“We care for the good name of Poland in the U.S.”
What are the think-tanks, who uses their services and how the Polish forge of ideas operating in Washington may affect the transatlantic policy and the political position of the Polish diaspora. Interview with Izabela Wojtyczka, vice-president of the Warsaw Institute Foundation, the first Polish think-tank operating in the United States.
Grzegorz Dziedzic: – It is said that where two Poles are, there are three opinions, and each Pole considers himself a specialist in politics. Are these legitimate statements?
Izabela Wojtyczka: – At Warsaw Institute, which is an organization operating on the rights of a think tank, we want to act and improve decision-making processes and help understand the processes that take place in international politics and what is happening in relations between states. We want to explain and bring this knowledge to every citizen. Our mission is to share knowledge from top-class experts and practitioners. Differences in views are natural and occur in all civilized societies.
Let’s start with what a think-tank is? What are these institutions doing?
– Such organizations deal with the analysis and dissemination of information on generally understood public matters. Warsaw Institute, as a geopolitical think-tank, deals with the elaboration of analyzes and reports on foreign policy, state, history and culture as well as conclusions resulting from the analysis of these issues. Our task is to prepare such analyzes and provide the knowledge flowing to them to policy makers, institutions and citizens.
Who orders this type of analysis and reports from the Warsaw Institute?
– At Warsaw Institute, we focus on analyzing the current situation. We observe important events in international politics affecting Poland and the entire region of Central and Eastern Europe. Basically, we are the originators of the content of the analyzes and reports that are created. Our experts write analyzes on a given subject, investigate the phenomena occurring on the international arena, because we believe that they are important for spreading knowledge, supporting the Polish raison d’état and relations with our allies.
There are several dozen think-tanks in Poland and they deal with various issues. It happens that these institutions serve the particular interests of a party or group of influence. For example, there are think-tanks in the United States that support Republican, conservative thought, as well as progressive think-tanks that are the ideological background of the Democrats. Where is the Warsaw Institute located ideologically?
– Each think-tank has a specific profile and, to a greater or lesser extent, advocates a specific vision of reality. The Warsaw Institute is a conservative think-tank, but it is an independent organization, that is, not associated with any political party. Of course, there are think-tanks that are also financed directly from public funds and are subject to government agencies.
What are the main goals of the Warsaw Institute?
– We can name a lot of goals and activities, but the main thing is to strengthen the position and good image of Poland on the international arena through the reports, analyzes and organized projects we publish. We want to hit our content primarily to an English-speaking audience. Our goal is to promote the Polish point of view on international affairs as well as our culture and native history. We also want to support Polish economic development. We deal with a whole spectrum of issues, such as energy security, defense industry, historical policy, disinformation issues. We support transatlantic relations, the initiative of the Trójmiasto or projects such as Fort Trump. We conduct four analytical programs on a current basis concerning Russia, Ukraine, Romania and the Baltic countries. We publish analyzes regarding these regions, as well as special reports regarding the most important events in the world from our point of view. Our flagship product is the English-language quarterly magazine “The Warsaw Institute Review”, which goes to experts, academia and media representatives around the world. The quarterly contains studies and analyzes on international relations as seen through the eyes of Polish strategic interests and Central and Eastern Europe. We also publish books presenting important Polish characters and events or dedicated to Polish history or culture.
Warsaw Institute is the first Polish think-tank that goes beyond the Polish market and starts operations in the United States. Where did the decision to create a branch in Washington come from?
– From the beginning of our activity, we intended to go beyond our borders abroad and reach foreign recipients. That’s why we decided to publish our analyzes and periodicals in English, which is an absolute novelty on the Polish think-tank market, because most of the content in Poland is directed to the domestic recipient. Warsaw Institute, as I have already mentioned, supports transatlantic relations. We believe that the United States is an important partner for Poland. This partner should understand us well, and for this to happen, we must be present on the spot. Hence the decision to create a twin institution in Washington, The Warsaw Institute Foundation. We want to show that we are a think-tank whose goal is to take care of Poland’s interests, and to establish and develop relations with American political decision-makers and local think-tanks. We want Poland and Poles to be better understood in the USA. We operate in the broader interest of Poland. We want to develop our alliance, which is why we intend to organize in the United States panels, conferences and debates with the participation of American and Polish experts and politicians, on topics that concern mutual relations, as well as the whole spectrum of other goals.
One of your analytical programs is about Russia and the Kremlin’s foreign policy. Do you have ambitions to advise the American administration, as people who better understand the Russian mentality, by using Zbigniew Brzeński? Your analyzes about Russia can be very helpful for Americans.
– Russian analysis is only one of our programs, it has been mainly dealt with by the Warsaw branch. Certainly our understanding of Russian policy will allow us to respond to the current situation with appropriate sensitivity. In Washington, we also set ourselves other goals. In addition to taking care of Poland’s good name in the US and developing mutual relations, we want to strengthen the knowledge of Poland among Polish people, promote Polish traditions and the contribution that Poles made to the development of world culture and science. We want to ensure that Poland has an ally in the United States, and a positive image among Americans. The issues related to Polish military and energy security are important for us, and in this area we see strong links and joint efforts of Poland and the US, such as the Nord Stream 2 case. It seems that both countries perceive the issue similarly, that is, as a political project, and not – as, for example, Russians or Germans say – serving the implementation of economic goals. Here, moreover, the interests of Washington and the Kremlin in Europe are clashing, which we due to our location on the continent, and additionally analyzing the current activities of Russia, we can explore and thus be a direct partner for the Americans. Another example of common interests is the creation in Poland of the US military base Fort Trump, whose concept we also support.
