For the most current version of this Note, see Background Notes A-Z.
Republic of Poland
Area: 312,683 sq. km. (120,725 sq. mi.); about the size of New Mexico.
Cities (2004): Capital--Warsaw (pop. 1,690,821). Other cities--Lodz (776,297), Krakow (757,957), Wroclaw (636,854), Poznan (573,003), Gdansk (460,524).
Terrain: Flat plain, except mountains along southern border.
Climate: Temperate continental.
Nationality: Noun--Pole(s). Adjective--Polish.
Population (December 2003): 38.2 million.
Annual growth rate: Unchanging.
Ethnic groups: Polish 98%, German, Ukrainian, Belorussian, Lithuanian.
Religions: Roman Catholic 90%, Eastern Orthodox, Uniate, Protestant, Judaism.
Health (2000): Infant mortality rate-- 8.1/1,000. Life expectancy--males 70 yrs., females 78 yrs.
Work force: 17.0 million. Industry and construction--25.3%; agriculture--28.7%; trade and business--28.0%; government and other--18.0%.
Constitution: The constitution now in effect was approved by a national referendum on May 25, 1997. The constitution codifies Poland's democratic norms and establishes checks and balances among the president, prime minister, and parliament. It also enhances several key elements of democracy, including judicial review and the legislative process, while continuing to guarantee the wide range of civil rights, such as the right to free speech, press, and assembly, which Poles have enjoyed since 1989.
Branches: Executive--head of state (president), head of government (prime minister). Legislative--bicameral National Assembly (lower house--Sejm, upper house--Senate). Judicial--Supreme Court, provincial and local courts, constitutional tribunal.
Administrative subdivisions: 16 provinces (voivodships).
Political parties (in Parliament): Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), Citizens Platform (PO), Self-Defense (SO), Law and Justice (PiS), Polish Peasant Party (PSL), League of Polish Families (LPR), Union of Labor (UP), and Social Democracy of Poland (SdPl).
Suffrage: Universal at 18.
GDP (2003): $209.5 billion.
Real GDP growth (2003): 3.8%
Per capita GDP (2003): $5,270.
Rate of inflation (2003): 0.7%.
Natural resources: Coal, copper, sulfur, natural gas, silver, lead, salt.
Agriculture: Products--grains, hogs, dairy, potatoes, horticulture, sugarbeets, oilseed.
Industry: Types--machine building, iron and steel, mining, shipbuilding, automobiles, furniture, textiles and apparel, chemicals, food processing, glass, beverages.
Trade (2003): Exports--$61.0 billion: furniture, cars, ships, coal, apparel. Imports--$66.7 billion: crude oil, passenger cars, pharmaceuticals, car parts, computers.
Poland today is ethnically almost homogeneous (98% Polish), in contrast with the World War II period, when there were significant ethnic minorities--4.5 million Ukrainians, 3 million Jews, 1 million Belorussians, and 800,000 Germans. The majority of the Jews were murdered during the German occupation in World War II, and many others emigrated in the succeeding years.
Most Germans left Poland at the end of the war, while many Ukrainians and Belorussians lived in territories incorporated into the then-U.S.S.R. Small Ukrainian, Belorussian, Slovakian, and Lithuanian minorities reside along the borders, and a German minority is concentrated near the southwest city of Opole.
Poland's written history begins with the reign of Mieszko I, who accepted Christianity for himself and his kingdom in AD 966. The Polish state reached its zenith under the Jagiellonian dynasty in the years following the union with Lithuania in 1386 and the subsequent defeat of the Teutonic Knights at Grunwald in 1410. The monarchy survived many upheavals but eventually went into a decline, which ended with the final partition of Poland by Prussia, Russia, and Austria in 1795.
Independence for Poland was one of the 14 points enunciated by President Woodrow Wilson during World War I. Many Polish Americans enlisted in the military services to further this aim, and the United States worked at the postwar conference to ensure its implementation.
