Friday, April 17, 2009

Blog update: Poland

A blog update from Senator Collins:
We arrived in Warsaw late last night via the Polish airline Lot, which I belatedly learned is a regional carrier for the infamous Russian airline, Aeroflot. Met by our ambassador, Victor Ashe, we received our first briefing on the way in from the airport. Among other facts, I learned that 65% of Jewish Americans have roots in Poland.

Today was a very full day, starting with a classified briefing early this morning in Warsaw and ending with our night flight to Prague.

At the Polish embassy, I met two Mainers: Linda White Szczedanska from my hometown of Caribou and Betsy Dorman Taylor from South Portland, proving once again that it really is a small world.

Perhaps the most interesting meeting today was with the Polish Foreign Minister Sikorski, whose American wife, Anne Applebaum, writes a column for the Washington Post. During our discussion of missile defense, he told us of the importance that Poland attaches to having American troops on its soil, preferably through a Patriot air and missile defense system as opposed to the plan for ballistic missile defense interceptors targeted at Iran. Pointing out that this is the tenth anniversary of Poland's joining NATO, the Minister said that it is time for Poland to benefit more from its NATO membership. He reminded us that Poland was one of only three countries to respond to NATO's (and America's) request for more troops for Afghanistan. Since I knew that the Minister had written a book on Afghanistan, I pressed him on what NATO's goal should be and whether more troops really would make a difference. He felt that the Administration's new policy can succeed and that our goal should be "to prevent the bad guys from taking control again."

Another interesting conversation today was with a group of Poles who represented think tanks and other nongovernmental organizations. When we were discussing possible compromises on missile defense, one academic darkly warned that the Russians view compromise as a weakness, that their view was to have the other side cede a position and then give up some more.

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