Na Temat – Friendship – Daniel Friend’s adventures with Poland




It is a story of a friendship. The Polish-American relations have their own rich, dramatic and successful history. They were the most dramatic when the support for Poland extended by the United States could bring only limited results, for the objective historic reasons.
However, without the “Radio Free Europe” and the “Voice of America” radio stations it would not have been possible to maintain, for years and years, the independent thought and awareness in Poles. That would not have been possible – without the clear reference point represented by the United States. The country of free economy, of civil liberties and of the importance of the Constitution. The country of dreams and aspirations which everyone may fulfil. Then, the country which even at the time in which it was facing the most difficult problems (racism, the Vietnam war, social inequalities) had to learn, again and again, how to overcome tchem.
Without the convergence of the efforts of Pope John Paul II, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher – and without the forced actions of Mikhail Gorbachev, but also without the “Solidarity” movement led by Lech Wałęsa – the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reversing of the course of the history would not have been possible. Thus, after 1989 a new era in the relations and in the friendship between Poland and the US began. The fantastic speech of Lech Wałęsa in the Congress was its symbolic beginning.

The two countries started to create the conditions of their cooperation, to look for mutual benefits and to build.

Daniel Fried, who at the end of the nineties of the XX century was an ambassador of the US in Warsaw and who had worked in the said embassy since the beginning of the transformation in Poland, was the best example of the friendship which searched for new paths of cooperation, looked for mutual benefits and set itself the task of building.

The Polish-American Enterprise Fund, announced by George H. W. Bush still in 1989, became a great school of modern entrepreneurship and management, supported the economic change and taught people how to invest in a modern way. The US AID projects contributed to the increase in the abilities regarding the conducting of self-governments and helped develop a network of citizens’ initiatives. In fact, it is simple: the Americans helped us understand how important it was to take matters into our own hands. To create and to develop the spirit of entrepreneurship and freedom in all areas of life.

I remember the conversations with the energetic advisor in the American Embassy, Daniel Fried, about the difficult requirements of the economic restructuring. I remember his joy when in a new place in Warsaw’s district of Mokotów he discovered “Positano”, a restaurant serving genuine, delicious pizza. I remember how he studied the topography of Warsaw by practising jogging there every morning, but also how he noticed the changes taking place in the urban space. I remember our discussions about the dialogue with trade unions and about the need expressed by them to build the social and political balance in the changes which were then under way. Daniel knew the nuances of the history of the “Solidarity” movement. He listened about the achievements of the men such as Bujak, Frasyniuk, Wujec, Janas. He talked with them about their successes with passion, as though he wanted to tell them: do not lose that experience… And he encouraged them to develop everything that is connected with civic values.

It is symbolic that, after 10 years of those economic changes and the lessons of entrepreneurship received, it was possible to create the Polish-American Freedom Foundation, which still today is one of the most important institutions of supporting the civil society. That Foundation would not have been brought to life if it had not been for the work of Daniel Fried. He made every effort to convince the Americans about the need for such a foundation.

Daniel Fried knew the Polish history very well, which was rare even among the Polish politicians. He knew its crucial moments, dramas, decisive events when Poland’s fate was uncertain and could take a turn for the better or for the worse: which not always depended on the will of the nation, but even when it did, there was a need for the wise understanding of the chances appearing at the given time. According to Daniel Fried, Poland after 1989 was such a chance. And he was deeply convinced that Poland was a chance also for Europe and for the entire world. He liked to talk about it. He liked to convince the listeners about that understanding of the historical process. And he talked with everyone. When I complained to him, at the peak of the negotiations which I had been conducting for many, many years of the transformation period in Poland, about how painstaking a process it was, he responded with simplicity: “if you talk with others, then they begin to talk between themselves and, after that, when they return to you, they are a bit different, because in the meantime they have changed a bit already, and then you can talk with them again and look for common solutions”. Daniel Fried was a master of the dialogue: diplomatic but full of content and solutions.

