Saturday, May 30, 2009

Polonia Reborn

It's been centuries since Poland used to flex its muscle and was the one calling the shots. The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was one of the largest, most powerful states in Europe until its decline and eventual dismemberment. These days, Poland may not have the sway or the brawn they once had, but they're starting to re-grow their balls (militarily and economically.)
It's not secret that Poland wants a battery of Patriot missiles (see here) and its military has been active in both Iraq and Afghanistan while undergoing a modernization (as is the rest of the old Eastern Bloc.) Last summer's war in Georgia put Poland and the Baltic States on edge, and Poland quickly agreed to station the interceptor missiles.
Poland watched Georgia closely, many felt that they might be next. I don't think that most Poles cared who was right or wrong (Russia or Georgia) or who attacked whom first, but they were stressed that it happened at all. Some thought Georgia was abandoned by its allies (the US most of all) because they (the US) didn't send in troops. I tried to argue how this would have made things worse, and that the US backed up Georgia politically and gave them a crapload of aid, but they still thought that the US pussied out. In fact, they mostly like the idea of the Patriot missile battery and the interceptors because it would station US troops on Polish soil; if Russia did invade, US troops would be in harm's way and Washington would be forced to help.

Inter-Slavic relations and their regard for one another are for another post. These types of topics usually hit raw nerves all around (just make a pro-Stalin statement to any Pole and you'll probably find yourself locked in hand-to-hand combat. Make any sort of statement that could remotely be construed as negative about anything in Russia's past history or current situation and actions, and you'll dealing with a very angry person.)

Anyway, Poland's shock-therapy with their economy went much better than the rest of the former communist states. Even though there was a massive flood of workers to the rest of the EU after they joined in 2004, many of them are returning. Poland is undergoing a bit of a boom (two good things Poland had going for it, it didn't have any oil and it didn't have large financial institutions.) Dell moved their factory from Ireland (which was pretty new) to Poland, and many other companies are doing so as well. GM is even licensing the production of cars at the venerable FSO; although, I'm not sure how long GM will be around to continue doing so. One thing is that Poland was forced to sell off the Gdansk shipyards, and that's a bit of a bitch to swallow (the Gdansk shipyards were Solidarity's old stomping grounds.) Here's more on that subject.
Should Poland grow to an economic powerhouse, it would have leverage (as others do in the form of sanctions.) Twenty years into the Rzeczpospolita (half of what was the People's Republic of Poland), Poland is still emerging. We'll anxiously see what happens. (First, we have to get rid of those pesky visa requirements to enter the US.)

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