However, the Poles were largely responsible for achieving their own independence in 1918. Authoritarian rule predominated for most of the period before World War II. On August 23, 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union signed the Ribbentrop-Molotov nonaggression pact, which secretly provided for the dismemberment of Poland into Nazi and Soviet-controlled zones. On September 1, 1939, Hitler ordered his troops into Poland. On September 17, Soviet troops invaded and then occupied eastern Poland under the terms of this agreement. After Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, Poland was completely occupied by German troops.
The Poles formed an underground resistance movement and a government in exile, first in Paris and later in London, which was recognized by the Soviet Union. During World War II, 400,000 Poles fought under Soviet command, and 200,000 went into combat on Western fronts in units loyal to the Polish government in exile.
In April 1943, the Soviet Union broke relations with the Polish government in exile after the German military announced that they had discovered mass graves of murdered Polish army officers at Katyn, in the U.S.S.R. (The Soviets claimed that the Poles had insulted them by requesting that the Red Cross investigate these reports.) In July 1944, the Soviet Red Army entered Poland and established a communist-controlled "Polish Committee of National Liberation" at Lublin.
Resistance against the Nazis in Warsaw, including uprisings by Jews in the Warsaw ghetto and by the Polish underground, was brutally suppressed. As the Germans retreated in January 1945, they leveled the city.
During the war, about 6 million Poles were killed, and 2.5 million were deported to Germany for forced labor. More than 3 million Jews (all but about 100,000 of the Jewish population) were killed in death camps like those at Oswiecim (Auschwitz), Treblinka, and Majdanek.
Following the Yalta Conference in February 1945, a Polish Provisional Government of National Unity was formed in June 1945; the U.S. recognized it the next month. Although the Yalta agreement called for free elections, those held in January 1947 were controlled by the Communist Party. The communists then established a regime entirely under their domination.
Communist Party Domination
In October 1956, after the 20th ("de-Stalinization") Soviet Party Congress in Moscow and riots by workers in Poznan, there was a shakeup in the communist regime. While retaining most traditional communist economic and social aims, the regime of First Secretary Wladyslaw Gomulka liberalized Polish internal life.
In 1968, the trend reversed when student demonstrations were suppressed and an "anti-Zionist" campaign initially directed against Gomulka supporters within the party eventually led to the emigration of much of Poland's remaining Jewish population. In December 1970, disturbances and strikes in the port cities of Gdansk, Gdynia, and Szczecin, triggered by a price increase for essential consumer goods, reflected deep dissatisfaction with living and working conditions in the country. Edward Gierek replaced Gomulka as First Secretary.
Fueled by large infusions of Western credit, Poland's economic growth rate was one of the world's highest during the first half of the 1970s. But much of the borrowed capital was misspent, and the centrally planned economy was unable to use the new resources effectively. The growing debt burden became insupportable in the late 1970s, and economic growth had become negative by 1979.
In October 1978, the Bishop of Krakow, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, became Pope John Paul II, head of the Roman Catholic Church. Polish Catholics rejoiced at the elevation of a Pole to the papacy and greeted his June 1979 visit to Poland with an outpouring of emotion.
In July 1980, with the Polish foreign debt at more than $20 billion, the government made another attempt to increase meat prices. A chain reaction of strikes virtually paralyzed the Baltic coast by the end of August and, for the first time, closed most coalmines in Silesia. Poland was entering into an extended crisis that would change the course of its future development.
The Solidarity Movement
On August 31, 1980, workers at the Lenin Shipyard in Gdansk, led by an electrician named Lech Walesa, signed a 21-point agreement with the government that ended their strike. Similar agreements were signed at Szczecin and in Silesia. The key provision of these agreements was the guarantee of the workers' right to form independent trade unions and the right to strike. After the Gdansk agreement was signed, a new national union movement--"Solidarity"--swept Poland.
The discontent underlying the strikes was intensified by revelations of widespread corruption and mismanagement within the Polish state and party leadership. In September 1980, Gierek was replaced by Stanislaw Kania as First Secretary.
