Andrew Nagorski

Stories by Andrew Nagorski

  • Too Early To Proclaim The Dawn Of A New Era

    Back in 1993, when Poland was just embarking on its seemingly quixotic quest for NATO membership, President Lech Walesa hosted Russia's Boris Yeltsin in Warsaw. At a dinner featuring eels and plenty of vodka, the former Solidarity leader flattered and cajoled his guest. When Yeltsin described the misgivings of his advisers and generals about Poland's aspirations to join the Western club, Walesa challenged him to show them who was really boss. The next day the Russian delighted the Poles by proclaiming his "understanding" of their drive for NATO membership. Walesa believed he had won. But within less than a day, Yeltsin was singing a different tune. Pressured by his outraged entourage, he reversed course, once again huffing and puffing that NATO expansion threatened to destabilize relations between Russia and the West.Eventually, of course, Moscow accepted NATO's decision in 1997 to take in Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary; it had no other choice. But the Russian flip-flops are...
  • Politics On Fast Forward

    For anyone who tuned out of Polish politics after the triumph of Solidarity and the downfall of communism in 1989, the results of the latest elections in Poland must have been bewildering. The Democratic Left Alliance, as the former communists renamed themselves, won 41 percent of the vote, a lopsided victory against a host of other parties that were relegated to the status of distant also-rans. The Solidarity coalition that had ruled the country for the last four years came up with less than 6 percent, not enough to qualify for a single seat in the new lower house of Parliament. The second biggest vote getter, with 13 percent, was the Civic Platform, a new, pro-business, centrist party that doesn't fit into the old bipolar world of Polish politics. What, the puzzled outside observer might ask, is going on in a country that led the assault on the communist system, triggering a chain reaction of collapsing regimes throughout the Soviet bloc?The short answer applies to almost all the...
  • Potemkin Prosperity

    Forget the learned tracts of scholars, and earnest attempts at evenhanded analysis by journalists. Forget the contortions needed to put--ah, how should this be said?--the peccadilloes of the Russian ruling class into some kind of perspective. This isn't Zbigniew Brzezinski writing on grand strategy; this is his 35-year-old nephew, Matthew Brzezinski, a former reporter for the Wall Street Journal, on Moscow during the halcyon years of 1996 to 1998. In "Casino Moscow: A Tale of Greed and Adventure on Capitalism's Wildest Frontier," the younger Brzezinski invites the reader to come along for the ride--and better buckle up tight. The journey is not only bumpy and breath-taking, but ends badly too.Brzezinski is an exceptional guide. He grew up in Canada and landed in Poland in 1991, just in time to see his ancestral homeland become a star performer among the post-communist countries. He started as an office assistant in the The New York Times' Warsaw bureau, then moved to Kiev where he...
  • Handle This Box Of Dynamite Very Carefully

    The inscription, from a poem by Polish Nobel Prize-winner Czeslaw Milosz, is engraved on a monument erected by Solidarity activists outside the Lenin Shipyard in Gdansk. It honors the 44 protesting workers killed there in 1970 by security forces, but it also eloquently voices a more general belief, one that many Mexicans now subscribe to as many Poles did earlier: the truth will out, and justice can be served. Mexico was never as repressive as communist Poland, of course, but the impulse is similar: get the facts about past wrongs. Particularly when there are stacks of files from the secret police and other government agencies that suddenly have a chance of seeing the light of day. As the experiences of the Poles, Czechs and others have shown in the aftermath of the collapse of communism, though, the problem is that secret-police files guarantee neither truth nor justice. And they certainly offer very little in the way of catharsis or closure.The first problem with files of...
  • A 'Misguided' Country

    Remember the days when Japan seemed all-powerful? If your memory is a bit hazy, it's hardly surprising. Just like many Germans for whom the Berlin wall has quickly receded into history and taken on a fairy-tale quality, the Japanese must feel that their putative superstate was an illusion. The elapsed time since the Berlin wall fell and the Japanese economic crisis--or series of crises--hit is virtually the same, more or less a decade. But in both cases, the new era has quickly shoved the old one into the distant background.There's little doubt that Japan ascended to dizzying heights in the late 1980s, during the infamous "bubble years." But there's plenty of debate about how far the country has tumbled since. In "Dogs and Demons: Tales from the Dark Side of Japan" (432 pages. Hill and Wang), Alex Kerr, a longtime resident, argues that Japan's current problems are rooted in deeply misguided policies that have already wreaked far more havoc than generally recognized--either in Japan...
  • If Judas Told His Story ...

