Obama presidency: Hope has turned to disappointment in
Europe and particularly Poland, where an apparent tilt
Russia and a perceived lack of interest in Europe, is seen
contrary to Polish interests.
Obama's Lesson: Poland Can't Count on the United States
world, like life, is brutal. Lasting friendships are rare, and such a thing as
gratitude is the exception. In our relations with the United States, we need to
start playing hardball. … Obama's actions speak so clearly that only the blind could
still believe in any 'special relationship.'"
By Marcin Bosacki
Translated By Halszka Czarnocka
August 31, 2009
Poland - Gazeta Wyborcza - Original Article
Tomorrow’s date is one worth
remembering (September 1). Not only as the 70th anniversary of the outbreak
of war [WWII], but also as the date of the symbolic end of a historic
Polish-American love affair.
On March 12, 1999, former
Foreign Minister Bronisław Geremek signed the independence protocols for Polish
accession to NATO. In his speech, he mentioned the famous 1989 Solidarity
poster with Gary Cooper and said: “For Poles, today is "High Noon …”
[Poland's first free elections after Communism were held in 1989. Solidarity - a party formed
out of Polish trade unions and led by Lech Walesa, won. See poster below].
That was, in addition to the
crowds cheering for Presidents Clinton and Bush during their visits to Warsaw,
the very height of the Polish-American love affair. Today it is the twilight -
punctuated by Obama’s withdrawal from national commitments with Poland and the
Czech Republic on missile defense and by dispatching a nobody in the Washington
political world - William
Perry - to the 70th anniversary commemoration of the outbreak of
war [WWII], an event pregnant with meaning not only to Poland but for world
history. Only after indignant noises from Poland was he substituted with
someone more important - [National Security Adviser] General James Jones.
Among nostalgic lamentations
of some and furious “don't say I didn't warn you” of others, it's worth dwelling
a bit on what actually happened in the last 20 years between the U.S. and
The fact that Poland after
1989 would choose the option of a strategic alliance with the West was clear.
But that this option would be far more pro-American than oriented toward Europe
was not. This resulted from three factors. The first was Polish history,
beginning with September 1939 [when Hitler (Sept. 1) and Soviet Union (Sept.
17) attacked Poland] and ending with the Poland policies of Reagan and Bush
senior. The second was a plausible belief in the thesis that history had ended
and that the danger to Poland particularly from the east [Russia], had ended.
The third reason for leaning
toward the U.S. was a realistic assessment of the global situation. The U.S.
was in the 1990s, the only military, diplomatic and economic superpower. Furthermore,
it was a superpower that favored Poland. By contrast, Europe had no army,
diplomacy or even a vision of its place in the world. Its leaders, especially the
French, proved an exceptional capacity to disregard the vital interests of Central
In fact, the choice of
America by the Founding Fathers of Polish independence - from Mazowiecki [the
first post-Communist prime minister] through Wałęsa to
Kwaśniewski [successive presidents], and from Skubiszewski through
Bartoszewicz and Geremek to Cimoszewicz and Rotfeld [successive foreign
ministers] - was no naive crush, but the only possible option.
What proved to be a mistake
was the lack of alternatives; an unspoken but ever-present belief that since
America was with us, we would be immune to danger and somehow, all of our
difficulties would somehow work out. As Foreign Minister Geremek said in 1999,
Poland was an ally in good weather and bad.
We were in Bosnia and Kosovo,
Iraq and Afghanistan. Our soldiers, as Americans have repeatedly emphasized,
did actual combat in those places - this was not for show. Polish intelligence
collaborated hand in hand (sometimes excessively) with the U.S. war on
terrorism. Poland awarded the United States the biggest contract in our
military history - for F-16 aircraft. Only in minor disputes between the E.U.
and the U.S. did Poland and the Central European countries stand alongside Old
In exchange, Poland obtained membership
in NATO, which despite the crisis in the Alliance, remains important. But
already in George W. Bush’s times, it was becoming clear that unconditional
support for the United States was becoming steadily less beneficial to Poland.
For helping with Iraq, the
biggest gambit of Polish foreign policy of the last 20 years, we gained
nothing. It turned out that Washington exerted less and less energy to issues
critical to Polish interests: weak countries on our Eastern border that turning
paranoiac (Byelorussia) or the spread of chaos (Ukraine). Moreover, it proved
impossible to find, even with American help, a Caspian energy alternative to supplies
from Russia (which, perhaps, may come about through E.U.).