Alarmed by the rapid deterioration of the PZPR's authority following the Gdansk agreement, the Soviet Union proceeded with a massive military buildup along Poland's border in December 1980. In February 1981, Defense Minister Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski assumed the position of Prime Minister as well, and in October 1981, he also was named party First Secretary. At the first Solidarity national congress in September-October 1981, Lech Walesa was elected national chairman of the union.
On December 12-13, the regime declared martial law, under which the army and special riot police were used to crush the union. Virtually all Solidarity leaders and many affiliated intellectuals were arrested or detained. The United States and other Western countries responded to martial law by imposing economic sanctions against the Polish regime and against the Soviet Union. Unrest in Poland continued for several years thereafter.
In a series of slow, uneven steps, the Polish regime rescinded martial law. In December 1982, martial law was suspended, and a small number of political prisoners were released. Although martial law formally ended in July 1983 and a general amnesty was enacted, several hundred political prisoners remained in jail.
In July 1984, another general amnesty was declared, and 2 years later, the government had released nearly all political prisoners. The authorities continued, however, to harass dissidents and Solidarity activists. Solidarity remained proscribed and its publications banned. Independent publications were censored.
Roundtable Talks and Elections
The government's inability to forestall Poland's economic decline led to waves of strikes across the country in April, May, and August 1988. In an attempt to take control of the situation, the government gave de facto recognition to Solidarity, and Interior Minister Kiszczak began talks with Lech Walesa on August 31. These talks broke off in October, but a new series, the "roundtable" talks, began in February 1989. These talks produced an agreement in April for partly open National Assembly elections. The June election produced a Sejm (lower house), in which one-third of the seats went to communists and one-third went to the two parties which had hitherto been their coalition partners. The remaining one-third of the seats in the Sejm and all those in the Senate were freely contested; virtually all of these were won by candidates supported by Solidarity.
The failure of the communists at the polls produced a political crisis. The roundtable agreement called for a communist president, and on July 19, the National Assembly, with the support of some Solidarity deputies, elected General Jaruzelski to that office. Two attempts by the communists to form governments failed, however.
On August 19, President Jaruzelski asked journalist/Solidarity activist Tadeusz Mazowiecki to form a government; on September 12, the Sejm voted approval of Prime Minister Mazowiecki and his cabinet. For the first time in more than 40 years, Poland had a government led by non-communists.
In December 1989, the Sejm approved the government's reform program to transform the Polish economy rapidly from centrally planned to free-market, amended the constitution to eliminate references to the "leading role" of the Communist Party, and renamed the country the "Republic of Poland." The Polish United Workers' (Communist) Party dissolved itself in January 1990, creating in its place a new party, Social Democracy of the Republic of Poland. Most of the property of the former Communist Party was turned over to the state.
The May 1990 local elections were entirely free. Candidates supported by Solidarity's Citizens' Committees won most of the races they contested, although voter turnout was only a little over 40%. The cabinet was reshuffled in July 1990; the national defense and interior affairs ministers--hold-overs from the previous communist government--were among those replaced.
In October 1990, the constitution was amended to curtail the term of President Jaruzelski. In December, Lech Walesa became the first popularly elected President of Poland.
The Republic of Poland: Into NATO and the European Union
The Republic of Poland in the early 1990s made great progress toward achieving a fully democratic government and a market economy. In November 1990, Lech Walesa was elected President for a 5-year term. Jan Krzysztof Bielecki, at Walesa's request, formed a government and served as its Prime Minister until October 1991, introducing world prices and greatly expanding the scope of private enterprise.
Poland's first free parliamentary elections were held in 1991. More than 100 parties participated, representing a full spectrum of political views. No single party received more than 13% of the total vote. After a rough start, 1993 saw the second group of elections, and the first parliament to actually serve a full term. The Democratic Left Alliance (SLD--successor to the Communist Party twice removed) received the largest percentage of votes.
