One year has passed since the Law and Justice Party (PiS – center-right party) won the national elections in Poland in a sweeping victory. After one year, all polls place PiS far ahead of the Civic Platform (PO – left-center party) and other opposition parties. PO lost the election for being synonymous to vulgarity (Sikorski), corruption (Nowak, and many others) and being very unpatriotic (Tusk, Arabski). PO pushed Poles to the limit in all important issues. One should remember, the sweeping victory included both the presidency and both parliamentary houses.
by Chris M. Zawitkowski, National Security Policy, Director, PoloniaInstitute.net
Last May-July I visited Poland and met several key politicians of the ruling party. I interviewed them from the perspective of USA national interest. I also interviewed some opposition members of parliament (Sejm) and senators from both sides. I stayed in Poland through the Warsaw NATO Summit. I participated in several conferences and meetings, including open ones, and some dealing with classified subjects.
During my stay, I was also able to observe the ephemerid – KOD. This organization was first embraced by most of the opposition, while now nobody wants to support them. There is one opposition party (Kukiz’15) established by the former rock star, Kukiz, which even got into the parliament in the election. These people share very “American” ideas, but fail to have a broad popular support.
The Warsaw Summit Expert Forum brought about 600 experts from NATO countries, specializing in military and defense issues. They were both civilian and military persons. Some were high ranking three-four star generals. Immediately preceding the summit was the conference on military strategies, gathering about 150 military experts, including top NATO commanders from several countries. The depth and understanding of present day challenges and problems was very impressive. All participants were deeply involved with planning and delivering solutions for all tasks. All presentations and analyses were well received and discussions following them gave hope for NATO’s future. The Experts’ Forum ran simultaneously with the summit of the heads of states. Some leaders delivered the speeches to the experts’ forum.
The NATO experts enthusiastically welcomed the remarks provided by the politicians, like Antoni Macierewicz, Polish Minister of National Defense, foreign minister of Poland, Witold Waszczykowski. Our leaders were cordially welcomed in Poland. General Breedlove, the commander of US Forces in Europe received a long and standing ovation. Dr. Lenczowski from the Institute of World Politics from Washington, DC delivered two speeches, including one key note address. I saw foreign politicians and generals making extensive notes during his address.
During my visit in Poland I had lunch at the presidential palace, where I interviewed several ministers on a number of issues, of American primary interests.
The Warsaw NATO Summit was a very big success for two countries, for US and Poland. Immediately before the Summit, our troops showed how they can surgically act in the military theater, and how they can cooperate with professional forces of our allies, Polish in this case. Poland organized the whole event with incredible accuracy and professionalism. Big congratulations to Minister Macierewicz and his people.
We met different sets of people. Excellent-English speaking generals and politicians. We spoke with them without interpreters. One general (nominated by the previous regime) told me he would like to stay, because the present minister of defense is a real man, a real leader, and a true Polish patriot. “Our soldiers and commanders love him. I would love to be under his command.” – he said asking for anonymity. Many others think the same way, he assured me.
In Warsaw, I also met with some of our journalists particularly interested in political affairs of East Central Europe. To my surprise, I found a shocking lack of knowledge of them. Even those that write in-depth analysis on military issues showed a very shallow knowledge of the political climate of the region. They were often fuelled by the opposition with a one-sided picture, very un-objective. Only some individuals knew some trivial vocabulary of local languages, i.e. Polish, Czech or Russian. One popular writer, who often writes about Baltic States, depends only on translations and interpreters. One can clearly see, he is pulled into partisan local politics. What they often tell us is fairytales.
We have 13 million Americans of Polish descent. Yet we have no reliable source of information in US media about the events in Poland. Our media are fact-bending, altering information, or taking a partisan position in Poland’s politics. Once upon a time, we had a politician, who very well sensed the mainstream of Polish politics, Ronald Reagan.
President Ronald Reagan meets with legendary fighters for democracy and founders of KOR, Antoni Macierewicz and dr. Piotr Naimski to have a firsthand account on the situation in Poland. Impressed President Reagan extended the meeting from 20 minutes to two hours.
Recently, NY Times Magazine published an article about Poland. From the very beginning, the author shows where his sympathy lies. The present ruling regime is in disgrace with him. He quotes them through the words of its sworn enemies. At the same time, he shows those “critics” as nice, polite intellectuals. Any TV viewer in Poland knows Adam Michnik is able to use obscene language even on television programs. The author could dig the sources about the present situation in Poland very easily.
PoloniaInstitute.net has published the speeches of Kaczynski and Macierewicz, translated into English. James Traub from NYT Magazine should reference it. If he read the text, he wouldn’t need to listen to the balderdash of the opposition members and feed us with it. Citing Sikorski, who left Polish politics with disgrace as a vulgar, unreliable, dubious minister, and an uncertain connection in the NATO alliance, is lacking credibility to start with. Surprisingly, one commentator from a major US network told me he would be hesitant to even talk to him.
Seeing Poland one year after the 2015 elections was a real, eye-opening experience for me. The positive changes are visible with the naked eye. More people are in the department stores, more new vehicles are running on the Warsaw streets. I could see the same situation in the Gdansk-Gdynia agglomeration. I saw the welcome signs in the small town of Elk, where our troops are going to station, and people in local stores trying to help an American to buy the goods he would be interested in. I talked to the bystanders how they feel about our GIs coming to town. All were very excited and planning for it. Good spirit! Everywhere I went, ordinary people told me that a new wind is coming from America and from Warsaw. They were very proud of their President, dr Andrzej Duda, conversing fluently with Barack Obama. They keep their fingers crossed for Antoni Macierewicz, who is trying to make the Polish Armed Forces a predictable and reliable ally in NATO. One Italian general told me the Polish Army and Air Force is very predictable now.