Proof that the Polish
political class is falling out of love with America was how the Tusk-Sikorski
couple negotiated the missile shield issue with the Americans [Prime Minister
Tusk and Foreign Minister Sikorski]. They wanted something tangible in
exchange. The trouble is, nothing concrete came out of it (the temporary
presence of a Patriot missile battery for training purposes is meaningless).
[Le Temps, Switzerland]
If like me you were of the
opinion that an American base in Poland was good for the country because if the
worst comes, the Americans would defend it and Poland along with it, one should
have swallowed all pride, complained a bit about Yankee egoism and taken the
shield “as is” three years ago. If one considers that the base wasn't something
we needed, then there's no reason to cry over it now.
Americans don’t make gifts to
those they like. They give when they consider it necessary, or to those who
have powerful lobbies in Washington. Poland has no such lobby.
We should be grateful to
Obama. First of all, for his frankness. Poland signed an agreement with the United
States - not with Bush’s right wing; in August 2008, candidate Obama said
nothing about being against the missile shield. And yet President Obama never
consulted with Poland on his decision to abandon the shield project. He ignored
letter on the subject sent to him by former presidents and prime ministers of
our region. He sent a purely accidental representative for the September 1st
memorial ceremony [the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of WWII]. Central
Europe doesn't interest Obama. His actions speak so clearly that only the blind
could still believe in any “special relationship" between Poland and the
Secondly, let’s be grateful
to Obama because - I hope - he has taught us something. The so-called realists
around him, with their fixation on the great game of the world powers and rejecting
the linkage between values and politics may often be wrong. But Obama and the
realists may teach us that in international politics, not only is there no
place for romance, but for leaving oneself without alternatives. The world, like
life, is brutal. Lasting friendships are rare, and such a thing as gratitude is
the exception. The stronger, wiser and more flexible side is the one that wins.
In our relations with the United
States, we need to start playing hardball. But Polish authorities would be
mistaken now to declare, “Never again with the Yankees!” and murmur about withdrawing
troops from Afghanistan or swearing that the next military contract will go to
anyone but the Americans.
a ceremony in Gdansk, Poland to commemorate the 70th anniversary
WWII - which began with a Nazi attack on Poland - President Kaczynski
Poland described the Russian invasion of Poland that followed the Nazi
as a 'stab in the back.'
video by clicking here or clicking on the photo above.]
SEE ALSO ON THIS:
NRC Handelblad, Netherlands:
On 70th Anniversary of War, Wounds in Europe Still Sting
'Shocking' Russian and American Ignorance About World War II
Truman and Churchill No Better Than Stalin
Soviet Theft of American Nuclear Secrets Was Fully Justified
Der Spiegel, Germany:
Why Wasn't Hitler Stopped?
Rue 89, France:
East Europe Best Not Depend on 'Obsolete' NATO
Der Spiegel, Germany:
Roundup on 70 Years After WW II
The Telegraph, U.K.:
U.S. and Britain Knew of Nazi
Murder of Jews and Did Nothing
The Times, U.K.:
Does Appeasement Look
So Bad, 70 Years Later?
Kayhan, Islamic Republic of Iran:
Obama's Trip: 'How they Laughed in Moscow'
Medvedev and Obama: 'Resetting' U.S.-Russia Ties Won't Come Easy
The Kremlin Balanced 'Between Two Chairs': Iran's and the West's
Anti-Americanism for Russian Public Consumption Only
'Overloaded' With U.S. English as the Language of Diplomacy
From our perspective, it's
difficult to imagine a less favorable combination of circumstances in
Washington. The first president who doesn't care for Europe, a government of realists
with huge U.S. engagements elsewhere, and a political tendency to do everything
contrary to the Bush did (and hence, drawing closer to Russia and further from
Central Europe) …
Nevertheless, many of these
factors may change - even for Obama. They will certainly change after Obama, if
not for any other reason that the pendulum will swing. The United States will remain
a great, if flagging, power, whose interests often coincide with ours. America
should continue to be one of Poland’s options.
But it's certain that on
September 1, 2009, the Polish-American love affair, with its lack of
alternatives and unconditional support for the United States, will come to an
end. We shouldn’t begin a new romance, with, for instance, certain West
European countries. Our economic, cultural and strategic ties to Europe are
growing stronger every year, and this is good. But just like 20 or 10 years
ago, Europe can be called anything but united and strong.
Just as it was then, the
region to our east is submerged in chaos and Russia still doesn't see us, to
put it politely, as a partner for serious talks.
Despite being anchored to the
E.U. and NATO, Poland remains a country located in a wind corridor. Instead of
love affairs, we need a mature, new strategy to play a number of pianos at once.
CLICK HERE FOR POLISH VERSION
by WORLDMEETS.US September 8, 8:55pm]