Warsaw Embassy Cable, Poland Looks to President Bush
President George H. W. Bush visited Poland and Hungary in July 1989, following a series of speeches he had made that defined the direction his administration would take in its relations with the Soviet Union. On April 17, at Hamtramck, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit heavily populated by Polish-Americans, Bush had devoted a speech—referred to in the excerpt below—to the future of Eastern Europe in which he blamed tensions between East and West on “the imposed and unnatural division of Europe.” Bush announced, “We share an unwavering conviction that one day all the peoples of Europe will live in freedom.” The Hamtramck speech came ten days after Round Table agreements were signed in Poland resulting in the legalization of Solidarity and the holding of open elections in June. In the ensuing elections on June 4 and June 18, Solidarity candidates won 160 of the 161 seats in the Sejm that were available to them and 92 of the 100 seats of the Polish Senate. In addition, many leaders of the Communist Party failed to secure enough votes to be elected to the parliament they had controlled for four decades. Following the elections, the US Ambassador in Warsaw, John Davis, drafted the following memorandum to Secretary of State James Baker that outlined the unstable political, economic, and strategic situation in Poland and the region and offered recommendations concerning the details and tenor of Bush’s public statements, ending on a definitively upbeat note.
U.S. Embassy Warsaw to U.S. Secretary of State, "Poland Looks to President Bush," 27 June 1989, Cold War International History Project, Documents and Papers, CWIHP (accessed May 14, 2008).
5. THE PRESIDENT'S VISIT WILL BE AN ACTION-FORCING EVENT FOR THE POLISH LEADERSHIP. HIS OFFICIAL HOST WILL BE WOJCIECH JARUZELSKI, WHO SEES HIMSELF AS A TRUE POLISH PATRIOT, A LATTER-DAY PILSUDSKI. HE KNOWS HOW UNPOPULAR HE NOW IS BUT HAS HIS EYE FIRMLY FIXED ON WHAT FUTURE HISTORIANS WILL SAY OF HIM. . . .
6 . JARUZELSKI'S OFFICIAL AUTHORITY IS MORE THAN MATCHED BY THE UNOFFICIAL AUTHORITY OF LECH WALESA, WHOSE-STATURE AS POLITICAL LEADER NOW MATCHES THE STATURE AS MORAL LEADER . . . . THE DANCE CONTINUES: THE REGIME IS WILLING TO SHARE POWER IN ORDER TO SHARE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE NATION'S PREDICAMENT; SOLIDARITY WANTS TO AVOID RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE REGIME'S PAST FAILURES.
7. . . . THE IMMEDIATE DANGER IS THAT THE PARTY WILL SIMPLY BECOME PARALYZED UNDER THIS PRESSURE, THAT IT WILL BE UNABLE OR UNWILLING TO GOVERN. A LONGER-TERM DANGER IS OF LEGISLATIVE DEADLOCK, PARTICULARLY ON THE DIFFICULT ISSUES OF ECONOMIC POLICY.
8. OVER BOTH CAMPS HOVERS THE OMNIPRESENCE OF THE POLISH CATHOLIC CHURCH, THE ONE INSTITUTION TO WHICH VIRTUALLY ALL POLES GIVE WILLING OBEISANCE. THE CHURCH TOOK PART AS AN OBSERVER IN THE ROUND-TABLE TALKS . . . . THE POPE TAKES A VERY ACTIVE AND PERSONAL INTEREST IN DEVELOPMENTS IN HIS MOTHER-LAND, AND HIS INFLUENCE HERE IS BEYOND DESCRIPTION.
10. WHAT POLAND NEEDS NOW ARE CREDITS AND SOCIAL PEACE. FOR CREDITS THEY ARE LOOKING FOR A U.S. LEAD. . . .
11. UNLESS THERE IS AN IMF STANDBY AND A DEBT RESCHEDULING, POLAND CANNOT HOPE TO ATTRACT NEW INVESTMENT AND JOINT VENTURES. . . . WITHOUT ECONOMIC IMPROVEMENT, SOCIAL PEACE WILL BE IMPOSSIBLE TO MAINTAIN. . . . MOST ECONOMISTS ARGUE THAT THE ONLY RATIONAL SOLUTION IS TO MOVE TO "MARKETIZATION" AND THE VIRTUAL ELIMINATION OF SUBSIDIES. THEY ACKNOWLEDGE THAT SUCH STEPS WOULD LEAD TO HUGE PRICE INCREASES BUT SAY THAT WITHOUT THEM BOTH PRODUCTIVITY AND ALLOCATION OF RESOURCES WILL CONTINUE TO BE SEVERELY DISTORTED. MANY TRADE UNIONISTS FEAR THAT SUCH PRICE INCREASES WOULD PROVOKE MASSIVE SOCIAL DISORDER, AS THEY HAVE IN THE PAST. . . .
12. POLAND ALSO NEEDS EXTERNAL PEACE. . . . THEY ARE EAGER TO MOVE BEYOND CONFRONTATION AND COMPETITION TO BROAD COOPERATION AND REINTEGRATION. FOR THIS REASON THEY WELCOME EVERY STEP TOWARD EAST-WEST DETENTE . . . .
13. THE UNITED STATES OCCUPIES SUCH AN EXAGGERATED PLACE OF HONOR IN THE MINDS OF MOST POLES THAT IT GOES BEYOND RATIONAL DESCRIPTION. ONE OPPOSITION LEADER DESCRIBED IT APTLY AS "BLIND LOVE." THIS IMAGE DERIVES FROM AMERICA'S HISTORICAL AND POLITICAL ROLE AS THE LAND OF THE FREE; IT DERIVES FROM OUR ECONOMIC PROSPERITY AND LIFESTYLE, ENJOYED BY 10 MILLION POLISH-AMERICANS AND ENVIED BY THEIR SIBLINGS AND COUSINS LEFT BEHIND; IT DERIVES FROM OUR GEOPOLITICAL ROLE AS THE BALANCING GREAT POWER AGAINS THE SOVIETS AND AS THE CONTROLLING GREAT POWER OVER MOST OF THE GERMANS.
15. THE PRESIDENT'S PUBLIC STATEMENTS HERE . . . SHOULD BE BUILT AROUND THE SOARING THEMES OF DEMOCRATIZATION, THE RIGHTS OF MAN AND THE PEACEFUL REINTEGRATION OF EUROPE . . . . THEY WILL ALSO BE HOPING FOR MAJOR U.S. AND WESTERN ECONOMIC ASSISTANCE AND CONCRETE FOLLOW-UP TO THE POINTS THE PRESIDENT MADE IN HIS HAMTRAMCK SPEECH IN APRIL. . . .
16. ... . AND I THINK WE SHOULD HAVE AT LEAST ONE SPLASHY NEW PROPOSAL, FOR EXAMPLE, ON THE ENVIRONMENT. 17. THE PRESIDENT'S VISIT WILL BE A SUCCESS. IT MAY EVEN BE ONE OF THOSE EVENTS WHERE THE CONVERGENCE OF HISTORIC TRENDS, OF NATIONAL INTERESTS AND OF DECISIVE INDIVIDUALS CAN BRING ABOUT A MOMENT IN TIME WHICH CHANGES THE DIRECTION OF HISTORY. THE INGREDIENTS ARE ALL THERE AND POLAND IS READY.