    If Napoleon had won the battle of Waterloo, the French emperor would have made peace with Britain, ensuring that France dominated the Continent, Russia stayed out and the Germans remained meek and loyal Napoleonic subjects. Or so suggested British historian George Trevelyan in his prize-winning essay "If Napoleon Had Won the Battle of Waterloo," written just before World War I. That was an early example of "what if" or "counterfactual" history, but now the genre is hotter than ever. In "What If?," a recent collection of essays, military historians not only revisit the possibility of a victorious Napoleon but also contemplate a successful Mongol invasion of Europe, and the failures of everything from the American Revolution to the Allied invasion on D-Day. "Virtual History," edited by British historian Niall Ferguson, examines an England without Cromwell and a United States without the assassination of John F. Kennedy.Academics aren't the only ones rewriting history these days. The...
  • Nuremberg Revisited

    We should be a lot wiser now. We've seen ex-communist nations grapple with the legacy of decades of wholesale repression, and the workings of truth commissions in Argentina, Chile and South Africa. Toss in mass murder in Cambodia, Rwanda and elsewhere, factor in the possibility that Slobodan Milosevic may eventually end up on trial in The Hague, and we certainly have many more atrocities to ponder than we did in 1961 when the star-studded film "Judgment at Nuremberg" hit the screens. The movie examines the Allied trials of top Nazi officials, the first modern attempt to punish those responsible for "crimes against humanity." ...
  • Revisiting A Massacre

    ;Nothing could have prepared the 1,600 Jews in Jedwabne, a town in northeast Poland, for the hell of their final days in the summer of 1941. At first they were attacked, tortured, stoned and clubbed as they were murdered individually or in small groups. Seeing the killers approaching, two young mothers drowned their babies in a pond rather than surrender them--and then drowned themselves. One man was knifed, and his tongue and eyes were cut out while he was still alive. A young woman's head was cut off and kicked around. Finally, the remaining Jews--men, women, children--were herded into a barn, which was doused with kerosene and torched. ...
  • Hold The French Fries

    I loved the symbolism of the opening of the first McDonald's in Moscow in 1990--and the sight of the monstrous crush of Russians patiently lining up to taste their first Big Mac. The new restaurant on Pushkin Square offered everything that the old communist system failed to deliver: cleanliness, courteous service and affordable meals for the masses. Communism was dead, capitalism had triumphed and everyone was entering the new age of globalization. But today I feel sheepish about my earlier unabashed enthusiasm. Fast-food outlets have proliferated all over the former Soviet bloc as the giant chains have rushed to dominate new markets, and their unrelenting expansion--McDonald's now has 28,700 outlets in 120 countries--looks more troubling than inspiring.Just read the new book "Fast Food Nation" by American journalist Eric Schlosser to discover why the backlash to this early catalyst of globalization is on the rise. According to Schlosser, "the fast-food industry embodies the best...
  • The Buzz On Bush In Davos

    Maybe Davos is just mesmerized by the man nobody knows. At last year's meeting of the World Economic Forum in the Swiss Alpine resort, the mystery man was Russia's Vladimir Putin. In conference sessions, over lunches and dinners, in the corridors, the buzz among the participants was all about the new Russian president. This year the buzz is all about George W. Bush. Although no members of the new administration are present, W hovers in the air like the green laser e-mail messages that a Swiss telecom start-up is beaming in the evenings on a Davos mountainside for everyone to see. Which is hardly surprising. As the new president conceded recently: "I can imagine there's a lot of anxiety about a fellow coming out of Texas. They don't know me from Adam."So what's the buzz on Bush among the top businessmen, politicians and pundits gathered here? Surprisingly complicated. Yes, the snickering still resonates in the background--the kind of snickering that prompted London's Daily Mail to...
  • MIRROR, MIRROR ON THE WALL...