The last eight years of politics in Poland were marked by continuous and notorious problem of scandals, affairs, and dissatisfaction involving the ruling PO party. The Premier Donald Tusk and his family, Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, Minister Zbigniew Schetyna, and many others were the stars of all sorts of scandals. A lot of money was washed out by those affairs.
The Polish defense budget was far from the committed level of 2% of the GNP. Military equipment was inadequate. APCs were procured without communication means. One of our generals told me he “knew about deficiencies of the Polish Armed Forces and he finds Macierewicz’s speech as truthful and responsible. Years of negligence and lies are gone. Now we can entrust our Polish ally” – said he.
Instead of a pyramid scheme (as during Donald Tusk time), Polish Deputy Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki is responsible for the modernization of the Polish economy. He told me he wants to transform it to be a free-market economy with real freedom and with entrepreneurial ideas in mind. He has explained to me how 500+ program is stimulating consumption/production/economy. Small and mid-size business pays only 15% linear tax. He told me how under the previous regime, foreign companies could drain the economy, avoiding taxes and using permitted hidden dividends to repatriate unjust profits. Everything he said makes sense. He wants to take away the bureaucratic obstacles from Polish entrepreneurs. He was a bank president before getting into politics. Another bank president told me he hopes the government of Beata Szydlo is taking a big approach to recreate Polish capital. They invest in modernization and innovation, encouraging the entrepreneurs to pursue with more advanced businesses.
One industrialist (in consumer goods) told me he went with a Polish delegation to Arab countries, after Russia imposed sanctions painful for many Polish businesses. He told me doing business with Russian companies was very tricky. He never knew if and when he was going to be paid. Now, everything is predictable. LOCs’ are verifiable, cash flow steady. He is planning to travel to the United States to promote his products.
Two years ago I was present at the signing of the cooperation agreement between US and Poland in Los Angeles. One of the economists presented a very interesting graph of changes in Polish GDPs’ over the last 500 years. I wanted to meet the lady in Warsaw, but I learned she was arrested by the Polish police for financial commingling. This is characteristic of the previous regime.
I had a chance to interview some leading politicians in Poland. I had many questions based on opinions produced by our press, like NYT, LAT or Washington Post.
Is PiS a “far-right nationalist” party? Plain lie! We are more nationalistic in the United States, when we pledge our allegiance to the flag of the United States. Our public tender bidding process makes it almost impossible for foreign business to offer services on our soil. Yes, they are looking out for Polish interests first, before they invite foreign business. Local content is essentially important. EU regulations make it very difficult sometimes to compete by Polish businesses with foreign. Many contracts to build highways went to foreign companies, because foreign controlled banks did not want to guarantee financial standing of Polish companies. Swedish or German banks gladly supported their enterprises. The previous PO regime preferred to support foreign companies in exchange for political support expressed by German or French governments.
A classic example is the procurement by PO government of multipurpose Caracal helicopters from French Airbus Industries. Poland was going to pay twice as much as other countries had paid, and no offset arrangements were planned. Morawiecki and Macierewicz rejected such a deal as improper and insufficient. French President Hollande got upset and cancelled the trip to Poland 48 hours before it was going to take place.
For fifty years the Polish Communists (brought by Soviet bayonets) were running the country. Robbery, rape, stealing, looting by them was the “normality” of life. Let it be clear, that thugs like Stefan Michnik were sending Polish patriots that fought in WWII to the gallows, not to prison. Now, Poles like to know who is who in Polish politics. When one of the former apparatchiks died recently, the authorities put their hands on his “private archives”. They made it public. The information is shocking to society. The icon of Solidarity, Lech Walesa, was a communist mole at the organization! How truthful are his statements referring back to Solidarity times?
We all remember the phenomenal speech of Lech Walesa to the US Congress. We did not hear him, but the voice of his interpreter. I wonder how James Traub communicated with Walesa, a guy who does not know how to put three sentences together without grammatical errors in Polish. How Walesa would know Kaczynskis when they were kids. His hate towards Macierewicz may be understood since Macierewicz first disclosed the very fact of Walesa’s betrayal. Mr. Traub is putting words into Walesa’s mouth that he probably does not even understand.
Is PiS the party of farmers and blue collars, as Konstanty Gebert, the “leading Polish journalist and intellectual” (according to Traub) tells us? Another deception! How many university professors support PiS? Many of them are in Sejm and government. The Kaczynski brothers were both university professors. Something Mr. Traub “conveniently” forgot. I could endlessly point Mr. Traub’s inaccuracies and incorrectness. I can see he hates PiS and Jaroslaw Kaczynski. The truth lays somewhere else. Jaroslaw Kaczynski is an ideologist, whereas the government must be run by technocrats. It has to be run by TRUTH, not lies. (The former Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz gained the nickname “liar” for incredible number of lies). Mr. Traub should read our publication about the Constitutional Tribunal before writing for NYT. PO changed the law and nominated FIVE judges to the CT in advance, before others’ terms expired. They wanted to paralyze the PiS government for the next four years, as we see. Mr. Traub is taking a partisan position in Polish politics. He supports only leftist activists. He makes very derogatory comments about the present government and its administration. He does not mention opinions of many others, KOR founders Antoni Macierewicz and dr. Piotr Naimski, like professors Glinski, Legutko, Pawlowicz and many, many others. The most popular newspapers, like “wSieci”, Nasz Dziennik, Niedziela, etc, are not even mentioned. Mr. Traub is biased and untruthful. Recounting of the Mayor of Warsaw, Hanna Gronkiewicz-Walz sounds like a joke, when she is shook up by the multi scandal with her own and her husband’s participation. People were ripped off by her clique.
I wonder when the NYT will stop telling us half-truths of half-stories?