Academic journal article The Polish Quarterly of International Affairs

Double-Track Asymmetry: Alliances of the Republic of Poland in the 21st Century

Academic journal article The Polish Quarterly of International Affairs

Double-Track Asymmetry: Alliances of the Republic of Poland in the 21st Century

Article excerpt

In the last quarter century, Poland has been one of the foremost beneficiaries of the post-Cold War international order. Its per capita GDP rose seven-fold and at a rate unknown since the 16th century, what is called "the golden age," and individual consumption has reached 70% of that of Western Europe. This was accompanied by unprecedented modernisation of state infrastructure and by the development of human capital.1 These are unchallengeable facts, even if granting that errors have been made and even if one views with rational criticism the post-1989 changes in Poland and in particular their consequences: the uneven distribution of wealth, emigration running into the hundreds of thousands of young people, or the still-unresolved social problems, and the inflamed internal policy conflicts. In the international dimension, Poland has leftthe Russian (Soviet) zone of influence and become part of the Western world in the political, economic and institutional sense alike. It is now situated in a civilisationally attractive area that provides a natural environment for the achievement of individual and social aspirations.

What made this success possible was the end of the Cold War and the international order that evolved after it which ensured for Poland about 30 years of uninterrupted development. The last time the country enjoyed such an advantageous combination of internal stability and a high level of international security was 400 years ago. Even more surprisingly, for the first 10 to 15 years after the end of the Cold War, Poland-economically and socially devastated, weak and lacking allies-came out of the communist morass and develop, enjoying as never in its history a prolonged spell of tranquillity.

Now we watch as this interlude draws to an end at an ever-faster rate and with increasingly unpredictable effects. The international order that evolved after the end of the Cold War is crumbling before our very eyes. Three elements of this order-the most important from the Polish perspective-are being destroyed. First, the unquestioned position of the United States as the sole global power both capable and willing to engage in maintaining peace in remote areas or secondary ones (to U.S. interests) is faltering. Second, we are experiencing the decomposition of the European Union, whose elites have yet to show themselves capable of diagnosing the sources of the EU's everdeeper internal crisis, not to mention developing and implementing the means to overcome it. Third, after some 20 years of geostrategic decline, Russia has set out to rebuild its international position and to re-impose upon the world the logic of zones of influence, and in pursuit of this aim it does not hesitate to employ any method, be it from the arsenal so ruthlessly used by Lenin and Stalin or from the stock put at Putin's disposal by modern technology and the open information societies of the West. All three cornerstones of Poland's security and development in the last quarter century are changing and in a manner extremely disadvantageous for Poland.

At the same time, Poland's internal situation is becoming increasingly complicated. The mounting internal policy conflicts are about the foundations of the state rather than differences-great or small-of political party programmes. The parties to this conflict perceive each other not so much as political contestants in a democratic political system but as from a Manichean perspective, a battle of good and evil-an approach that in fact denies the rival the right to attain its political aims on the grounds they are prejudiced against the other's fundamental values, to the essence of Polish interests, or of the Polish raison d'état. Worse still, the negative emotions that go with this conflict-ruthless determination, obstinacy, inability to compromise, and revenge-have been taking ever deeper root. The logic of a natural democratic cycle has given way to the logic of revolutionary change. The fourth cornerstone of Poland's development in the last quarter century-its internal political stability-is increasingly at risk. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.