When the movie “Pan Tadeusz” by Andrzej Wajda had just been released, I gave Daniel the English translation of the epic poem of Adam Mickiewicz. And after the premiere of the film we talked about what was there in the soul and in the spirit of the Poles that they were always threatened with being at variance with one another and in the state of an internal war. Daniel warned us about that in the nineties of the XX century, although he respected all the sides of the Polish political dispute: namely, the movement towards modernization and the European identity – Unia Wolności (English: Freedom Union), the same aspirations represented by AWS (English: Solidarity Electoral Action) and by the government led by Jerzy Buzek, as well as the different views on the changes taking place in Poland held by the Kaczyński brothers. He respected the path of the Left. The basis of that respect was the recognition that the Left of the nineties of the XX century understood the essence of the freedom in the politics and for society. As a matter of fact, only that could lead to the common effort of all the significant actors in the politics of that time in order to obtain the constitutional agreement.

The entrepreneurship and freedom were two key words in the political vocabulary of Daniel Fried. As our American friend, he did his best so that we would skilfully develop in Poland the foundations of the Free World. In a text which Daniel Fried recently wrote for the “Atlantic Council”, he described the importance and the significance of the idea of the Free World (a concept of liberal democracy) in the history after World War II and also now, when the foundations of the Free World are threatened by populism.

To the concept of the Free World, to the cooperation of the entrepreneurship and freedom, Daniel Fried – an experienced diplomat – would add the importance, value and significance of another quality: security.

That is why he contributed so greatly to the accession of Poland to NATO. Because it was not only the result of the political will of the parties, based on the understanding of how important it was for the Polish, European and global interests to build security in that part of the world, by extending the group of allies in NATO. It was also the result of conducting thousands of analyses and conversations promoting Poland, as well as of diplomatic efforts in order for the Congress and the Senate of the US to fully understand the issue. On the Polish side that work was done by Jerzy Koźmiński and on the American side by Daniel Fried.

On one spring evening in 1998 I was with my friends on a picnic near the town of Wilga, a few dozen kilometres away from Warsaw. We waited for Daniel, who was to arrive with the news that everything was ready for signing that act: the act of the Polish accession to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which officially took place a dozen or so months later, on 12 March 1999. He arrived, full of emotions and joy. He shared those emotions with us and raised toasts with us to our friendship. There was something enchanting in his great diplomatic work. He was able to see the problems in a broad context. He also had a gift for building priorities and adjusting specific tasks to them. He could see both small details and great syntheses. When later in his work he was assigned the area of Georgia and the entire region plus the Ukraine, it was clear that he was creating the American politics in that part of the world. He was creating it, while understanding all the challenges. Therefore, he worked so hard not only to convince the American side, but also the European countries, in the last years, about the need for developing and maintaining the sanctions against Russia, in connection with its aggression on Ukraine. When he arrived in Brussels, many people would say: “Mr Sanctions has come”.

He did it, because he understood (and he still does) how important the constant vigilance in Russian matters was. Without Russia it is impossible to solve the world’s problems. However, without Russia’s feeling pressure, it is impossible to solve those problems well. It is interesting to notice how in the thought of Daniel Fried the security, from the geostrategic point of view, becomes crucial for the development of freedom and entrepreneurship. And also: how important the development of that freedom, the nurturing of all the tools of the democracy is, starting from the separation of the powers: the legislature, the executive and the judiciary, through the full citizens’ rights for everyone and the free media, to the unrestricted development of the entrepreneurship, which is not subject to the illusion of the protectionism of the world of the closing borders – for the development as such. The freedom, entrepreneurship and security – as a result of the cooperation and not the domination of anyone – are the foundations of the Free World.

Today they are threatened.

Therefore, we need consideration. Daniel always knew how to concentrate and how to feel the entirety of the problems. I guess that it was – and still is – his inner equilibrium that was of help to him. Jogging – was the searching for harmony. Family love – was the particular care of the harmony. Travelling, hiking and looking for the taste of adventure – was the need for breathing harmony. Only in the inner harmony one can give profound consideration to matters. To the world, to himself or herself.

I remember that one year in August we hiked from the town or Zakopane (which Daniel likes very much) to Staw Gąsienicowy and further on. Heat, tiredness, beautiful views. We did not even enter the mountain hostel there. We went straight to the lake (Staw Gąsienicowy) to have a rest. We sat down on rocks. No words. We sat there for half an hour in silence, absorbing the world, absorbing the mountains, looking at the mountain peaks spreading before our eyes: from Zawrat and Orla Perć to Kościelec, very, very close to us. We looked at it all. And it was our consideration of the world.

On 7 July 2017, on Friday, at the Atlantic Council Conference, Daniel Fried will receive a special prize “Atlantic Council Freedom Awards”.

Dan, I congratulate you, my Friend!

Michał Boni
July, 2017