Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Poland's "Solidarity" with Ukraine

This is a fascinating piece about the Polish involvement in the Ukrainian crisis. The Poles see this as a replay of their own struggle for liberation against the Soviets (of which the Poles are justly proud), and as the creation of a crucial European buffer against Putin's "Stalin-lite" authoritarianism. This is also an example of the important role of "New Europe" as a force for freedom against the East.

"Ukraine Pushing Poland's Buttons," Jeffrey Fleishman, LA Times, November 30

" 'I don't think we've yet to realize how important what's going on in Ukraine is,' said Maciej Czumaj, a university student. 'Ukraine is the last European country before Asia. They're our neighbors, and whatever happens
economically and politically in Kiev affects Poland. This was a sleeping problem now awakening. Ukraine needs a Walesa,' he added. 'Maybe Yushchenko will be the new Walesa.' A retired Polish military officer, who gave his name only as Tadeusz, said, 'This reminds me of the Solidarity times. Ukraine wants to go west, but we know what Putin wants. He's tough. Ukraine has to know they have to do this change on their own. If you do it on your own, with no interference from the outside, then it's stronger. But if a shot is fired, there will be tragedy.'
Kwasniewski and other Polish politicians have been prominent in efforts to diffuse the standoff. It is another indication that Poland, which joined the European Union in May, may be a strategic diplomatic player as Europe
expands toward an uneasy Russia."