After the election, the SLD and PSL formed a governing coalition. Waldemar Pawlak, leader of the junior partner PSL, became Prime Minister. Relations between President Walesa and the Prime Minister remained poor throughout the Pawlak government, with President Walesa charging Pawlak with furthering personal and party interests while neglecting matters of state importance. Following a number of scandals implicating Pawlak and increasing political tension over control of the armed forces, President Walesa demanded Pawlak's resignation in January 1995. In the ensuing political crisis, the coalition removed Pawlak from office and replaced him with the SLD's Jozef Oleksy as the new Prime Minister.
In November 1995, Poland held its second post-war free presidential elections. SLD leader Aleksander Kwasniewski defeated Walesa by a narrow margin--51.7% to 48.3%. Soon after Walesa's defeat, Interior Minister Andrzej Milczanowski accused then-Prime Minister Oleksy of longtime collaboration with Soviet and later Russian intelligence. In the ensuing political crisis, Oleksy resigned. For his successor, the SLD-PSL coalition turned to then-Deputy Sejm speaker Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz--who was linked to, but not a member of, the SLD. Polish prosecutors subsequently decided that there was insufficient evidence to charge Oleksy, and a parliamentary commission decided in November 1996 that the Polish intelligence services may have violated rules of procedure in gathering evidence in the Oleksy case.
In the 1997 parliamentary elections, two parties with roots in the Solidarity movement--Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) and the Freedom Union (UW)--won 261 of the 460 seats in the Sejm and formed a coalition government. Jerzy Buzek of the AWS was the Prime Minister. The AWS and SLD held the majority of the seats in the Sejm. Marian Krzaklewski was the leader of the AWS, and Leszek Miller led the SLD. In June 2000, UW withdrew from the governing coalition, leaving AWS at the helm of a minority government.
Poland's September 2001 parliamentary elections saw the center-left SLD triumph and form a coalition with the Polish Peasant Party (PSL) and leftist Union of Labor (UP), with Leszek Miller (SLD) as Prime Minister, Cimoszewicz as Foreign Minister, and Oleksy as Sejm Marshall (Speaker of Parliament). On March 1, 2003, the PSL left the ruling coalition, and on March 26 a group of 22 MPs spilt from the SLD to form the Polish Social Democratic Party (SDPL). Unable to sustain his government, Prime Minister Miller resigned on May 2, 2004. President Kwasiniewski named Iraq Coalition Provisional Authority Senior Advisor Marek Belka as Prime Minister at the head of an SLD-led minority government. Belka was confirmed by the Sejm on June 24 and survived a no-confidence motion October 15. In December 2004, a Warsaw court convicted Oleksy of lying about his involvement with Communist-era intelligence services, ultimately forcing Oleksy to resign his speakership. Cimoszewicz replaced Oleksy as Sejm Marshall and was in turn replaced as Foreign Minister by the non-partisan Deputy Foreign Minister Adam Daniel Rotfeld.
Parliamentary elections, presidential elections, and a referendum on the adoption of the European Constitution are all expected in the summer or fall of 2005.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
The current government structure consists of a council of ministers led by a Prime Minister, typically chosen from a majority coalition in the bicameral legislature's lower house. The president elected every 5 years is head of state. The judicial branch plays a minor role in decision-making.
Former SLD leader Aleksander Kwasniewski was re-elected President in October 2000. Kwasniewski received in the first round 53.9% of the popular vote. In second place was Andrzej Olechowski --17.3%. President Kwasniewski has supported Polish membership in NATO and the EU and backed the SLD's legislative agenda on issues such as redrafting the constitution and abortion liberalization.
The parliament, consisting of 460 members of the Sejm and 100 members of the Senate, was elected in September 2001 in free and fair elections in which 15 political parties participated. The new Constitution and the reformed administrative division (as of 1999) required a revision of the election ordinance (passed in April 2001). The most important changes were liquidation of a national list (all deputies were elected by voters in constituencies) and introduction of a new method of calculating seats (the modified St. Lague method replaced the d'Hondt method, thus eliminating the premium for the top parties). The law stipulated that with the exception of guaranteed seats for small ethnic parties, only parties receiving at least 5% of the total vote could enter parliament.
