Bush Visit Boosts Polish Morale
But modest aid offer leaves some Poles feeling cheated and concerned about the future. PLAYING IT CAUTIOUS IN POLAND
AS a child growing up in Poland, Jacek Gavrikowski remembers, he was forced by his teachers to go and wave a hammer-and-sickle flag during visits by communist leaders. This week, Mr. Gavrikowski waved a Stars and Stripes for visiting US President George Bush. As the presidential motorcade passed, thousands of other well-wishers, three and four deep, joined Gavrikowski in loud cheers as they waved, flashed the Solidarity ``V'' for victory symbol, and threw flowers at the row of limousines.Skip to next paragraph
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``The only other person worth coming for would be the Pope,'' Gavrikowski said. ``I hope he [Bush] can bring us a little more democracy and prosperity.''
President Bush, whose three-day visit here ended yesterday, responded to the enthusiasm of the Polish people by mixing praise with caution.
Wherever he went, he saluted Poland's recent moves toward more democracy, including again legalizing the independent trade union Solidarity and holding partially free legislative elections.
But Mr. Bush also warned Poles that their task remains fraught with dangers.
``The future beckons with both hope and uncertainty,'' he said in his major speech before the Polish parliament, the only parliament in the communist world with an elected opposition. ``A profound cycle of turmoil and great change is sweeping the world from Poland to the Pacific. It is sometimes inspiring as here, in Warsaw. Sometimes it is agonizing, as in China today.''
The political situation in Poland itself could move either toward repression or freedom, longtime observers say.
After Solidarity's sweeping election win last month, the movement's leaders are weighing the formation of a government led by their own prime minister. After lunching with Bush, top Solidarity adviser Adam Michnik left for Moscow to confer with Soviet officials. Other Solidarity leaders will go to the Paris economic summit at the end of the week to discuss their plans with Western leaders. Meanwhile, Communist leader Wojciech Jaruzelski is reconsidering his decision to withdraw from running for the new post of president.
During Bush's visit, the aim of American officials apparently was to promote democracy without provoking destabilization. That meant not encouraging overly enthusiastic anticommunist demonstrations. It also meant not fueling Soviet fears that Washington wants to replace Moscow as the dominant force in Eastern Europe.
``If all the United States did was come in here and thrust a huge amount of money on the table, it could be perceived by the Soviet Union as merely an attempt to buy the Soviet Union out of influence in this region,'' White House Chief of Staff John Sununu said. ``If you do that, that's destabilizing. It's not good for Poland in the long run.''
As it turned out, Bush's offer of financial aid was modest. He announced a $100 million fund to encourage private enterprise, a $15 million venture to fight pollution, and support for a $325 million World Bank loan. Most important, he promised to push other Western countries at the Paris summit to defer payment of up to $5 billion of Poland's $39 billion debt.
US national security adviser Brent Scowcroft agreed that ``the direct aid from the United States is, yes, more symbolic of our support for what the Poles are trying to do.''
``Other than relief from some of the debt burden that they have, the Poles are going to have to do this by themselves,'' he added, ``and it's basically a tough job of economic reform and restructuring.''
The US message received a mixed response. Both Communist and Solidary leaders expressed appreciation for Bush's political support. Personal contacts, they said, were marked by genuine warmth.