America has/will spend $200 billion in liberating and rebuilding Iraq, the pathetic $13 billion, mostly in loans, by the EU and Japan, should make it clear just who should get the lion’s share. Don’t like? Then tell the EU to go liberate Iran then. Just don’t ask America to get involved. If you EU guys want to spout nonsense at Americans, then you can go finally start paying for your own defense.

    Five decades of expense in defending Europe, along with countless lives lost doing so, along with the EU’s total unreliability as an ally makes for an interesting mix.


  17. The INS has a long history of treating everyone like shit. British, Canadian, Chinese…What gets me is that the major source of high-tech people (Indian and China) are now being denied visas, so not only that we have jobs that can’t be filled by Americans (i work in a hospital doing biomedical research), now they are kicking out alot of the people who do have the jobs. So, basically we end up with fewer people able to do the work. Not to mention spliting up families. The Bush admin has something to do with it, but the INS was always stupid, lazy, and inefficient.

  18. Now, I accept that perhaps the Polish example of asking for some largesse is perhaps a little rich. After all, they haven’t exactly been the world’s best examples of a free and fair democracy over the previous 60 years.
    What I have a bug up my ass over is the difficulty in which I as an Australian have in gaining the same sort of recognition as a French or German citizen in the States.
    Because I don’t see too many French, German, or Polish names on Korean, Vietnamese or other assorted war memorials. Lots of Australian and American ones though. And we still have to go in the lottery and compete against fuckers that HATE the US…
    /end rant

  19. If you can’t find too many Polish names on war memorials, then you’re not lookin’ hard enough…

  20. The visa thing is worse than previously indicated. Not only did the US not make it easier for Polish citizens to get visas, they’ve made it harder.

    Yes, there are some Poles anxious to go to the US on a tourist visa and stay and work (though not as many as some here seem to think). But generally these are undereducated and/or under/non employed and not especially hard to spot.

  21. Michael, I’ve passed through villages in Poland where practically all the adults are off and working in Chicago or New York (or Germany, for that matter). The kiddies are raised by the grandparents. You can tell where these places by the fact that the houses are new, built by remittances from abroad, and they are fairly bristling with satellite dishes. I’ve had relatives who did the same – people with degrees who can earn much more working here than there, even in menial jobs. I think a big portion of the restlessness over visas has to do with this – people see a major source of foreign exchange drying up, and are none too happy about it. So remember that the well-dressed engineer who comes in on a tourist visa may actually wind up working as an asbestos remover… mask optional. And he’ll be earning more than he could back home, if indeed he could find a job there at all.

  22. Chief Bastard,

    Go to Montgomery, Alabama; there you will find a memorial to the men of the Free French air force who died protecting American bombers from German fighters in WWII (this is at Maxwell AFB as I recall). Also go to the Korean war memorial in Washington DC; there you will find out about the several thousand Frenchmen who died alongside Americans in the Korean war.

  23. More on visas, I’m guessing that when the Polish government says they want a lifting of the visa requirement, they realize that’s not likely to happen but they’re trying to be good negotiators by asking for more than they want so they can relinquish a point or two on the way of getting what they do want.
    Essentially, the US spit in their faces, by making visas harder to get, making the government who had clearly been lead to believe that concessions were on the way look foolish. Not a way to treat allies.

    I realize there is no shortage of poor villagers who would like to emigrate anywhere they think they can get decently paid jobs. But in my experience (which may not be typical – I live in Wielkopolska, not a prime source of immigrants to the US) those who can get employment locally are mostly not interested in uprooting.

    And I stand by my statement that a cursory look at education, employment and family status will allow you to predict with 80-90 % the probability that a tourist visa holder will jump ship and not go back home.

  24. Michael Farris sayz:

    “And I stand by my statement that a cursory look at education, employment and family status will allow you to predict with 80-90% the probability that a tourist visa holder will jump ship and not go back home.”

    True in an ideal world. Hopeless in the case of INS. A better solution would be make tourists post a bond, like they do in US courts. Bond is refundable at a US consulate in tourist’s home country upon return from US. If bond is set high enough, say $10K-$20K, very few tourists will choose to forfeit it.
    As is the case with court appearance bonds, bond agencies will popup, ready to loan bond money for a fee.

    Unfortunately I think such an idea has no chance. Immigration pushers, racial and poverty hustlers will scream that it penalizes poor downtrodden third-worlders. Effectively harming those of third-worlders who are not gaming the system.

  25. Somebody without a name sayz:

    “What gets me is that the major source of high-tech people (Indian and China) are now being denied visas, so not only that we have jobs that can’t be filled by Americans (i work in a hospital doing biomedical research), now they are kicking out alot of the people who do have the jobs. So, basically we end up with fewer people able to do the work. Not to mention spliting up families. ”

    I thought that the major source of tech people in USA are Americans, you know those morons from MIT, Caltech, CMU, etc. Like those simpletons who won something like 80%-90% of Nobels.

    How naive of me. I didn’t realize that all science and technology comes from countries with 30% illiteracy rate (India) and proud 15% of population having indoor toilets.

    Too bad that no one among 3 million unemployed Americans with college degrees can do that stupendously complicated job you have in your uncomparably great hospital.

    Perhaps if you double your pay scale up to the Federal minimum wage, you just might get one or two competent Americans. As a fringe benefit they might speak servisable English and will take daily showers.

  26. All of you people bashing the INS need to realize that these policy decisions are made in Congress. The bureaucrats are just doing what their constitutional superiors tell them to.

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