The current Belka government maintains generally pro-market economic policies, has made fighting corruption and bringing Poland's financial house into order its priorities, and is committed to a democratic political system.
Along with SLD, other parties represented in Parliament are Citizens Platform (PO), Self-defense (SO), Law and Justice (PiS), Polish Peasant Party (PSL), Polish Social Democratic Party (SdPl), League of Polish Families (LPR), Union of Labor (UP). Poland's next parliamentary elections and presidential election will be held in 2005.
Principal Government Officials
Prime Minister--Marek Belka (SLD)
Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Social Policy--Izabela Jaruga-Nowacka
Head of Prime Minister's Chancellery--Slawomir Cytrycki
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Adam Daniel Rotfeld
Minister of Economy and Labor--Jacek Piechota (SLD)
Minister of Internal Affairs and Administration--Ryszard Kalisz (SLD)
Minister of Defense--Jerzy Szmajdzinski (SLD)
Minister of Finance--Miroslaw Gronicki
Minister of Treasury--Jacek Socha
Minister of Infrastructure--Krzysztof Opawski
Minister of Justice--Andrzej Kalwas
Minister of Agriculture--Wojciech Olejniczak (SLD)
Minister of Education and Sports--Miroslaw Sawicki
Minister of Culture--Waldemar Dabrowski
Minister of Science and Information Technology--Michal Kleiber
Minister of Health--Marek Balicki (SdPl)
Minister of Environment--Tomasz Podgajniak
Ambassador to the United States--Przemyslaw Grudzinski
Poland maintains an embassy in the United States at 2640 16th St. NW, Washington, DC 20009 (tel. 202-234-3800/3801/3802); the consular annex is at 2224 Wyoming Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-234-3800). Poland has consulates in Chicago, New York City, and Los Angeles.
The Polish economy grew rapidly in the mid-1990s, but growth has slowed considerably in recent years. Growth in the gross domestic product (GDP) accelerated to 3.8% in 2003; although final figures are not yet available, it was expected to increase another 5.5% in 2004. Faster growth has failed to significantly reduce unemployment, which stood at 19.7% in the middle of 2004. Tight monetary policy and dramatic productivity growth have helped temper inflation, which was steady at 0.7% in 2003. Likewise, Poland's current account deficit, which grew rapidly in the late 1990s, fell to 2.0% of GDP in 2003. The budget deficit remains a source of concern though the accelerating economy helped to hold the deficit at an estimated 3.9% of GDP in 2003.
Throughout the 1990s, the United States and other Western countries supported the growth of a free enterprise economy by reducing Poland's foreign debt burden, providing economic aid, and lowering trade barriers. Poland graduated from USAID assistance in 2000. Poland officially joined the EU on May 1, 2004.
Agriculture employs 28.7% of the work force but contributes only 3.4% to the gross domestic product (GDP), reflecting relatively low productivity. Unlike the industrial sector, Poland's agricultural sector remained largely in private hands during the decades of communist rule. Most of the former state farms are now leased to farmer tenants. Lack of credit is hampering efforts to sell former state farmland. Currently, Poland's 2 million private farms occupy 90% of all farmland and account for roughly the same percentage of total agricultural production. These farms are small--8 hectares (ha) on average--and often fragmented. Farms with an area exceeding 15 ha accounted for only 9% of the total number of farms but cover 45% of total agricultural area. Over half of all farming households in Poland produce only for their own needs with little, if any, commercial sales.
Poland is a net exporter of confectionery, processed fruit and vegetables, meat, and dairy products. Processors often rely on imports to supplement domestic supplies of wheat, feed grains, vegetable oil, and protein meals, which are generally insufficient to meet domestic demand. However, Poland is the leading producer in Europe of potatoes and rye and is one of the world's largest producers of sugarbeets. Poland also is a significant producer of rapeseed, grains, hogs, and cattle. Attempts to increase domestic feed grain production are hampered by the short growing season, poor soil, and the small size of farms.