    It's more than fitting that Bill Clinton announced recently that he won't make a trip to North Korea before leaving office, explaining that time was too short to hammer out an agreement to curtail that country's missile program. Yes, last year produced extraordinary breakthroughs: the June summit in Pyongyang between North Korea's Kim Jong Il and South Korea's Kim Dae Jung, and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's visit in October. But Washington sees--and, undoubtedly, under a Bush administration will continue to see--North Korea as a dangerous, isolated, unpredictable state, at least until it has backed off its missile-development program and exports to nations like Libya. More significantly, North Korea's political future remains as shrouded in mystery and guesswork as ever. The two Kims pledged their countries to "independently resolve the issue of national unification." Whatever that means.You'd think that, after watching so many communist regimes collapse, all of us...
  • Time To Put Up Or Shut Up

    European Union leaders who assembled in Nice last weekend should have been flattered. They were greeted by the protest community with the same kind of outrage that marked last year's World Trade Organization gathering in Seattle and the World Bank and International Monetary Fund summit in Prague in September. A similar disparate collection of protesters--everyone from Basque separatists to anti-globalization crusaders--fought with the police, hurled rocks and smeared storefronts with their graffiti. What's flattering about this rowdy welcome is the protesters' belief that the EU is one of the mighty institutions that threaten them. In other words, it has the strength and will to take decisions that will shape the future of Europe and the world. Which makes it one of the big players, a superpower in its own right.That's a premature judgment, at best. The plain fact is that the EU is a long way from wielding the kind of clout that the protesters ascribe to it. It's not simply a matter...
  • Eager Voters, Odd Choices

    Corneliu Vadim Tudor looks and sounds like a freakish parody. The former "court poet" of Romanian communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, "the Genius of the Carpathians" who was toppled and executed in 1989, Tudor reinvented himself as the leader of the far-right Greater Romania Party. Dressed in white suits and lilac-tinted sunglasses, he rails against crime and corruption, claiming that the country can "only be run with machine guns." He carries around a list of 180 prominent Romanians whom he brands as "traitors who must be liquidated." His publications talk about "dirty Jews" and "criminal Gypsies." True, he dialed back on his extremist rhetoric recently, proclaiming "I hate fascism and Nazism." But it's still extraordinary that Tudor came in a strong second in Romania's presidential elections last week, sending him into a runoff against former president and ex-communist Ion Iliescu this Sunday.Or is it? While the United States is demonstrating how messy elections can become even...
  • The Football Election

    Europeans, and everybody else who lives by the rules of parliamentary systems, have long learned to live with messy election outcomes. On Oct. 3, 1999, Austrians went to the polls, and it wasn't until February of this year that two of the leading three parties worked out an agreement to form a new coalition government. But life goes on, no matter how long such dramas take to play themselves out, and even if the final outcome seems more like an accident than a reflection of the true wishes of the voters.Could there be a lesson in this for Americans trying to cope with their first truly messy presidential election results in more than a century? Yes, but don't bet on them taking the lesson to heart. It's not just that Americans are accustomed to learning on election night, or at least by the following morning, who the clear-cut winners and losers are. The real difference comes down to the contrast between people who are raised on baseball and those who grew up with football--not...
  • A Callous View Of Human Life

    Five years ago, I accompanied several former Soviet political prisoners as they revisited a part of the infamous Gulag--the labor camps near Perm in the Urals, where they had spent many excruciating years. Near Perm-35, one of the most notorious camps that was still operational, our bus stopped at a makeshift cemetery. It was a sorry sight. Crude wooden markers had tumbled into tall weeds, and those that were standing bore only a number, not a name--the ultimate sign of how a prisoner became anonymous, invisible. The survivors stood there silently, each realizing that one of those markers could have been his. They, too, could have disappeared without a trace, or at most recalled by a numbered post.It's a measure of how much Russia has changed that the entire country is reliving the tragedy of the Kursk because a note was found on the body of Lt. Capt. Dmitry Kolesnikov. Thanks to the media that haven't yet buckled under government pressure, the submariners haven't slipped silently...
  • Collaborators And Heroes

