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A Yearbook of Polish Foreign Policy - 2003

Reviewer: Edward J. Rozek

[Yearbook of Polish Foreign Policy - 2003] Edited by Barbara Wizimirska. Warsaw: Administrative and Maintenance Services, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2004. 450 pages. Paper. ISBN 1233-9903. £ 28.00 in Thornton Booksellers.

Editor Barbara Wizimirska should be complimented for a professionally produced book of 450 pages. The text consists of articles and speeches by the leading politicians in Warsaw. It describes numerous international meetings in which representatives of the Polish government participated.

The United States made it possible for Poland to join NATO-through the efforts of, among others, my former student, US Senator Hank Brown.

Poland maintains eighty embassies and almost twice as many consulates around the globe, and it has diplomatic missions at the United Nations in New York, NATO in Brussels, and now the European Union in Brussels, as well as UNESCO in Switzerland. Polish representatives were quite busy on the chessboard of international politics in 2003, taking part in a galaxy of conferences-some significant, most insignificant, and none consequential. It has been estimated that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Warsaw employs between 5,000 and 7,000 individuals in its embassies, consulates, and various missions.

The articles contained in this volume have to be viewed in a historical context. What is routine for countries that knew no foreign domination in modern history is a hotly-and justly-contested issue for those that know the taste of hostile military occupation. Between 1772 and 2003, Poland as a sovereign state was independent only between 1918 and 1939. Between 1939-41, western Poland was occupied by the Nazi Army and the Gestapo, while eastern Poland was occupied by the Red Army and the NKVD. On June 22, 1941, the Nazi armies took over eastern Poland and occupied it until 1944. Behind the Red Army which was marching toward Berlin in 1944, moved the NKVD. On Stalin’s orders and with Franklin D. Roosevelt’s and Winston Churchill’s tacit consent, it established a regime consisting of the Moscow-approved individuals who ruled Poland on behalf of Moscow until 1989 while enjoying varying amounts of wiggle room. It is to be expected that while withdrawing back to the borders of Russia, the Russians would leave a number of moles in the Polish political establishment. The withdrawal occurred fifteen years ago under the combined influences of Pope John Paul II, the AFL-CIO, President Ronald Reagan’s discreet support of Solidarity, and simultaneous pressures on Mikhail Gorbachev.

Since that time, Poland has had two prime ministers in whose cabinets the former noncommunist opposition figures played a leading role: the short-lived government of Jan Olszewski (January-May 1992), and the government of Jerzy Buzek (1997-2002). Other governments prominently featured former Communists and fellow travelers.

Aleksander Kwaśniewski succeeded Lech Wałęsa as President in 1995, and he has since won a second term. Under his leadership, the main architects of Warsaw’s foreign policy have been Prime Minister Leszek Miller, Foreign Minister Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz, Speaker of the Sejm Józef Oleksy, and President of the Senate Longin Pastusiak, all former members of the Communist Party. Virtually all members of Solidarity who had been appointed by Olszewski or Buzek have since been replaced by trusted individuals acceptable to the government. While people do change with circumstances, this reviewer feels justified in treating the pronouncements of some Polish politicians with caution.

Item: in one of this book’s chapters, Jarosław Książek asserts that relations with Russia are of prime importance for Poland. Indeed they are. But Książek goes on to say, with apparent regret, that “[i]n spite of the best efforts of the Polish Government, it was impossible to normalize political, legal or trade relations with Russia.” The tone is that of a petitioner lamenting that his master does not love him. Książek does not say which Russian actions made such normalization impossible, let alone criticize them. In fact, in 450 pages there is not a single article critical of Russia, but there are several essays critical of the United States.

The editor states that “The American attack on Iraq and disregard for the UN were critically received abroad and [brought about] disapproval of American claims to global leadership.” She quotes Jarosław Starzyk who supports the notion that “the EU will become less dependent militarily on the United States and will catch up with America economically and be equal to the USA.” She also quotes Janusz Rolicki who states that “America has never risked anything for the Poles.” While this may be true, has there ever been a country or nation that risked anything for the Poles? The amount of friendship America has shown Poland may be limited, but it compares favorably with that of the European countries, not to mention Poland’s neighbor to the east.

It has to be said, regretfully, that the results of the two-generations-long Communist grip on Polish education manifest themselves as historical amnesia in Polish government and diplomatic circles. Janusz Rolicki seems not to know that Woodrow Wilson incurred the displeasure of both Georges Clemenceau of France and David Lloyd-George of England at the Versailles Conference in 1919 by insisting in his Fourteen Points on the independence of Poland. During the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, American bombers flew from Italy to bring supplies to the Poles who were fighting and dying in Warsaw. They were forced to fly back to Italy because Stalin refused to allow them to land in eastern Poland, from which the Red Army had expelled the Nazis. Some of those planes were shot down and their pilots killed. In 1989, the United States provided substantial help to Solidarity, which compelled the Communists to retreat. How could an official in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have forgotten that it was the United States that made it possible for Poland to become part of NATO just a few years ago-through the efforts of, among others, my former student, United States Senator Hank Brown? It is regretful that the editor did not take a firmer stand concerning some public figures’ ignorance of history and their apparent inability to articulate and defend Poland’s interests.

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