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The Kosciuszko Chair holds its Third Annual Spring Symposium

On Saturday, 6 April, the Kościuszko Chair of Polish Studies at The Institute of World Politics hosted its Third Annual Spring Symposium. The event’s theme was geopolitical: “Between Russia and Germany: Poland and the Future.”

The conference was dedicated to the memory of IWP supporter and KC donor, the late Richard (Zdzisław) Zakrzewski (1919-2013).

Our first speaker was IWP Professor of Defense Studies, Brig. Gen. Walter Jajko (USAF, Ret.), who analyzed the current deplorable situation of the American-Polish alliance within NATO. According to the General, the United States under Obama has been an unreliable partner which views not only Poland, but all of Central and Eastern Europe between Germany and Russia, as expendable. This lack of interest in the region is a simple function of the administration’s drive to placate Russia. Gen. Jajko offered solutions to remedy this state of affairs and urged that they be implemented before it becomes too late.

Prof. Andrzej Nowak, a renowned Russian expert at Poland’s prestigious Jagiellonian University, focused on post-Soviet Russia’s military doctrine. He pointed out that, just as during the Cold War, the Kremlin-which is governed by the KGB elite-continues to view the United States as its main enemy. As Putin’s regime seeks to reassert control over the former Soviet Empire, it simultaneously attempts to push the Americans out of Europe and to halt NATO expansion into the “near abroad.” In all of this, Moscow has been abetted by Germany, France, and Italy, who have assisted its military build-up.

Mr. Christopher Olechowski read a short literary piece he had written, entitled “Rummaging Through the Rubble of Yalta.” The story expressed the bitterness and disappointment that many post-Second-World-War Polish immigrants to the United States felt toward the betrayal at the Yalta Conference.

The Polish economy was the subject of the lecture by Dr. Łucja Świątkowska-Cannon, an economist and expert on Poland’s post-communist transformation. She pointed out that while Poland has made great strides economically since the fall of communism, there are still significant structural problems undermining the course of her development. On the one hand, Poland has so far managed to weather the storm that is the current global economic downturn. She has also attracted quite a lot of foreign investment since 1990. On the other hand, the post-communist country performs quite poorly in terms of competitiveness. For stronger and healthier economic development in the future, the Polish government must grapple with such stifling factors as bureaucracy, regulations, and corruption.

Dr. Piotr Naimski, in turn, analyzed Poland’s energy security. He highlighted the importance of energy resources-natural gas in particular-in Eurasian politics. Post-Soviet Russia has been especially aggressive in using “pipeline diplomacy” to further its grand strategy (see the lecture by Prof. Andrzej Nowak). This includes pipeline projects such as North Stream and South Stream, which circumvent such transit nations as Poland and Ukraine. Poland, however, must not allow Russia to render her even more dependent on Russian natural gas than she already is. On the contrary, Warsaw ought to pursue a policy of energy diversification and independence. Alternative sources of energy-which include, but need not be limited to, shale gas and coal gasification-will translate into a bright future for Poland if pursued with vigor.   A copy of his presentation can be accessed here: The bright future of Poland: Shale gas, coal gasification, and energy independence

Last but not least, Mr. Krzysztof Zawitkowski discussed the state of the Polish military and arms industry. He brought attention to the close ties between Russia and Germany, which pose a Rapallo-like threat to a Poland which is militarily relatively weak. Mr. Zawitkowski also pointed out that this situation has deteriorated after the suspicious Smolensk plane crash of April 2010, when the executives in charge of Poland’s arms industry were replaced. Given the country’s history of invasions by neighboring powers and betrayals by “allies,” the Central European nation requires a more realistic approach to its own security.

Video recordings of all of the lectures may be viewed on YouTube.

We wish to thank the Polish American Foundation for Economic Research and Education (PAFERE) and its founder and honorary president, Mr. Jan Małek, as well as the Bąk Family Foundation and the Tadeusz Ungar Foundation, for making this conference a great success.