Modernizing the Polish Military

By law, Poland must spend at least 1.95 percent of its GDP on its military. That’s just a shade under the 2 percent that NATO asks its members to devote. Aside from Estonia, however, Poland is way ahead of the rest of the region in military spending. And when President Barack Obama visited Poland in June 2014, Poland committed to upping its allocation to 2 percent, with an expectation that it...
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The Church as Opposition

Before the Solidarity trade union emerged in 1980, Poland’s primary non-state institution – and often anti-state institution — was the Church. Catholic intellectuals created discussion clubs and published periodicals. Churches were relatively safe places to voice dissent. John Paul II, originally Karol Wojtyla, became the first Polish Pope in 1978 and inspired many in his home country...
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Challenging the Surveillance Society

The United States has been the focus of concerns about government surveillance, particularly in the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations about the activities of the National Security Agency (NSA). But that surveillance has not just been of American citizens. Europeans, for instance, expressed considerable outrage that the NSA was conducting surveillance of non-Americans under a provision of the...
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Shaking Up Politics

Most countries in East-Central Europe have seen the development of two main parties, one liberal and one conservative. In some cases, the former Communist parties – like the Bulgarian Socialist Party – have occupied the liberal position. In other cases, former liberal parties – like Fidesz in Hungary – have moved across the political spectrum to secure the conservative position. In...
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The Green Minister

When I first met Zoltan Illes in 1990, he was 29 years old and in his first month as the youngest state secretary in modern Hungarian history, working in the ministry of environment. He granted me quite a long interview and was unusually frank not only about the environmental situation in the country but also about the challenges he faced in his own position. At the end of the interview, he gave...
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Public and Private in Poland

Poles are happier than they’ve been in years. More than 80 percent report that they are “very happy” or “quite happy,” and that number has risen steadily since 2000. But happiness in Poland seems to derive largely from private life. There’s not a lot of volunteering, and even the rates of Church attendance have been going down. Although Poles still value democracy as a concept, they...
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