Rick Lyman’s article in The New York Times points out that Poland’s solid economic growth has continued despite adverse external conditions, and that it’s starting to translate into serious heft.
To the east, Russian aggression has paralyzed Ukraine’s hope for faster economic development. To the south, Hungary flirts with authoritarianism and still struggles to climb out of the last recession. To the north, Lithuania and the other Baltic States are being squeezed by the cycle of escalating trade sanctions between Moscow and the European Union.
Poland, meanwhile, has managed to navigate safely around the latest strains on Eastern Europe, just as it managed to sail through the 2008 financial crisis with barely a bruise, maintaining solid growth rates, attracting considerable new investment and industry and using its relative economic strength to build clout within the European Union.
By dint of its size, enthusiasm for embracing the West and stable governance, Poland, a member of NATO and the European Union, has long been the most important model of post-Soviet transformation. But now, with Russia again seeking to exert its influence and much of Europe struggling to recover fully from the deep downturn of recent years, Poland has taken on an even more important role as the leading symbol of regional stability and resolve.
Construction cranes stretch across the Warsaw skyline. Huge malls and gleaming stores open almost daily. Attracted by wage rates considerably lower than those in Western Europe, many multinational companies continue to invest in Poland as a manufacturing and distribution base.
Virtually everything that Ikea, the Swedish housewares behemoth, sells in Europe, for instance, is manufactured in Poland. Many Volkswagen components are made in Poland. General Motors has facilities here, as do 3M, Procter & Gamble and other American brands.
Amazon is opening giant new distribution centers. Google Campus Warsaw, mirrored on similar projects in London and Tel Aviv, will nurture homegrown high-tech start-ups.
Intent on ensuring that it is not vulnerable to Russian pressure, Poland is pressing the European Union to do more to break its reliance on Russian energy supplies. The recent rounds of sanctions and countersanctions over Russia’s aggression in neighboring Ukraine have had relatively little impact on Poland’s economy, beyond inspiring a patriotic campaign to persuade Poles to eat more homegrown apples in reaction to Moscow’s banning of them.