For several days, you have been visiting Chicago. Why do we owe this visit?
– I came here representing both the Warsaw and Washington branch of our think-tank. In order to be able to operate in the United States and achieve our goals, we must cooperate with Poles living permanently in the USA who understand the realities of this country, know the local culture, the mentality of Americans and know how to talk to them. At the same time, they remain Polish patriots, they realize that we all have responsibilities resulting from being citizens of our country and we want to serve Poland. I am in Chicago to meet such people and invite them to cooperation.
The common opinion in Poland about the Polonia of Chicago is, to put it mildly, flattering. Meanwhile, you come here looking for people who will work with a geopolitical think-tank.
– For the creation of a think tank or geopolitical analysis with us, we invite people who will identify with our business. The Poles I met in Chicago are aware of the fact that Polish interests should be represented in the United States in a serious way. We want to be a platform open to Poles in the United States. We operate in Washington, but we want to cooperate with Poles scattered throughout the United States, and Chicago as a very important Polonia center is all the more important to us. We want to be present here, cooperate with local Poles and in the future perhaps also here to organize meetings and conferences devoted to geopolitics. Washington is important to us because it is the center of American political, expert and public debate, but we are opening up to cooperation with Polonia in other cities like New York and Chicago.
Contemporary Polonia, when it comes to its influence and meaning in American politics, is unfortunately the shadow of Polonia from many years ago. Is there a way to restore Polonia’s political significance?
– First of all, you should act with a sense of common good and common interest. Do not look for divisions that will always result, because people from different views form Polonia. I imagine Polonia as a group which, despite the differences in worldview, sets common goals for itself, more important than the differences that divide it. It is important to unite around these goals, and the potential of Poles in the United States and what Poles can achieve is enormous.
Polonia is able to unite well in the face of a fight with a common enemy. She gave this expression many times, supporting Polish independence efforts, and then supporting her countrymen in the fight against the German occupant, and later with the communist regime. Now, when the enemy is lacking, instead of speaking with one voice, we focus on internal conflicts.
– Perhaps the time has come to stop uniting around dramatic events and in the face of danger. We trust that democracy in Poland will be a lasting system, that we will not face another threat of armed conflict. We can cooperate over divisions, but it is difficult to unequivocally assess the situation inside Polonia. I watch her rather from the position of Warsaw. And I am convinced that you can pursue common goals in small steps. There are a lot of such goals.
For me it is symptomatic that Polonia has no representative in Congress. Do you think that there is a chance to choose such a representative and leader? For some new Rostenkowski?
– Polonia mainly unites at the cultural level, maintaining Polish traditions and customs. However, our task, as an institution close to the American administration, is to identify, analyze and present Poland’s vital interests to American decision-makers. So far, we have organized four events in Washington, including a joint conference with the Heritage Foundation, which is one of the most renowned American think-tanks or a conference organized with Jamestown dedicated to the Tri-City. In the US, we have a lot to do. Of course, the ambassador is also a Polish representative in Congress. However, we are aware that to achieve these goals, we need hard and persistent work.
Where do you see the Warsaw Institute Foundation in five years?
– We want to grow and want to be noticed. We want to be read and our experts co-create important international conferences. As an expert unit, we want our analyzes to be used in making key international decisions. In this context, it is worth mentioning our publication, which was used in the analysis of the US Congress, titled “Putin’s Asymmetric Assault on Democracy in Russia and Europe: Implications for U.S. National Security. ” We have the ambition that our expert opinions will reach policy makers in the United States and provide a substantive basis for the analysis of academic, scientific and political centers around the world.
One of the main goals of your think-tank is to defend the good name of Poland. How to effectively do it?
– The most important is the positive message, that is, speaking well about our country. It is also important to support Polish interests. We want to show the world people who were positive heroes of our country, but also made a significant contribution to the construction of world heritage, including the construction of the independence of the United States. The existence of a Polish think-tank in Washington helps to build this image. We publish a quarterly in English, we are present at conferences, in Washington’s daily public and political life. The good name of the state must be worked out for years, it is a long process. That’s why we operate and create our products to influence the audience’s perception and rely on historical and ongoing truth as well as persevere to build a positive message. I hope that these recipients will be more and more, and our message will be clearer and better heard.
“Dziennik Związkowy”, as the only daily newspaper published in the United States in Polish, decided to help in this difficult task. Soon, the Warsaw Institute and Warsaw Institute Foundation will publish their articles and studies on our pages.
– We are very happy about it. We invite you warmly to read the “Dziennik Dziennika” and our articles. We also invite you to our website, where you will find many reports, articles and studies. The cyclically-appearing column in the “Dziennik Związkowy” will be devoted to current events, mainly concerning transatlantic relations. I am convinced that it will enable Polonia to get acquainted with our opinions. We count on your support and hints, which in the context of Polish-American relations is important for the Polish community from the perspective of Warsaw, what should be written about and what phenomena are particularly interesting.