    Imagine that the time is 1942, the place is Nazi-occupied Europe. In your Polish town, a Jewish neighbor knocks on your door seeking refuge. If you take him in and he's discovered, the Germans will kill not just you and him, but also your wife and children, along with anyone else living in your house. Or imagine you're a resistance fighter with an ideal opportunity to shoot a German soldier. You'll escape, but the local villagers will pay the price for your action--a very high price. According to Nazi racial theory, the number of people to be shot in retaliation for the death of a German soldier varied according to nationality. In Denmark, the occupiers executed five civilians; the equivalent number for France was 10, for Poland it was 100, and for the Balkans it was even higher. Finally, imagine you're the leader of a Jewish Council in a ghetto, and the Germans have presented you with an ultimatum: send the Jewish police to round up 5,000 Jews for deportation. If you refuse, they...
  • The Polish-Russian Gap

    A very old joke from the iciest days of the cold war tells the story of a Frenchman and a Russian traveling in opposite directions on the Moscow-Paris train. Along the way, both trains stop in Warsaw. The Frenchman gets off, looks around and asks: "Is this Moscow?" Stepping off the other train, the Russian asks: "Is this Paris?" The joke wasn't so much about the Stalinist architecture that is still on display in the center of Warsaw amid a proliferation of sleek new office buildings, but about the different perceptions of the atmosphere. To the Frenchman, it smacked of repression, bleakness and deprivation. To the Russian, it offered a whiff of relative freedom, color and opportunity.I'm just back from a trip to Russia and Poland and, believe me, that joke is long dead and forgotten. Not because a Russian couldn't mistake Warsaw for Paris, at least in terms of the smell of freedom. But because, by the same criterion, Warsaw in no way resembles Moscow. I've lived and worked in both...
  • Back Home In Gun Country

    In nearly twenty years as a foreign correspondent, I heard some variant of the same question again and again: "What gives with you crazy Americans?" The context could be the latest indictment of alleged American political and cultural imperialism abroad, or of the sins of racism, poverty and violence at home. Fueled by a combination of resentment and envy, the charges were often contradictory (Why does the United States always meddle in other people's business? Why hasn't it intervened to save the day in country X?). I was usually ready to deal with those kinds of questions. Even when it came to the death penalty, I believed, there were ways to explain American attitudes, to demonstrate that the controversy isn't as simple as it looks from the outside. But one issue had me stumped: guns. Now that I've moved back to the United States, it still does. Like many Europeans, Asians and others, I just don't get the American obsession with guns.Granted, the view from abroad on this issue is...
  • A Europe 'With One Voice'?

    "Quo vadis Europa?" German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, the ex-'60s radical and leader of the Greens, asked in a remarkable speech at Berlin's Humboldt University recently. Claiming that he wasn't making an official government declaration but merely speaking his mind "as a staunch European and German parliamentarian," he insisted there could be only one answer to the question of where Europe is heading: "onwards to the completion of European integration." Fischer called for the transformation of the European Union into a genuine federation, with a new constitution that would establish a European parliament with real powers and a directly elected European president. At a time when the 15-member EU is contemplating a huge expansion eastward, he posited that only a core group of countries is likely to be part of this federation at first. But he effectively revived the almost forgotten notion of a United States of Europe, which would gradually encompass more and more members.Hold...
  • Rolling Back The Iron Curtain

    Shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union in late 1991, I had a chance encounter with a top aide to Russia's firebrand, ultranationalist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky. When the aide realized he was sitting next to an American correspondent, he looked nonplused at first, then suddenly inspired. "I have to congratulate your President Bush and his CIA," he declared. "For what?" I asked. "For the absolutely masterful way that they brought about the downfall of the Soviet Union." I laughed. "I'd like to think that the CIA was capable of pulling this off, but I have my doubts," I said. "No, no," the aide insisted. "It was all your CIA's doing."Two books on the early days of the cold war now provide new ammunition for the conspiracy theorists. Based in part on recently declassified documents, "Operation Rollback" by Peter Grose and "Undermining the Kremlin" by Gregory Mitrovich offer compelling evidence that the United States wasted no time in launching covert operations against the...
  • The Perils Of Peacekeeping

