A Foreign Policy for New and Old Europe

Watching the news from Iraq, I recall when I was Poland's Prime Minister during the Gulf War in 1991. I watched from home on CNN as the first cruise missiles hit Baghdad. Hours later our military informed me that armed conflict was underway in Iraq. ``Yes, I know,'' I said. ``I've been watching the bombardment on TV.''

Twelve years later, Poland's Prime Minister didn't need a belated call from his military to know that war was underway in Iraq. All the details of the attack were provided in advance by the US, now Poland's NATO ally. Indeed, Poland has secured a leading role in Iraq's occupation. What a distance Poland has travelled since communism's collapse in 1989!

Little of this, however, is the result of design, for (unfortunately) we in Poland have not thought through what sort of foreign policy we need as a member of NATO and putative member of the European Union. We remain narrowly focussed on whether an initiative will be immediately good or bad for us.

Couple this with a form of foreign policy schizophrenia--some Poles think that by ``simply existing'' we influence Europe's fate; others suffer crippling pessimism, consigning Poland to permanent ``second-class'' status--and you have a recipe for inertia. Our attitude seems to be that somehow things will sort themselves out.