- By Emily TamkinEmily Tamkin is a staff writer at Foreign Policy. She writes for FP’s The Cable, a real-time take on the news in Washington and the wider world. She has been at FP since the fall of 2016, before which she was an associate editor at New America, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington. She has a B.A. in Russian literature from Columbia University, an M.Phil. in Russian and East European studies from the University of Oxford, and studied Soviet dissidence in archival centers in Moscow, Tbilisi, and, on a Fulbright, in Bremen — all of which means that at FP, she writes when she can on Russia and Central and Eastern Europe.
On Thursday, Lech Walesa, socialist-era dissident leader turned Polish president, posted a photo on Facebook of himself with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump as a younger man. The photo was accompanied by a long note on how he, Walesa, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and occasionally accused socialist spy, inspired Donald Trump to run for president.
“Once again, I would like to congratulate President Donald J. Trump,” Walesa began, quickly continuing, “Yesterday I received word from the representatives of the Polish diaspora working as Trump’s election staffers that the President-elect sends his warmest regards my way. I am happy to see that he remembers our conversation back in 2010 in his club in Florida. He is believed to have thought back then, ‘If it was possible in Poland to have an electrician overthrowing communist rule and become president, why would it be impossible in capitalist America for a millionaire to become president as well?’” And it turns out it’s not! Not impossible at all!
So America might just have Lech Walesa to thank for President-elect Donald Trump.
But Polish politics are confusing, especially as they relate to Trump. The ruling, right-wing Law and Justice party (no friend to Walesa), is exhuming the bodies of victims of a 2010 plane crash in Smolensk, which killed 96 government officials and members of the Polish elite, including Law and Justice Party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s late brother, President Lech Kaczynski. The government is examining the bodies to find out whether Russia, with the help of the Law and Justice’s political enemies, may have brought down the plane. Poland, partisan politics aside, has long been fearful of Russia; even since the collapse of the Eastern Bloc, Poland has tried to warn off threats of dependence on or aggression by Russia.
But Poland’s Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz also issued a statement saying Trump’s victory will improve U.S-Polish relations. With Trump fawning over Putin for years, and with Russian officials confirming they’ve been in touch with the Trump camp throughout the campaign, Law and Justice might want to work out just where the next U.S. president really stands on Russia.
Photo credit: MARTIN BERNETTI/AFP/Getty Images