WORLD

WOOING THE EAST

IN POLAND AND HUNGARY, U.S. PRESIDENT BUSH WINS MARKS FOR DIPLOMACY BUT OFFERS MEAGRE AID

HOLGER JENSEN July 24 1989
WORLD

WOOING THE EAST

IN POLAND AND HUNGARY, U.S. PRESIDENT BUSH WINS MARKS FOR DIPLOMACY BUT OFFERS MEAGRE AID

HOLGER JENSEN July 24 1989

WOOING THE EAST

WORLD

IN POLAND AND HUNGARY, U.S. PRESIDENT BUSH WINS MARKS FOR DIPLOMACY BUT OFFERS MEAGRE AID

His motorcade blocked the view of many who came to see him in Warsaw. A Polish translator drowned out his words at the Gdańsk shipyard. And there were complaints that he had not put more money where his mouth was. Undaunted, President George Bush barnstormed in Eastern Europe last week as if he were seeking election, giving away a raincoat to an elderly woman, giving a ride to two students in his limousine and tearing up a speech to spare his audience during a Budapest downpour. He left with a snippet of wire from the fence that Hungary recently dismantled along its border with Austria—a gift from Hungarian Prime Minister Miklós Németh— which Bush called a “marvellous symbol” of the Iron Curtain coming down.

As the first U.S. president to visit Poland in 12 years, and the first ever to go to Hungary, Bush said that he had come on a “delicate mission”—to encourage democratization of the two Eastern Bloc nations without antagonizing Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. “I am not going to back off my principles because it might offend Mr. Gorbachev,” Bush told reporters on the flight to Warsaw from Washington on July 9. “But I am not going to try to put him in a box by throwing strains on the Warsaw Pact.” The President spent the next four days lavishing praise on his hosts—Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski for his “wisdom and courage” in allowing the Polish opposition to share power, the Hungarian “government and opposition alike” for their willingness to break with the past. That earned him high marks among Polish leaders for rhetoric, but his offers of American aid disappointed them as too meagre. “Pocket money,” sniffed a Polish Communist Politburo member. He added, “While we are very much satisfied with the political tone of the visit, the substance is somewhat limit-

ed.” Bush promised to ask for more help from his Western allies, whom he consulted at week’s end in Paris at the 15th annual Economic Summit (page 24).

The Bush entourage initially seemed to be taken aback by a muted welcome at Warsaw’s military airport, which was nearly deserted save for an official greeting committee and swarms of mosquitoes. But welcoming Bush, Jaruzelski was accompanied by Andrzej Wielowieyski, deputy speaker of Poland’s newly elected Senate and an adviser to Solidarity leader Lech Walesa. It was the first time a Solidarity member had been included in an official Polish state welcome, reflecting the profound changes that have brought the oncebanned trade union into parliament. In fact, while Bush was in Warsaw, a Solidarity representative was in Moscow apparently seeking Kremlin approval to form a new government.

The extent of Poland’s transformation was brought home the following day at a luncheon hosted by U.S. Ambassador John Davis. At the ambassador’s residence, Communist leaders

clinked champagne glasses with opposition leaders whom they had repeatedly imprisoned over the past eight years. Watching the mingling of former foes, a Polish official remarked sardonically to an American guest: “The jailers and the jadees.” Even the poker-faced Jaruzelski warmed up when Bush cajoled him into making a toast. “I have lived perhaps 50 or 80 m away from here for 16 years, and it is for the first time that I have come to this building and this residence,” he said.

But some of the camaraderie evaporated later that day. In an address to a joint meeting of the Polish parliament and Senate, Bush outlined a modest aid package that called for just $137 million in direct U.S. credits, $388 million in new World Bank loans and a promise to ask the Western allies to reschedule about $6 billion of Poland’s $46.5-billion foreign debt. He barely mentioned Poland’s economic ills— nearly 100-per-cent inflation, worsening shortages of food and consumer goods, and huge subsidies whose removal would cause further price increases—saying that hard work and

further sacrifice would eventually bring prosperity to the Polish people.

That message did not go down well with Walesa. The Solidarity leader, who had asked Bush for a $ 12-billion aid package over the next three years, let his displeasure be known at a private lunch on July 11 with the President and his wife, Barbara, in the Walesa s’ Gdansk home. Before a copious spread of chlodnik (a cold cabbage and vegetable soup), smoked eel, veal, roast beef, turkey, pork, salads and cakes, Walesa warned that Poland was a “powder

keg,” where economic collapse might cause a social upheaval that would sweep away the democratic reforms. Bush, sipping a glass of vodka, listened attentively, and Walesa later reported, “I think I convinced the President.”

The two men then went to place wreaths at a monument for striking shipyard workers shot down by troops in 1970. A crowd of more than 20,000 awaited them in Solidarity Square outside the Lenin shipyard, singing “Sto Lat ” (May he live 100 years), a traditional Polish greeting. Clearly moved by the emotional high point of his visit, Bush hailed Walesa—the shipyard electrician who won the 1983 Nobel Peace Prize for his role in creating Solidarity— as “one of the heroes of our times.” And to the cheers of the crowd, the President declared: “To those who think that dreams can forever be repressed, I say let them look at Poland. For here the dream is alive.” In a brief statement, Walesa reminded Bush that political and economic transformation had to go hand-in-hand. Otherwise, he said, Poland might face a tragedy similar to China, where troops last month massacred students demonstrating for democracy in Beijing. “One should keep a balance between political and economic reforms,” he said, “because experience shows that lack of such a balance leads to Tiananmen Square.” Flying on to Hungary, which also has introduced free-market ideas and is expected to hold free elections next year, Bush conferred with both Communist party boss Károly Grósz and opposition leaders in Budapest and offered “the partnership of the United States of America to propel reform.” But it amounted to no more than a $30-million fund to encourage private enterprise, Peace Corps volunteers to teach English and permanent “most-favorednation” trade status once Budapest removes restrictions on emigration. Again, as he had in Poland, Bush told Hungarians they too would have to make sacrifices. The President said that “the transition to a productive economy will test your mettle as a people.” Hungarian officials were more sanguine about the selfhelp proviso than their Polish counterparts. As Trade Minister Tamás Beck put it, “The Americans are not giving us the fish but the net.”

Bush left Hungary on July 13, confident that he had made an impact throughout the Soviet Bloc. “I would expect that this visit has been watched by the people of other Eastern Euro-

_ pean countries and hopefully

give encouragement to those who want to go the path of reform,” he told reporters on his plane to Paris for the Economic Summit. As if on cue, the next day a spokesman for Czechoslovakia's Charter 77 human rights group said that nearly 7,000 Czechoslovaks—including 52 policemen— signed a petition demanding political freedoms from their hard-line Communist leadership in Prague.

HOLGER JENSEN

BOGDAN TUREK

SUE MASTERMAN