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    Winter fades into Spring. Clocks move forward an hour. Light returns to the world.  Goodbye totalitarian winter. Hello friendly western wind blowing over Pomerania! Things are popping in the capital, which is a building site. I would wager there haven’t been so many upwardly mobile projects since the early 1950s when Stalin’s great erection, the Phallus of Culture, was being built. Eat your heart out Uncle Joe as Europe’s tallest building (310 metres) reaches for the sky. (The Empire State Building is 381 metres tall.) Some of us remember a time when you could sit in the sky bar at the American-built Marriott, sip a cocktail and lord it over the city. Now the Spire, Q22, Rondo 1, the Tarde Tower and the much-maligned Zloty 44 all look down on the Marriott.

    Things change. And yet … the old Russia vs. USA Poland rivalry is still as piping hot as a cup of McDonald’s coffee. I was reminded of this when some wag murmured to me something about why should Poland pay for an American army base when it can have a Russian one for free? Why indeed! It’s a history thing, people. To re-coin a phrase: The proof is in the pudding. And if you don’t mind wading thigh deep through history’s rich tapioca, then Poland’s Past – certainly over the last 200 years or so – is chock full of Russian-brand beneficence.  Make sure to review the ingredients carefully.

    You need look no further than the nearest reasonably informative history of Poland to see that the Russians have an exemplary record of contributing complimentary hands-on military assistance to first, the Kingdom, and then the Republic of Poland. Partitions, occupations, annexations. All gratis, don’t you know? They never charged a penny. Not so the Yanks.

    So, what has Uncle Sam done for Poland lately? You may well ask. Sure, the United States has proved willing in recent years to throw some men and material Poland’s way. While nothing on the scale of the proposed Camp Trump, whose proposed force would be much more than a mere token gesture of American regard for its ancient and more contemporary Revolutionary cousins. See Pulaski and Kosciuszko, John Paul and Solidarity.

    Poland’s President promised two billion dollars to the US for building a fort – a bulwark against those pesky Russians. Still, there is American reluctance to take up Poland’s gracious offer (hosting the Americans is much cheaper than building up Poland’s forces to stand alone against Putin, The Mafia Chieftain as my colleague, the filmmaker, Konchalovski named him.). And yet, NATO allies balk, not wanting to taunt the Ruskies, whose oil is an emollient in more ways than one.

    The picture blurs, yet the Russians are fully focused. They have always followed up their generous contributions with great attentiveness. See Poland in the last 240 years or so. Russians don’t give help lightly. They bring everything to the party, and they won’t leave until they are dragged out kicking and screaming. With the Yanks, you never know if they are even going to show up. See WWI and WWII. What kind of guest would you prefer? Is it a Hobson’s choice? For left-wingers perhaps…

    Unlike Uncle Sam, Uncle Joe’s inheritors do not play hard to get. They disdain jazzy improvisation. Their precision ballet demands command performances. With the Yanks you never know where you stand. Here today, gone tomorrow, slightly fickle, testing the wind with moistened middle finger. But, the Russians always know what they want.  It’s a kind of adoration. Like a stalker for the object of their affection. You can always trust the dependable Russians to jump in with both feet and make themselves at home. That’s the joke. With that in mind, who needs Uncle Sam coming around looking for handouts?

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