The Obama presidency: Hope has turned to disappointment in

Eastern Europe and particularly Poland, where an apparent tilt

toward Russia and a perceived lack of interest in Europe, is seen

as contrary to Polish interests.



Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland

Obama's Lesson: Poland Can't Count on the United States


"The 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 (Polish)

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 Poland.


A rather conciliatory Vliadimir Puting presents a candle at the Cemetery of Defenders of Westerplatte where Poland defended itself against the initial Nazi attack on their country, outside of Gdansk, Poland, Sept. 1. Poles still resent the Soviet Union's attack that immediately followed - and the Soviet murder of most of Poland's officers' corp.


RUSSIA TODAY NEWS: Russia-Poland relations strained over historical revisionism, Sept 1., 00:04:33RealVideo

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 Europe.


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 Europe.


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 the 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 United States.


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.


At a ceremony in Gdansk, Poland to commemorate the 70th anniversary

of WWII - which began with a Nazi attack on Poland - President Kaczynski

of Poland described the Russian invasion of Poland that followed the Nazi

one, as a 'stab in the back.'

[Watch video by clicking here or clicking on the photo above.]



NRC Handelblad, Netherlands: On 70th Anniversary of War, Wounds in Europe Still Sting

Izvestia, Russia: 'Shocking' Russian and American Ignorance About World War II  

Izvestia, Russia: Truman and Churchill No Better Than Stalin

Vedemosti, Russia: 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: German Editorial Roundup on 70 Years After WW II

The Telegraph, U.K.: Vatican Says 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'
Gazeta, Russia: Medvedev and Obama: 'Resetting' U.S.-Russia Ties Won't Come Easy
Gazeta, Russia: The Kremlin Balanced 'Between Two Chairs': Iran's and the West's
Gazeta, Russia: Anti-Americanism for Russian Public Consumption Only
Izvestia, Russia: 'Overloaded' With U.S. English as the Language of Diplomacy


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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.










































[Posted by WORLDMEETS.US September 8, 8:55pm]


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