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The Warsaw Voice » National Voice » June 29, 2012
America in Poland
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We Have a Strong Relationship
June 29, 2012   
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Lee A. Feinstein, U.S. ambassador to Poland, talks to Marcin Mierzejewski.

What is the American view about the crisis in the eurozone?
First of all, the crisis in the eurozone is something that underlines the importance of a strong European Union to the United States. There was a time when there was a debate in the United States about whether a strong EU is good for the United States or not. That debate is long gone. We support Europe’s own efforts to take steps to address the financial crisis in a way that helps to build stability and growth in Europe. Obviously, this was an important subject for conversation during the G8 meetings we just held in Washington. What is happening in Europe is very important to the United States and vice versa. So we are very supportive of Europe’s efforts to try to deal with the economic crisis it’s facing. And we want to be as supportive as we can.

What is Poland’s position in U.S. foreign policy?
We have a very strong relationship with Poland. Our relationship is based on our historical ties, family ties, our support for each other over America’s entire history. But right now we are using those historical ties to build on our relationship for today and for the rest of the new century. So, I see my job description as working with my Polish counterparts to build the relationship for this century. And we talk about three pillars of the relationship, one of which is security. Our security cooperation and date-to-date military cooperation has never been closer. Later this year at £ask near £ód¼ we are going to open a U.S. aviation detachment. This would be the first continuous presence of U.S. troops on the ground in Poland. It starts modestly, but it has a lot of potential. It will focus on the areas of critical importance for the United States and Poland, which is our air force, as Poland has maybe the most modern F-16 air fleet in all of Europe. Its fleet is NATO certified and we also have F-16s, so we are looking forward to using this aviation detachment as a place where we can fly in squadrons of our F-16s, up to two squadrons at a time, several times a year. And we can do training together to improve our capabilities to work together. We’re also partners in missile defense and at a NATO summit we talked about how the first phase of the missile defense program has reached interim capability. Poland was the first country to ratify an agreement to establish European missile defenses. That’s going to be another important and new element in Polish-American security relations. So our security ties have never been closer and our day-to-day military cooperation has never been broader and more intense.

The second part of our cooperation is economic. In addition to focus on security we focus on prosperity on both sides of the Atlantic. And frankly we want to make this a bigger part of our relationship. There’s a lot of American investment in Poland, probably more than many people think. We also think there’s still room to grow. We estimate that net value of American investments in Poland, the asset base, is about $30 billion, which is the highest in the region. We think that that can grow. Our estimates are also that some 400,000 Poles are working directly or indirectly for American companies. We think that this is great. We’d also like to see Polish investment in the United States and Polish companies operating more in the United States. But the truth is it’s still a trickle. Investment from Poland in the United States is still small and this is something we are working on. We believe we can hopefully take it to the next level at a business summit we’re planning to have on June 20. U.S. Secretary of Commerce John Bryson will be hosted by Poland’s Minister of Economy Waldemar Pawlak. The two governments will come together, but what’s going to be maybe the most important aspect of this is not just the governments, it’s the government plus business leaders. The Secretary of Commerce will be joined by a good number of American business leaders and we expect the Poles also to send their top entrepreneurs in business. What we hope to do is to identify ways of institutional cooperation, focus on areas of particular importance, innovation, high tech, energy, manufacturing and other areas. And also maybe cut a few deals, maybe get a few business-to-business deals concluded at the same time.

Then the third pillar of our relationship for this century is to work together, to coordinate our policies more closely on promoting democracy. On promoting democracy in the eastern neighborhood, particularly Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova—three very different circumstances. Just to take one example, in Belarus unfortunately we haven’t been successful at getting much change, with the exception of a couple of selected releases of political prisoners. One of the things Poland and the United States can do together is to coordinate our policies both to punish and sanction Lukashenko and his regime, as well as to provide assistance to democracy activists in the country. And also to make sure that there’s complete harmony in the official policies of the EU and the United States and the whole trans-Atlantic community. And that’s been really important. So while we haven’t had success in changing the views in Belarus yet, the Lukashenko regime can really be in no doubt about what the views are of the trans-Atlantic community towards what he’s done since the crackdown of the December 2011 elections. We’re cooperating in the eastern neighborhood, but also in North Africa and the Middle East, Egypt and Tunisia more broadly. I think progress so far is pretty good, I hope this will continue to develop.

The U.S.-Poland Summit is taking place for the first time in the history of relations between the two countries. Why was it decided to hold this summit and what are you expecting from it?
We’re doing pretty well in our two-way trade. President Obama has said a national goal for the United States is to double our exports over five years. And actually we’re on our way to doubling American exports to Poland and making pretty good progress. With the business community, with the American Chamber of Commerce, with the Polish Confederation of Private Employers Lewiatan and with the U.S.-based group called the U.S.-Poland Business Council, we’ve been looking at areas where we can do better and areas where there are some problems. And we want to identify areas of opportunity, take full advantage of them, as well as remove some blockages, so that trade between the two countries can continue to increase.

One area particularly interesting is energy. Poland is making some decisions about its future with respect to nuclear power. We hope a couple of American firms will be in the game and we’re competing for that. We are very active working with Poles on renewable energy—biomass, biogas etc. U.S. firms are the biggest or among the biggest in investing in wind power in Poland and we want to continue working on that. And there’s of course an issue of unconventional sources of gas, including shale gas. And here, what we want to do is to share our experience—what worked, what hasn’t worked. What we have learned is very extensive experience as a country with shale gas. Our position is that this needs to be done in an environmentally sustainable way and a way that is accountable to the public. We believe that’s doable. We have some suggestions based on our own work about what could be done better.

The final thing is this general area of innovation of the creative economy. And here Poland is attracting a huge amount of positive potential from American investors. Because there are so many extremely talented and well-trained engineers and people in the hi-tech sector. That’s super attractive to American companies and that’s why Google, IBM, HP among many others are here, hiring people doing very cutting-edge research in different areas. And Poland is interested in somehow connecting its talent and the power it has in this area to the marketplace and also networking to Silicon Valley. So we’re looking for ways we can do that together and we hope that the business summit will provide a bit of interest to somehow formalize a way to network talented people in Poland, interested businesspeople in Poland, with some of their counterparts in Silicon Valley and elsewhere.

What are your impressions of Poland?
My wife Elaine and I have been in Poland almost three years now and we have loved every minute of our time here, as have our two young children. There has been a chance to travel and visit every one of Poland’s 16 voivodships, most of them several times and in a few cases multiple times. And it’s just so impressive to us how welcoming people have been to us, how much they make us feel at home and also how in every region there is a local plan on how Poland will continue to develop economically. It’s so impressive.
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