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.