2003 November 12 Wednesday
Radek Sikorski Sees US Failing To Build Ties With Central Europe

Troops from Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia and Ukraine are serving in Iraq. Sikorski points out that costs for supporting those forces in Iraq take money away from military modernization.

Central Europeans had also hoped that the United States would help them modernize their militaries. Because it's so much cheaper to send foreigners to Iraq than Americans, this seemed a good time to help these armies come closer to NATO standards, which would make them more easily deployable alongside U.S. forces. Instead, these countries' investments in defense are being postponed to finance operations in Iraq.

Does the US foot any of the bill for the costs? Those countries are not well developed and have much lower per capita GDPs than the United States. That is why the salaries of their soldiers are low enough to make their deployment to Iraq much cheaper than is the case with US troops.

As Central Europe becomes increasingly integrated with the rest of the European Union US influence looks set to decline regardless of what the US does.

As of next year, Western Europe's pull in Central Europe will multiply. Millions of motorists will see signs marking EU-financed infrastructure projects; millions of farmers will get EU agricultural subsidy checks in the mail; and tens of thousands of journalists, scientists and academics will become eligible for EU grants. If the United States wants to remain a player, it better get into the game.

It is simply not worth it for the United States to try to compete with the level of aid the EU is going to lavish upon the former Warsaw Pact countries. But the US could get smarter and use small amounts of money to at least symbolically reward the countries that are providing troops in Iraq. For instance, a few small contracts to Polish companies (Poland provides the biggest troop contingent from Central Europe) to help in the rebuilding would go a long way. Also, some sort of US equivalent of Rhodes scholarships for Europeans would help to build ties.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 November 12 11:22 AM  Europe and America

Thomas said at November 12, 2003 7:11 PM:

This dosn't sound correct. The EU just 'reformed' their farm policy so that only the current members will continue to get money. I also find it hard to beleive that the EU can afford to spend much on projects in eastern Europe,

Proborders said at November 15, 2003 5:17 PM:

I think the countries of Eastern Europe that are part of the Allied coalition in Iraq could be thanked by creating a special guest worker or immigration program for people from these countries.

Randy McDonald said at November 17, 2003 6:53 PM:

The European Union is cutting back on its subsidies generally to accomodate the new member states within its (limited) budget, yes. It certainly isn't abandoning subsidies entirely--there are plenty of ways apart from agriculture in which the European Union will subsidize the poorer member-states. Investment in infrastructure, for instance.

The central European states--the Czech Republic and Slovenia perhaps aside--are middle-income and lower-upper-income economies, but they are still so relatively poor that small amounts of money go further. Polish PPP-adjusted GNP per capita is 40% of Germany's, and Poland's population is half of Germany's; if GNP per capita was measured in terms of exchange rates, the size of the Polish GNP shrinks. The new member-states have something like 80 million people taken together and a PPP-adjusted GNP per capita half of the European Union average. EU funds have a ways to go.

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