Pressure to restructure the agriculture sector intensified as Poland prepared to accede to the European Union, which is unwilling to subsidize the vast number of subsistence farms that do not produce for the market. The changes in agriculture are likely to strain Poland's social fabric, tearing at the heart of the traditional, family-based small farm as the younger generation drifts toward the cities.
Before World War II, Poland's industrial base was concentrated in the coal, textile, chemical, machinery, iron, and steel sectors. Today it extends to fertilizers, petrochemicals, machine tools, electrical machinery, electronics, and shipbuilding.
Poland's industrial base suffered greatly during World War II, and many resources were directed toward reconstruction. The communist economic system imposed in the late 1940s created large and unwieldy economic structures operated under a tight central command. In part because of this systemic rigidity, the economy performed poorly even in comparison with other economies in central Europe.
In 1990, the Mazowiecki government began a comprehensive reform program to replace the centralized command economy with a market-oriented system. While the results overall have been impressive, many large state-owned industrial enterprises, particularly the railroad and the mining, steel, and defense sectors, have remained resistant to the change and downsizing required to survive in an open market economy.
Economic Reform Program
The economic reforms introduced in 1990 removed price controls, eliminated most subsidies to industry, opened markets to international competition, and imposed strict budgetary and monetary discipline. Poland was the first former centrally planned economy in central Europe to end its recession and return to growth in the early 1990s. Since 1992, the Polish economy has enjoyed an accelerated recovery, although growth has recently slowed. The private sector now accounts for over two-thirds of GDP.
As a result of Poland's growth and investment-friendly climate, the country has received over $65 billion in direct foreign investment since 1990. However, the government continues to play a strong role in the economy, as seen in excessive red tape and the high level of politicization in many business decisions. Investors complain that state regulation is not transparent or predictable; the economy suffers from a lack of competition in many sectors, notably telecommunications. In early 2002, the government announced a new set of economic reforms, designed in many ways to complete the process launched in 1990. The package acknowledges the need to improve Poland's investment climate, particularly the conditions for small and medium-sized enterprises, and better prepare the economy to compete as a European Union (EU) member. The government also aims to improve Poland's public finances to prepare for eventual adoption of the euro.
With the collapse of the ruble-based COMECON trading bloc in 1990, Poland scrambled to reorient its trade. As early as 1996, 70% of its trade was with EU-15 members, and neighboring Germany today is Poland's dominant trading partner. Most of Poland's imports are capital goods needed for industrial retooling and for manufacturing inputs, rather than imports for consumption. Therefore, a deficit is expected and should even be regarded as positive at this point. Poland, a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), has been steadily lowering tariffs in line with its WTO and EU commitments. Now that it is a member of the EU, Poland, applies the EU's common external tariff to goods from other countries--including the U.S. Opportunities for trade and investment continue to exist across virtually all sectors. The American Chamber of Commerce in Poland, founded in 1991 with seven members, now has more than 300 members. Strong economic growth potential, a large domestic market, EU membership, and political stability are the top reasons U.S. and other foreign companies do business in Poland.
Poland's top national security goal is to further integrate with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and other west European defense, economic, and political institutions via a modernization and reorganization of its military. Polish military doctrine reflects the same defense nature as its NATO partners.
Poland maintains a sizable armed force currently numbering about 175,343 troops divided among an army of 96,733, an air and defense force of 39,649, and a navy of 15,980. The Ministry of Defense has announced that the armed forces of Poland will number 150,000 by 2006. Poland relies on military conscription for the majority of its personnel strength. All males (with some exceptions) are subject to a 12-month term of military service. The Polish military continues to restructure and to modernize its equipment. The Polish Defense Ministry General Staff and the Land Forces staff have recently reorganized the latter into a NATO-compatible J/G-1 through J/G-6 structure. Budget constraints hamper such priority defense acquisitions as a multi-role fighter, improved communications systems, and an attack helicopter.
