LONDON, Nov. 12 (UPI) -- The people of Poland have spoken. Thankfully, they have dumped Jaroslaw Kaczynski and his xenophobic Law and Justice Party, or PiS, for Donald Tusk. Tusk is the head of the centrist, free-market Civic Platform, or PO. A bone of contention is former Defense Minister Radek Sikorski, now nominated to be Poland's foreign minister, whose appointment Kaczynski has been attempting to block.
Sikorski, an independent and severe critic of Communism, resigned as Poland's defense minister last year to protest Prime Minister Kaczynski's dismantling of Poland's intelligence services. The prime minister and his twin brother, Lech – the Polish president – accused some prominent dissidents, including Solidarity's Tadeusz Mazowiecki and former Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek, of being foreign agents – an abject lie. The twins used the intelligence issue – on the face of it a valid topic -- to go engage in a witch-hunt of political opponents. Sikorski knew this, and refused to go along with the charade.
Sikorski, who was deputy defense minister in 1992, deputy foreign minister from 1998-2001 and a Polish senator after 2005, sought asylum in the United Kingdom as a journalist in 1981 when Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski called martial law. The Oxford-educated Sikorski took British citizenship in 1984. In 1988, he won the World Press Photo prize and after the fall of Communism advised Rupert Murdoch on Poland. Sikorski's wife is the respected U.S. historian and journalist Anne Applebaum.
Radek Sikorski is a complicated and intelligent man – a man who does not suffer fools gladly. In early 2000, he engendered the wrath of the Polish expatriate community for promoting a particularly strict policy regarding citizenship status in Poland. He has since distanced himself from some of its more controversial points.
President Kaczynski has accused Sikorski of being anti-United States. This is utterly absurd. Sikorski has been a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute where he ran the New Atlantic Initiative. On a recent trip to Columbus, Ohio, Ambassador Richard Schnepf, former chief foreign policy and security adviser to Marcinkiewicz, told me, "Radek is a very reliable partner for the United States. He is a serious person. He knows Poland and her culture. Besides, a Polish minister should first and foremost be loyal to Poland and her interests."
Sikorski has been critical of the U.S. approach to the Missile Defense System. The system, to be partly based in Poland and the Czech Republic (read my op-ed "Putin's Bush whack" from June 16), has created serious tensions between the United States and Russia. Sikorski feels the United States should have done a better job of working the ground in Poland. I agree. He has received support from the much respected Stuart Eizenstat.
A Polish president and prime minister should first and foremost be looking-out for the interests of Poland. They should be supporting the interests of the Polish people, those who elected them. Any minister they appoint should be loyal to Poland and her people. They should not be a lackey of any other country – period! Sikorski is such a person. He has been -- and still is -- loyal to Poland; as he was, even through the darkest days of Communism when he was persona-non-grata.
My measure of a friendship is someone who will tell me the truth. It is someone who will stand up to me when it is uncomfortable. It is someone I can rely on through thick and thin, through good and bad. It is someone who will give me unfiltered information, even when it is especially painful. It is someone who will not flinch -- no matter what the circumstance.
The United States needs friends more than ever before. In our zest to seek support for U.S. foreign policy failures, we have forgotten the meaning of true friendship. Friendship is not looking to those who support us with a gun to their heads. Friendship is not those who succumb to supporting us because we have forced their hand. Friendship is real. It is sometimes intangible. We have trotted on some of our strongest friends, while mistaking as friends those who would do the Untied States serious harm.
The United States will not be able to solve future foreign policy issues without her friends. From Iraq to Iran, from China to Europe, from Russia to North Korea, the United States needs a new paradigm – a paradigm that shows respect for her friends, even when they massively disagree with us
I know Sikorski. He is both a Polish patriot and a friend of the United States.
(UPI Columnist Marc S. Ellenbogen is chairman of the Berlin- based Global Panel Foundation and president of the Prague Society. He is a member of the National Advisory Board of the U.S. Democratic Party where he is the vice-chairman of the Democratic Expat Leadership Council. He has been a Visiting Fellow at Magdalen College, Oxford)