The Polish Model

A Conversation With Radek Sikorski

Radek Sikorski grew up in Bydgoszcz, Poland, where he led a student strike committee during protests against the communist regime in the spring of 1981. He was studying abroad when the Jaruzelski government declared martial law later that year, and he was granted political asylum in the United Kingdom from 1982 to 1989. After graduating from Oxford, he worked as a journalist, returning to Poland after its democratic revolution in 1989 and entering politics. He served as deputy minister of national defense in 1992, deputy minister of foreign affairs in 1998–2001, and minister of national defense in 2005–7; since late 2007, he has been Poland’s minister of foreign affairs. He spoke with Foreign Affairs editor Gideon Rose in March.

You and your country have lived through a lot of history over the years, a lot of epic ideological and geopolitical conflict. Will Poland’s future be as turbulent as its past, or have you reached an equilibrium that will allow you to have a normal national life?
Indeed, both the Second World War and Solidarity started in Gdansk. The twentieth century was a roller coaster for Poland, regaining independence after World War I, then losing it and getting ethnically cleansed by Stalin and Hitler together, and then 45 years of struggle for democracy. Hopefully, we’ll produce less history than in the past. Geopolitically, we are having the best time in 300 years. And we are now contributing to other countries’ stability, being a source of European solutions.

So Poland is finally at the “end of History”?
Inshallah, as they say.

You have said that by background and experience, you might well have become a Euroskeptic, and yet you’re the opposite. How come?
As a conservative with a small c, I have a healthy suspicion of human institutions and of centralizing too much power at too high a level. And I lived for some years as a political exile in Britain, and if you only read, and believe, the British press, it’s hard not to become a Euroskeptic. But since then, I have learned from experience how the European Union actually works, and it was a surprise. It is very difficult, for example, to pass a European directive, because it’s not at all a fiat by Brussels bureaucrats, but something that needs the agreement of member states.

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