    Iri Dienstbier has the disturbing habit of speaking his mind. That's why, when I visited him in the 1980s in communist Czechoslovakia, the former journalist-turned-dissident stoked furnaces for a living. That's why, when Vaclav Havel named him the first foreign minister in a newly free government, he never learned the diplomatic art of obfuscation. And that's why, when he recently presented his conclusions on Kosovo as the special rapporteur of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, he was uncompromisingly blunt. A year after NATO's air war over Kosovo, he declared, the peacekeeping mission there has failed "to achieve a single goal: neither security for people nor freedom of movement, not to mention creating conditions for the development of democratic institutions in a multiethnic society." Driving his message home, he added: "The bombing hasn't solved any problems. It only multiplied the existing problems and created new ones."This is a message Western leaders don't want to hear-...
  • 'There's No End Of History'

    Niklas Frank, a veteran journalist long interested in human rights, exudes the aura of a man who would never willfully harm or speak ill of anyone. But Niklas is also the son of Hans Frank, the Nazi governor general of Poland. His father oversaw a death machine that killed a total of 6 million Poles, 3 million of whom were Jews. Niklas last saw his father in a Nuremberg prison, where he was held until he was hanged as a war criminal on Oct. 16, 1946. Describing the condemned man as "a monster," he told me: "I'm against the death penalty, but I believe my father's execution was totally justified." As a longtime foreign correspondent, I had heard many startling statements, but never one like that about a father. When I look back at my just concluded three and one-half years as NEWSWEEK's Berlin bureau chief, I often think of my meeting with Niklas Frank. Especially his words that went far beyond his family history: "There isn't a day when I don't think about my father and everything...
  • The Nowhere Man

    Sometimes it seems Gerhard Schroder is working out his inner political conflicts in public. One moment he's announcing the end of the era of "the omnipotent and interventionist state." Then without missing a beat, he's defending the benevolent virtues of "Rhineland capitalism" and handing out government loans and guarantees to rescue Philipp Holzmann, a badly mismanaged--and nearly bankrupt--construction giant. One day the German chancellor is joining Britain's Tony Blair "to promote the concepts of efficiency, competition and high performance." Another day he's declaring that his government will fight the hostile takeover of a major German company by a British "predator," and issuing dire warnings that "private speculation can ruin an entire economy." Is this the New Middle, or the New Muddle?More than a year after taking office, Schroder is all over the political map--left, right and center. He's everywhere. Which also means he's nowhere. "This is a problem," concedes one aide,...
  • What Did Kohl Know And When Did He Know It?

    The time was August 1991, the place an Italian restaurant in a shopping center in the Swiss town of St. Margrethen, near the German border. At the Toscana Trattoria, an arms dealer handed over a metal suitcase containing more than $500,000 in cash to Walther Leisler Kiep--the treasurer of Chancellor Helmut Kohl's Christian Democratic Union. Karlheinz Schreiber, the German-Canadian arms dealer, who is now fighting extradition from Canada to Germany on tax-evasion charges, described the transaction as a "totally normal contribution to party finances." But that and other contributions went into secret CDU bank accounts whose existence were reluctantly confirmed by Kohl himself last week. As the German Parliament voted to probe these murky dealings, the former chancellor found himself under more intense fire than at any time during his 16 years in office. "Oh, stop it," he snapped at reporters hounding him about the scandal last week.Good luck. Parliament has a whole host of questions,...
  • A Bumper Crop Of Despair

    By their country's standards, Jerzy and Katarzyna Pekala appear to be model farmers. That's exactly what makes their situation so worrisome. On paper they're succeeding in a way most Polish farmers can only dream of. Their 87-hectare spread, 150 kilometers north of Warsaw, is about 10 times the size of the average farm in Poland. They keep some 450 pigs, and they raise wheat on an additional 100 hectares leased from a disbanded state farm nearby. They even own a small general store where their neighbors come to shop and chat.But the Pekalas are scared. In recent years Jerzy, 41, has been treated for severe depression and Katarzyna, 39, has grown increasingly embittered as the couple has struggled with the farm's worsening debts. Because of heavily subsidized imports from the European Union, the Pekalas say, hog prices have plunged roughly 50 percent in the past two years, and wheat prices haven't fared much better. "Our costs keep rising and our prices keep dropping," Jerzy says. ...
  • Behind The Wall's Fall

