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521 LEONID B. VARDOMSKY ECONOMIC RELATIONS BETWEEN POLAND AND THE SOVIET UNION THE ECONOMIC COLLABORATION between Poland and the Soviet Union dating back to the period of “building socialism” has generated fewer conflicting assessments and less political speculation than the Katyn executions or the Red Army prisoners of war (in Polish camps), let alone the secret Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. By and large, this period gave rise to no major issues that would overshadow relations between the two countries today. Economic cooperation was based on bilateral accords whose general provisions were in the public domain, though their content was not fully transparent. There are numerous academic publications from both Poland and Russia that deal with economic cooperation dating back to the socialist and market -reform years. The papers written during the socialist and market-transition periods are very different. The former are characterized by informative research describing the substance of cooperation, debating certain issues of the day, and detailing the new avenues and vehicles of that cooperation. The papers written during the market-transition period, of which there are few, are characteristically analytical, investigating the reasons for the failure of the socialist economic integration project and evaluating its pros and cons and the benefits and losses for both countries. It is perhaps worth mentioning here the three-volume study, Central and Eastern Europe in the Second Half of the 20th Century, published by Nauka in 2000 and 2002 and compiled by the Institute of International Economic and Political Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Viewed from a modern-day standpoint, the results of the economic cooperation between Poland and the Soviet Union in 1945–91 defy an unambiguous assessment. On the one hand, the Soviet Union helped Poland restore its economy in the early postwar years and during the subsequent industrialization, which brought Poland’s economy closer to those of the 522 LEONID B. VARDOMSKY most economically advanced members of Comecon: the German Democratic Republic (GDR) and Czechoslovakia. Poland was fairly actively involved in developing natural resources in the Soviet Union, modernizing certain branches of its industries, and supplying consumer goods to the Soviet market . The Druzhba oil pipeline, Yamal-Europe gas pipeline, and Ust-Ilim pulp mill still operate today. On the other hand, cooperation failed to bridge the gap between the economies of the Soviet Union, Poland, and other Comecon members and the leading world economies. On the contrary, that gap continued to grow. By placing large orders with Poland in the absence of competition , the Soviet Union could not stimulate modernization in manufacturing in Poland, which contrasted with the Western nations that leaped forward through innovation in the 1970s and 1980s. The Soviet Union also could not supply new technologies to its Comecon partners, since it was running short of them itself. Some Polish studies point out that, in the postwar years, the Soviet Union kept Poland in an economic stranglehold, exploited its human and natural resources, and sought to stifle its development. Be that as it may, partly in response to the needs of Poland and other Comecon members, the Soviet Union was forced to emphasize developing its raw materials (a trend that has persisted to this day), defined Russia’s specialization in the world marketplace, and caused all the problems and imbalances we see today. In my view, Soviet policies toward Poland and other Comecon members were defined by the logic of a bipolar world order, geopolitical rivalry, and confrontation between the military alliances. The Soviet Union was prepared to sustain huge material costs and to increasingly lag behind in order to try and keep up with the competition from the West. This situation could not last forever. By the late 1980s, the economic and political crisis in the Soviet Union released its partners in Comecon and the Warsaw Pact from the Soviets’ political grasp, and the “need to pay for their political loyalty was no longer there.” The defeat of the Soviet Union in the Cold War meant that the assets invested in the “people’s democratic” countries were for all intents and purposes thrown down the drain, since the political and economic clout of the Soviet Union and its successor, Russia, over these countries was so weakened as to be negligible. At the same time, there is reason to believe that the geopolitical price paid by the Soviet Union and the potential advantages lost by Poland in dropping it as an ally were not so high if one is to assume that the...


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