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Conservatives and Divergent National Interests

Peter Robinson makes a very strange comment on Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski’s speech in Oxford:

Britain, Sikorski insisted, should get over its Euroskepticism, throwing in, once and for all, with the European project.

What makes this so remarkable is that Sikorski is, or at least used to be–how to put this?–one of us.

Robinson’s reaction confuses two completely different things. Robinson is reacting to Sikorski’s criticism of British Euroskepticism as if this contradicted the fact that he is or was “one of us” (i.e., a conservative). What Sikorski’s speech shows is that center-right and conservative people from different countries are naturally going to take different views on policy questions when their national interests appear to diverge. A Polish conservative has no obligation to like British Euroskepticism because that happens to be a prevailing view among British conservatives. Personally I have a lot more sympathy for the Euroskeptic view, but none of these countries is mine, so it doesn’t matter what I think about it.

If Sikorski thinks Polish interests are best served through the EU, he would be expected to advocate on behalf of those interests. If he didn’t, he would be a rotten foreign minister. Obviously, Sikorski is representing the view that he and his government believe to be best for Poland. According to that view, a more Euroskeptic Britain clashes with Poland’s increasingly important role inside the EU. Sikorski bluntly stated the Polish view:

Poland wants to be with Germany and France as partners, leading a strong, democratic European political-economic space. We do not want to be a buffer between Western Europe and a less democratic Eurasian political-economic space dominated by Russia.

I doubt very much that Sikorski’s audience was won over by his appeal, but there should be no confusion about why Sikorski would say such a thing. It’s only because American movement conservatives continue to hold an outdated and misleading view of Poland and its place in Europe (and because more than a few of them do see Poland as more of a buffer zone) that these statements might seem puzzling.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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