The Corner

World

Poland, Europe, and Beyond

Young activists take part in the Global Climate Strike in Krakow, Poland, September 20, 2019. (Jakub Wlodek / Agencja Gazeta via Reuters)

Radek Sikorski is well familiar to readers of National Review. In the first part of his life, he was a journalist: writing for publications British and American, including NR. He was a distinguished war correspondent in Afghanistan. Then the Iron Curtain fell: and he went home to Poland to begin a political career. Today, he is a member of the European Parliament. (He also has academic affiliations.) In times past, he has been foreign minister and defense minister.

This is a man of unusually wide experience. And he is my guest (once more) on Q&A, here.

There is plenty to discuss, beginning with the recent Polish election. Beginning with the pandemic, actually: How has Poland fared in the ongoing disaster? (Pretty well, fortunately.) We go on to talk about Europe at large. And NATO. And the U.S. role in Europe.

Some Americans think that U.S. troops should be reduced in Germany and added in Poland. Is that wise?

We further talk about Vladimir Putin, who, “on the economy of Italy,” as Sikorski says, is playing an impressive global game. He has a base in Syria and will probably have more to say about the outcome of that war than the United States will. He has a foothold in Libya. And elsewhere. Putin is a master disrupter, and democratic leaders seem to have little appetite to check him.

As our conversation continues, Sikorski and I talk about some of his old friends, classmates, acquaintances. These include Boris Johnson, his contemporary at Oxford. And Viktor Orban, ditto. As you remember, Orban went to Oxford on a scholarship provided by George Soros. Orban was a great liberal-democratic hope in Hungary. History, like individual lives, can take funny turns.

What about Afghanistan, where Sikorski went during the Soviet war there? Would a U.S. withdrawal at this juncture make sense?

Radek Sikorski and I cover a lot of ground in a relatively brief time (40 minutes). He was an excellent interviewer, in his years as a journalist, and he is an excellent interviewee. I can’t help thinking that the two go together. Anyone can learn from Radek, or be challenged by him — regardless of one’s political views. At the end of our conversation, I ask Radek a personal question or two. Even about a movie (Cold War, the Polish film from 2018).

One thing he stresses: that liberal-democratic values have to be explained, argued for, and promoted, in every generation, at all times. They don’t explain, argue for, or promote themselves. They will always have challengers, left and right. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, people tended to say or think, “Well, that’s it, then.” No — it is never it.

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