    In most people's memories, the images are as vivid today as they were on Nov. 9, 1989: jubilant Germans surging through the Berlin wall, the ultimate symbol of the division of Europe. It's a moment Berlin aims to recapture next week with a lavish 10th-anniversary commemoration. Floodlights and fireworks will illuminate the path that the wall took through the city, culminating in a celebration near the Brandenburg Gate. The Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, who welcomed East Germans with a solo performance at the wall a decade ago, will be back, conducting 160 cellists this time. At a gala dinner at the rebuilt Adlon Hotel next door, the three heads of state at the center of the drama, Mikhail Gorbachev, Helmut Kohl and George Bush, will be guests of honor.A decade later, the collapse of communism looks like a preordained script: Solidarity's triumph in Poland in June; Hungary's decision to open its border with Austria in the summer, allowing East Germans to begin a stampede...
  • Deep-Frozen Assets

    The contrast couldn't be more stark. The hotels, spas and restaurants of Finland's far north are jammed almost all year, with vacationers and fishermen in summer and fall, and more vacationers and skiers during the long winter. Just across the Russian border, nothing is the same except the ruggedly scenic Arctic terrain. A desolate road traverses a wilderness that was off-limits during the Soviet era and remains uninhabited. The first Russian village, 160 kilometers from the Finnish border, is Upper Tuloma. Many inhabitants survive by selling wild berries; some earn a few rubles by scavenging electrical wires and fixtures from power pylons. "This is the biggest income gap across any border in Europe," says Lassi Heininen, a Finnish political scientist at the University of Lapland's Arctic Center.Finland hopes to span that chasm. On Nov. 12 the Finns, who hold the European Union's rotating presidency, will convene a foreign ministers' meeting in Helsinki on the "Northern Dimension"...
  • Memoirs Of An Ex-Friend

    For a while, they were the social Democrats' dynamic duo. Campaigning last year to oust Helmut Kohl, Gerhard Schroder wooed Germany's wary business community with a low-tax, get-government-off-your-back gospel. Party boss Oskar Lafontaine, meantime, preached tax-and-spend rhetoric to the trade unions and other leftist groups that formed the SPD's traditional base. Were they at odds? Not at all, they said; just sharing the campaign workload. "We are so close that you couldn't fit a sheet of paper between us," Lafontaine declared.Well, how about a 320-page book? Lafontaine's "The Heart Beats on the Left," serialized last week, drops all pretense of closeness. Not that much remained. From the moment Schroder became chancellor, it was clear he would have to marginalize old-school leftists like Lafontaine if he intended to wrench his party to the center. Fed up and angry, Lafontaine abruptly withdrew from politics last March, giving up his posts as party chairman and Finance minister,...
  • A Victory For Principles

    As NATO's secretary-general, Javier Solana has presided over momentous changes in the alliance: accepting Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary as the first new members from the former Soviet bloc; establishing a new consultative relationship with Russia, and, of course, launching an air war against Serb forces in Kosovo. In late October, the 57-year-old Spaniard will become the EU's High Representative for foreign and security policy in an effort to provide Europe with a stronger, more unified voice on security issues. In New York last week, Solana talked with NEWSWEEK's Andrew Nagorski. Excerpts: ...
  • Breaking Down In Berlin

    Gerhard Schroder has a problem. Several problems, in fact. German voters are increasingly fed up with his government's performance. The chancellor says things will improve once his economic austerity plan is in place: "I am convinced that our policies are the right ones," he told the Bundestag last week. "And I am also convinced that the results will be felt by the public and then also in elections." But first he has to get his policies enacted.Problem No. 1: he can't count on all his colleagues in the Social Democratic Party. Schroder has never been popular with the SPD's far left, which much preferred ex-party chairman and finance minister Oskar Lafontaine. Schroder got rid of Lafontaine early in his administration. Leftists have balked at supporting the Chancellor's budget-cutting package. "We want to make clear that we will not vote for the reforms in parliament unless the cutbacks are spread to everybody's shoulders," declared Detlev von Larcher, although some of his colleagues...