Poland continues to be a regional leader in support and participation in the NATO Partnership for Peace Program and has actively engaged most of its neighbors and other regional actors to build stable foundations for future European security arrangements. Poland continues its long record of strong support for UN Peacekeeping Operations by maintaining a unit in Southern Lebanon, a battalion in NATO's Kosovo Force (KFOR), and by providing and actually deploying the KFOR strategic reserve to Kosovo. Polish military forces have served in both Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Poland assumed command of a multinational division of stabilization forces in Iraq (MDN-CS) on September 3, 2003, contributing 2,400 troops.
Poland became a full member of NATO in March 1999. Poland promoted its NATO candidacy through energetic participation in the Partnership for Peace (PfP) program and through intensified individual dialogue between Poland and NATO. Poland was invited in the first wave of NATO enlargement at the July 1997 NATO Summit in Madrid.
Poland also has forged ahead on its economic integration with the West, joining the EU in May 2004. Previously, it became an associate member of the EU and its defensive arm, the Western European Union, in 1994. In the June 2003 national referendum, the Polish people approved EU accession by an overwhelming margin. Poland achieved full OECD membership in 1996.
Changes since 1989 have redrawn the map of central Europe, and Poland has had to forge relationships with seven new neighbors. Poland has actively pursued good relations with all its neighbors, signing friendship treaties replacing links severed by the collapse of the Warsaw Pact. The Poles have forged special relationships with Lithuania and particularly Ukraine in an effort to firmly anchor these states to the West.
The United States established diplomatic relations with the newly formed Polish Republic in April 1919. After Gomulka came to power in 1956, relations with the United States began to improve. However, during the 1960s, reversion to a policy of full and unquestioning support for Soviet foreign policy objectives and anti-Semitic feelings in Poland caused those relations to stagnate. U.S.-Polish relations improved significantly after Gierek succeeded Gomulka and expressed his interest in improving relations with the United States. A consular agreement was signed in 1972.
In 1974 Gierek was the first Polish leader to visit the United States. This action, among others, demonstrated that both sides wish to facilitate better relations.
The birth of Solidarity in 1980 raised the hope that progress would be made in Poland's external relations as well as in its domestic development. During this time, the United States provided $765 million in agricultural assistance. Human rights and individual freedom issues, however, were not improved upon, and the U.S. revoked Poland's most-favored-nation (MFN) status in response to the Polish Government's decision to ban Solidarity. MFN status was reinstated in 1987, and diplomatic relations were upgraded.
The United States and Poland have enjoyed warm bilateral relations since 1989. Every post-1989 Polish Government has been a strong supporter of continued American military and economic presence in Europe and has identified membership in NATO, the European Union, and other Western security and economic structures as Poland's principal foreign policy priority. Poland served successfully as the Chairman in Office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 1998. It has supported the Global War on Terror, contributed to Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and been a leader in the coalition in Iraq, where it has deployed some 2,400 troops. Poland cooperates closely with American diplomacy on such issues as nuclear proliferation, human rights, regional cooperation in central and eastern Europe, and UN reform.
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Deputy Chief of Mission--Cameron Munter
Press and Cultural Affairs Counselor--Edward J. Kulakowski
Political Counselor--Mary Curtin
Economic Counselor--Richard Rorvig
Consul General--Lisa Piascik
Management Counselor--Richard Jaworski
Agricultural Counselor--Wayne Molstad
Defense Attache--Henry Nowak
Principal Officer, Krakow--Ken Fairfax
Counselor for Commercial Affairs--Edgar Fulton
The street address and international mailing address of the U.S. Embassy in Poland is Aleje Ujazdowskie 29/31, 00540 Warsaw, Poland; tel: 48-22-504-2000; fax 48-22-504-2688. The Consulate General in Krakow is at Ulica Stolarska 9, 31-043 Krakow, Poland; tel: 48-12-424-5200; fax: 48-12-424-5100; and a Consular Agency in Poznan is at Ulica Paderewskiego 8, 61-708 Poznan, Poland; tel: 48-61-851-8516; fax: 48-61-851-8966.