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New Jerzy

I don’t think anyone is naive enough to believe that the highly state-controlled business of arms sales isn’t a tool of foreign policy. With that is mind, news of this deal might be interesting:

“Lockheed Martin has won a contract to supply 48 new F-16 fighter jets to Poland, in Eastern Europe’s biggest military deal.

The US firm beat off competition from the French manufacturer Dassault and a joint British-Swedish venture by BAE Systems and Saab to secure the deal.”

I have not the first clue about the relative technical merits, or otherwise, of the various fighter jets concerned but I do know that high-grade weapons deals such as this are loaded (scuse pun) with political and diplomatic significance. The arms business is seldom just about business as one of the parties to the negotiations is only too quick to point out:

“Dassault chief executive Charles Edelstenne accused the Polish government of making a political decision by choosing an American plane rather than a European one.

“The political element was the dominating element, much more than the quality of the material and the price,” he told Radio France Info.

“I felt for a very long time that they very much favoured rapprochement with the Americans. So it’s not a surprise,” he said.”

Sour grapes? Well, possibly. But, then again, he might just be right:

“Lockheed was backed by a $3.8bn US government financing package and some heavy lobbying by President George W Bush’s administration.”

Alright, every government lobbies on behalf of its domestic arms industry. But Poland is one of the ten or so former Eastern Bloc countries pencilled in to join the European Union in 2004 and, arguably, the most important of them. How odd that the Poles should so publicly rebuff their prospective Euro-partners in favour of the Great Satan.

Could it be that the above-mentioned ‘lobbying’ was about more than jet-fighters and that the Bush administration has decided it would be good strategy to gently lure the Poles away from the twitching tentacles of Brussels? Watch that space.

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15 comments to New Jerzy

  • Of course a political element is involved, and certainly some of this is aimed at protecting US (or perceived US) interests in Poland as it joins the EU, but…

    …but, the real motivation here is the US economy and how it influences election outcomes. US voters reward those politicians who create employment or prop up industries that would otherwise be forced into reducing their workforce. 48 fighter jets equates to an insane number of influenced corporations, contractors, and workers. And come election time, that will pay a higher dividend than any influence we might gain in Europe.

  • John J. Coupal

    Sorry, Damelon.

    In an economy as large as the US, 48 war planes is not that big a deal to local US defense contractor economies.

    The big deal is enticing Poland to rethink its alignment with the EU.

    Poland would be a tremendous addition to an enlarged international Free Trade Agreement. The EU is sucking Europe into decline.

    I’m sure the Bush administration tried to prevent Poland from getting entangled in the EU anchor, and being pulled underwater.

  • Eric

    I agree, John…sort of…
    It’s probably too late to talk Poland out of the EU. There may be too much inertia, though I think they should look at it carefully. My thought is this “deal” does two things (besides the obvious move of saving 500 American jobs which it will also do):
    1) It moves Poland closer to the US emotionally. The fact that the US is willing to float a loan this size and invest further in Poland (something like another $10 Billion worth of investment or “off-set deals” on top of the $3.5 billion loan) is a wonderful vote of confidence from the United States to a country struggling to overcome 50 years of ideological occupation. The average Pole is extremely proud of their country and national heritage. They are also tied to the United States by more than common purpose. Nearly everyone I met when traveling there had relatives living in the US. Something like this will effect them profoundly.
    2) It moves Poland closer to the US politically. Poland is the largest former communist bloc nation to soon be entering the EU. What Bush may be doing is setting up the beginnings of another staunch Britain-like ally in the midst of the EU. Unlike France or Germany, I have no sense that the nations in Eastern Europe lack a military will. What they lack is capability. Moving Poland forward in technology and training is a message to the traditional European powers about who we may be dealing with in a future Europe. It also allows Poland to make a contribution to NATO, or more to our advantage, the Rumsfeldian coalitions. An already sympathetic country may in time (10 years?) become our second most valuable friend in Europe.

  • Why be sorry? Our opinions are not the same, nothing more.

    48 planes may not be a large dollar value in the US economy or even to the US weapons contractors economies, but I don’t think I said they were. My point was the those contractors, and corporations, and unions and the way they vote (and how much they contribute) are more important to the administration than the benefits gained in other areas. Especially to an adminstration that still has one more term to secure.

  • David Carr

    I don’t think Damelon is wrong exactly because undoubtedly this deal will also provide domestic political benefits for Bush.

    But that doesn’t explain why the Poles so deliberately snubbed the European contenders. I recall, a few years ago, the the Ministry of Defence here in the UK were advising HMG to buy a the F-16 as a replacement for the RAF’s fleet of ageing Tornadoes. However, for raisons d’Euro the government opted instead for participation in the European Fighter Project not because it is any better but because it confirmed our commitment to the EU.

