FEATURE | SEPTEMBER 2014
Poland on Frontline of Putin’s Trade War
Embargo Could Cost $300 Million
by Robert Strybel
WARSAW–Poland became the first victim of President Putin’s retaliatory strike against Western sanctions imposed on Russia for its Crimean land-grab and continued destabilization of Ukraine. Polish apples were the first item mentioned by Putin and only later were other products and countries added to the list. Other produce includes pears, plums and other fruit, cabbages, cauliflower and peppers. Poland has been a particular thorn in Putin’s side for its loyal commitment to the cause of Ukrainian independence and persuasive lobbying for European Union sanctions against Moscow. The embargoed produce could cost Poland country some $300 million.
In the past, the Kremlin would concoct food-safety pretexts to ban imports from countries whose policies it disagreed with, but this time it openly declared that the measures were aimed against countries waging sanctions against Russia in connection with the Ukrainian crisis. Besides fruits and vegetables, the year-long embargo will encompass meat, fish, dairy products and vegetable oils and affect the European Union, United States, Canada, Australia and Norway. The day the embargo was announced, truckloads of food products form Poland and Austria were stopped by Russian border officials from entering Russia’s Kaliningrad region.
Since Poland is Europe’s largest producer of apples and nearly half of them had been exported to Russia, the Polish media and Internet users immediately expressed their concern with such humorous slogans as “an apple a day keeps Putin away” or “hit Putin with an apple.” Polish politicians and celebrities were shown on munching apples and urging other Poles to do likewise. Seriously though, if all the apples exported to Russia were to land on the Polish market, prices would fall and put orchard owners out of business.
Warsaw’s official reaction was to seek compensation for the losses from the EU and find alternative markets for its produce. China might be interested in Polish apples, but the transport costs would seriously diminish any profits. The Middle East and North Africa are closer, but no single alternative market within a reasonable distance is large enough to replace Russia’s import potential.
Except for grain and potatoes, Russia has to import about one-half of the food needed to feed its people, but so far little concern can be detected among the country’s ruling circles or general public. On the contrary, the official Kremlin line voiced by its subservient media is that Russia can do without Western food imports and the embargo will give Russian producers an opportunity to develop their business and supply the nation with wholesome, Russian fare.
“The world is against us and is trying to harm us” rhetoric has only served to consolidate Putin’s popularity which in recent weeks has soared from 80% to 90%. Kremlin propaganda paints him as a hero who “recovered” Crimea for Russia, and is protecting Russian-speaking Ukrainians against the “military terrorism of the fascist Kyïv junta.”
Considering the long list of foods banned by Russia and the 32 countries affected, the Kremlin’s move could well disrupt the global economy.
Andrzej Gantner of the Polish Food Producers’ Federation believes it was Moscow’s intention to destabilize the socio-political situation in countries that have imposed sanctions against Russia.
If the EU fails to quickly implement a plan to manage the unexported surplus produce, major farmer protests could erupt this coming autumn.
Gantner estimates it would take $8 to $9.3 billion to fully compensate for all the EU’s losses caused by the Russian embargo.
Heritage Month 101
October is Polish Heritage Month,
and Now is the Time to Make Plans
This year, Poles will mark the 406th Anniversary of the First Polish Settlers, who were among the first skilled workers in America. We, therefore, will also Salute All American Workers and urge people to purchase the products and services offered by American workers. Polish Americans will also mark the 235th Anniversary of the death of General Casimir Pulaski, Father of the American Cavalry.
The Polish Heritage Month Committee has compiled a list of suggested activities in October to enhance the celebration:
Things to Do During Polish American Heritage Month
1. Meet with your local Polish American organizations to discuss a successful, well-coordinated Polish American Heritage Month event.
2. Request local elected officials to present a proclamation or special greetings to the Polish American community.
3. Offer a Mass at your local church for the intention of your area Polish American community and invite everyone to attend. Following the Mass, hold a reception with Polish pastries and refreshments, welcoming all in the spirit of Polish hospitality.
4. Sponsor an event to honor noted men and women of Poland. During October we mark the death of American Revolutionary War Hero General Casimir Pulaski on October 15th. You can conduct a tribute ceremony in front of a portrait of Pulaski. You can also consider honoring people such as Ignacy Jan Paderewski, Fryderyk Chopin, Marie Sklodowska Curie and others.
5. Encourage people to display Polish and American flags and Polish American Heritage Month posters in their homes, organizational headquarters, banks, businesses, etc. Flags, posters and banners help bring attention to the fact that October is National Polish American Heritage Month and that Polonia is celebrating proudly. Sample posters are available from the Heritage Month link on the Museum’s Internet site at: www.PolishAmericanCenter.com
6. Sponsor a lunch or dinner social with Polish food, music and entertainment.
1. Organize an essay contest in your local schools. Complete information on sponsoring an essay contest is available from the Museum’s Internet site. You
can award prizes during a school assembly or public event to encourage participation from parents and students alike. Ask local businesses and organizations to help sponsor the event and offer prizes. This is also a way to
involve local teachers as judges of the essay contest.
2. Sponsor a coloring contest. Art work samples are available upon request from the national committee or you can download coloring forms from the Museum’s Internet site. The coloring contest remains very popular in schools. Ask local art students to organize and judge the entries. Ask a local printer to reprint the artwork for your committee at no charge with the name of his business at the bottom as an advertisement.
3. Sponsor a children’s music or dance recital to highlight Polish music or dance in a local auditorium, school hall or recreation center.
4. Sponsor a Polish poster art contest requesting area schools to highlight Polish history and culture through student art. Display their art works and sponsor an award ceremony.
1. Organize a display at your local shopping mall or library featuring Polish books, arts and crafts, wycinanki and
paintings by Polish American artists. Contact local artists and request them to display their works at the local library, parish hall, organization hall, public or office building lobby.
2. Display a Polish and American flag, a red and white bow, or a Heritage Month poster in your home or place of business.
Media Contact and General Advertising
1. Display Polish American Heritage Month posters. Sample posters are available from the National Committee, or they can be downloaded from the Heritage Month
link on the Museum’s Internet site at: www.PolishAmericanCenter.org.
2. Contact your local newspapers, radio and TV stations to tell them about National Polish American Heritage Month and your local activities.
3. Ask local radio programs to mention your area Polish American events during October as part of their community bulletin board or public service announcements. (Every radio station is required to give time for public service announcements.) You can also ask your radio stations to play a few selections written by Polish composers over the centuries and recorded by internationally famous artists.
4. Ask local organizations, banks, businesses and elected leaders to place a “Polish Heritage Month Salute” advertisement in local newspapers or on local radio or TV programs. Placing these salutes each week during the month of October will remind everyone about Polish American Heritage Month.
For more information contact: Polish American Heritage Month Committee, Michael Blichasz, National Chairman, c/o Polish American Cultural Center Museum, 308 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106; (215) 922-1700; www.polishamericancenter.org.
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