In its first decade of post-communist independence, Poland achieved far more than most dared believe in 1989. Despite domestic political and economic turmoil, it has joined Europe as a new member of NATO and a prospective member of the EU. This article traces the evolution of Polish foreign policy since 1989 over four time periods: First, the early uncertainties from 1989 to 1992 when Warsaw — caught between a reunifying Germany and a collapsing USSR — was intent on solidifying its relations with Central European neighbors. Second, the watershed year of 1993, which witnessed changes in every aspect of Poland's external relations — the demise of Visegrad, first moves toward NATO and EU enlargement, the emergence of serious tensions in Warsaw's relations with the East, especially Russia. Third, the years in the anterooms of Europe from 1994 to 1996, when Poland and its central European neighbors lobbied for early accession to the EU and NATO, while relations with Russia remained in the deep freeze. And fourth, the period since 1997, in which Warsaw has been negotiating its “return to Europe”, joining NATO in 1999 and actively pursuing membership in the EU. These gains have not come quickly or easily; rather, they demonstrate a hard earned consistency in Poland's foreign policy agenda, despite numerous changes in domestic politics, as well as an increasingly realistic vision of the country's place in post-Cold War Europe.

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