Transatlantic Trends 2014: What Does It Tell Us about Poland? (9/15)     Print

By Marcin Bylica, European Affairs Editorial Assistant

As a Polish graduate student with a strong interest in transatlantic relations I was particularly interested in results from Poland in the recent Transatlantic Trends survey, a yearly poll conducted by the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

One striking statistic -- striking because it stands in contrast to the rest of Europe -- is that fully 37% of respondents in Poland wish for a closer U.S.-EU partnership, while only 22% prefer more independence for the EU. The average results for the thirteen polled countries are much less favorable for the U.S. -- 26% favoring closer ties and 50% seeking more independence. The independence trend is particularly strong in Germany where only 19% would like to see the partnership become closer and 57% want a more independent approach -- a dramatic increase over last year. Poland is also the only country polled in which approval of President Obama has risen relative to 2009. In the rest of Europe Obama still gets high approval ratings but they have dropped in this year’s polling.

Polish respondents feel particularly strongly about the undesirability of Russia’s leadership in world affairs (81%) and about the need for Europe and the West to provide economic and political support to Ukraine even if it causes conflict with Russia (67%). Although support for NATO has recently risen throughout the entire EU, nowhere is the increase as large as in Poland where it now stands at 62%, up 15% from 2013. It is worth mentioning that the surveys were conducted before the crash of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in Ukraine after which it’s likely that feelings are even stronger.

These trends show a combination of Poland’s historically motivated wariness of Russia and pragmatism regarding Polish security. The European Union has played a crucial role in Poland’s development, and the EU is seen in a highly favorable light (second highest to Germany out of the polled EU countries) but the eagerness to maintain a good relationship with the U.S. and to support NATO stems from the acknowledgement of EU’s limited military capacity.

EU’s limited military capacity increasingly bothers Americans. Fully 70% of polled Americans declared a desire for more EU leadership in world affairs – a 13% increase since last year. However, EU support for U.S. leadership has been constant for the past few years (56% in 2014).

The results of the survey show that Poland is largely supportive both of the EU and of the transatlantic alliance. At a time when many European countries are becoming more critical of the EU and the U.S., the recent appointment of the Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk to the position of the President of the European Council is not only a symbolic acknowledgement of Poland’s achievements but could also prove to be an important step toward strengthening the transatlantic relationship.