  • Fred Boness

    Eighteen nations fly F-16 fighters. Over 4000 have been built.

    The cost of operation is half that of the Gripen or Euro fighter and a tenth the cost of operating a Tornado.

    The F-16 is a NATO standard fighter. Belgium, Norway, Denmark, and Netherlands were the first European countries to adopt the F-16. Major parts of their aircraft are built in Europe.

    The F-16 is a combat proven aircraft with an exceptional record.

    Choosing the Euro fighter or Gripen or Dassault would give Poland access to European technology. Choosing the F-16 gives Poland access to American technology to include a path to the successer to the F-16. The American idiomatic expression for a choice this obvious is “no brainer.”

    Quit whining. Poland made an excellent choice.

  • Poland is a close ally in Europe of the US, along with the Czechs.

    Poland has a semi-official intelligence sharing arrangement with the US.

    But the US establishment favours a Poland in the EU for geo-political stability reasons.

  • Geo

    What Fred said. Eight nations in the EU already fly the F-16, making the Polish decision not only financially sound but also good tech planning for the future.

    Clearly there are all kinds of benefits for the US (more jobs, votes for Bush, closer ties with Poland, strengthened overseas market for the US technology). Which explains why Lockheed/Washington offered Poland loans for $3.8 billion plus a package of 80+ industrial projects valued at about $8 billion to sweeten the deal, compared to the 3.8 billion euro offset from French Dassault.

    Realpolitik is all about nations making decisions based upon their own enlightened self-interest. Poland didn’t do this as a political snub to Europe. They did it because it made financial and technological sense – both in the short term and in the long term.

    From the International Herald Tribune:
    “I just can’t understand why the French offset offer was so weak,” said Krzysztof Zalewski of the military aviation magazine Lotnictwo Wojskowe.

    Clearly, the French expected the Poles to award them the contract partly out of altruistic EU loyalty, rather than purely on the financial and technological merits of the deal. They were wrong.

  • Kevin

    Fred and Geo are right.

    The Poles bought F-16s for the same reason I bought a Chevrolet: It fits my needs, parts are plentiful, and the price is right.

    That said, however, one shouldn’t ignore the significance of their decision. The Poles are going to do what is best for Poland, not what is best for Paris. This is what the heavily subsidized Eurocrats call “unfair trade”.

    Kevin

  • Sandy P.

    1. Chicago at one time had the greatest concentration of Poles outside of Warsaw. A lot of money flowed to the old country via the US.

    2. A French (quelle surprise) told a Polish Defense Minister that Poland should be strengthening ties w/Europe, not America.

    Pole’s response was something along the lines of, “Will France send its Mirages to defend us in case the Russians attack?”

    3. $3.8 B. is not a lot of money in the greater scheme of things.

    4. W and Poland’s President get along very well.

    5. We should remove our remaining divisions out of Germany into Poland & the Czech Republic. And build the new terrorism training center there, too. It’s time to reward our friends, not “allies” because of something that happened 60 years ago. Germany & France are leading the EU down the rabbit hole, and at this point in time, quite a few Americans would rather stand back and watch you learn the folly of your ways.

    6. Next stop Romania, where, after a French (!) minister made a comment about Romania’s strengthening ties to America, responded something like this, “Well, maybe after a few decades of prosperity, we, too, can take the Americans for granted.”

    Anyone see a pattern here?

  • Ant1

    It obviously wasn’t a political decision. They didn’t buy the Eurofighter, unlike the RAF. Shame the British public can’t do a swap. The Polish airforce would sweep the shambolic Blairite farce out of the skies in two days, assuming there are enough parts for any British planes to get off the ground.
    Glad Poland’s in NATO, we might need them.
    Bet their army has rifles that work…

  • LuminaT

    I’m sure it is a fine plane on paper, but I was wondering if any Eurofighters have ever seen action–how do they perform?

  • David Carr

    Ant1,

    So, presumably you also regard the Dassault Mirage 2000 as a pile of junk. Duly noted.

  • Dennis Patten

    The US (and the UK for that matter) have had long standing intelligence ties with Poland prior to and after the second war. It does my heart good to see Poland becoming a Western nation again. As for the matter of the F-16s they are a far superior fighter to what the French produce (have you ever driven a Renault?) they are cheaper to fly, easier to maintain and have vast stocks of spare parts. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Poland acquire more military hardware From the US in the near future. God Bless Poland

  • Maybe the Poles see the UK’s ‘no it’s not really a boycott. We’re not seeling you those needed parts’ attitude to Israel and decided that it’s better to side with the more relaible Uncle Sam.