Obama and Poland: Angst over the president’s gaffe about

‘Polish death camps’ was just the tip of the iceberg when it

comes to Polish frustration with Washington.

[Graphic from Soda Head, U.S.]



America’s ‘Trojan Horse in Europe’ is About to Bolt (Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland)


“The feelings of Polish elites toward America are rapidly cooling. … Our country, which in the past was called ‘America's E.U. Trojan horse,’ has begun to gallop in another direction. More often than not, leading Polish politicians express critical opinions about U.S. policy and its credibility. Since Poland regained its independence, no political team has been as ‘Ameriskeptic’ as this one.”


By Paweł Wroński



Translated By Halszka Czarnocka


June 14, 2012


Poland - Gazeta Wyborcza - Original Article (Polish)

'Ameri-skeptic' Prime Minister Donald Tusk: One of a new generation of Polish leaders more skeptical of the United States than his elders.

AL-JAZEERA NEWS VIDEO: Poland to investigate CIA renditions, March 30, 00:01:19RealVideo

After a speech by Prime Minister Donald Tusk in which he forcefully demanded that Obama apologize for having used the term “Polish death camps,” The New York Times wrote that the White House was caught by surprise. In the European Voice, well known commentator Edward Lucas wrote that one can share Poland’s rage without agreeing with the way in which it was expressed.


After Obama sent his expression of regret, Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski mocked the U.S. president's advisors on Twitter, inviting them to Poland for "reeducation." Sikorski, at the Wrocław Global Forum, during a panel with U.S. Ambassador to Poland Lee Feinstein, compared the alliance with the U.S. to taking a “mud bath with a hippopotamus.” At first it is nice and warm, since the hippo screens you from the wind, but when it turns over on its side, one has to squeal loudly so as not to be squashed.


One might agree that Obama's slip-up was embarrassing. But only a few years ago, no one could have imagined a Polish reaction like this. Until recently, politicians tried to tone down any negative reactions in the name of “good relations.” This time around, the president, prime minister and foreign minister all reacted harshly and decisively, and among Polish politicians, the game seemed to be about who could react with the greatest outrage.


In fact, only the president, by sending the U.S. leader a letter, gave him a chance to right the situation without losing face.


Ameri-skeptic Generation


After Obama's misstep, the temperature of Polish-American relations cooled markedly. This may be another piece of evidence that our country, which in the past was called “America's E.U. Trojan horse,” has begun to gallop in another direction. More often than not, leading Polish politicians express critical opinions about U.S. policy and its credibility. Since Poland regained its independence, no political team has been as “Ameriskeptic” as this one.


Many of the reasons for this lay on the American side. The previous Republican administration did little to make its most important ally in Central Europe feel that its military effort in Iraq and Afghanistan had been appreciated. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wrung her hands as Poland was accused of tolerating secret CIA prisons on its territory. Barack Obama’s new team failed to take to heart the 2009 warning letter from leading Central and Eastern European intellectuals and politicians, which asked the president not to lose interest in this part of the world. And in an absolutely disrespectful manner, the U.S. cancelled arrangements for a missile defense shield.



Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland: Ex-President Kwasniewski Admits He Approved CIA Prisons

Dziennik, Poland: President Thanks Obama for Helping Dispel ‘Vicious Language’

Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland: With Luck, Obama’s Gaffe will Put End to the Issue

Dziennik, Poland: Every Pole Must Protest Until Obama Apologizes

Rzeczpospolita, Poland: Tusk Tells Obama: ‘Words Very Deeply Hurt All Poles’
Rzeczpospolita, Poland: Obama’s ‘Death Camp’ Gaffe Has Done Poland a Favor

Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland: ‘Polish’ Concentration Camps: ‘Major Blunder for Obama’
Telegraph, U.K.: Obama Insults 38 million Poles with Crass Remark

Daily Mail, U.K.: Aide Apologises Obama's Calling Death Camp 'Polish'
Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland: Poland Itself Must Investigate Secret CIA Prisons
Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland: Poland Beware: American Colossus Changes Course
Le Monde, France: Report Confirms CIA Ran Secret Prisons in Poland, Romania
Le Monde, France: Governments Across Europe Investigate CIA 'Renditions'
La Jornada, Mexico: Loughner - Carriles: Two Terrorists, One U.S. Double Standard
La Stampa, Italy: Now, Italy Must Gird for the Repercussions Over CIA Convictions 


These days it is obvious that in Obama's inner circle, diplomats from the Democratic Party of the caliber of the late Richard Holbrooke or Ron Asmus are sadly absent.


In Poland, power has been handed to the next generation of politicians. For the past two decades, relations with U.S. have been shaped by people to whom the United States was a shining example of democratic freedom: President Lech Wałęsa, Professor Bronisław Geremek; or by people of the communist past who embraced Americanism: Democratic Left Alliance leader Leszek Miller and former President Aleksander Kwaśniewski, who became a friend of Bill Clinton. President Lech Kaczyński, for whom situating the anti-missile shield on Polish territory was to be his greatest achievement and a strategic security guarantee, aspired to the status of George W. Bush's most important ally in this part of Europe.


People who now influence our foreign policy have a less idealistic approach to America; there are even those who have survived bitter disappointment with Washington. The most interesting is the evolution of Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski, who used to be associated with Republican Party policies, and at the turn of the century, worked at the American Enterprise Institute.


When he became head of the Polish Defense Ministry, Sikorski went to the United States to discuss ways of strengthening the Polish Army with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, whom he knew quite well. He quickly experienced the workings of Washington's meat grinder. American politicians began complaining to President Kaczyński behind Sikorski’s back that his defense minister was a nuisance, and being too insistent in his demands. That was the "reason" Kaczynski insisted he should not be a candidate for the foreign minister’s post in the Tusk government.


During the previous Polish administration, Professor Roman Kuźniar, President Komorowski's foreign policy advisor, had been fired by Foreign Minister Anna Fotyga as head of the Polish International Relations Institute for criticizing the concept of an anti-missile shield. His aversion to American-style politics is still visible.


On September 17, 2009, Donald Tusk seems to have lost any illusions he may have had about the U.S., when in the middle of the night, President Obama tried calling to tell him that the original idea of the missile shield was being ditched - a fact that American newspapers had already been reporting for several hours.


[Translator’s Note: There is another reason Obama’s timing was such a blunder: he told the Prime Minister Tusk the news on the 70th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of east Poland. This added insult to injury, as the shield was regarded by Poles as the ultimate guarantee that America would stand with Poland against Russian aggression].


Today, these are the politicians shaping our relations with the United States.


Why do we need the shield, anyway?


Priorities for both Poland and America have been in flux. When the U.S. declared a reduction of forces in Europe and their transfer to Asia, Polish politicians lost confidence that in the event of a security threat, there would be American divisions on Polish soil.


The missile defense shield has also ceased to be a priority for Polish security policy. Since the Lisbon Summit in 2010, the shield has become part of NATO's defense system. But unofficially, our politicians insist that this is more than anything a propaganda phrase, and that the purpose of the shield is to protect the United States. Promises of developing SM-3 missiles to defend countries in which it is located is, for the time being, just a dream.

Posted by Worldmeets.US


The argument that thanks to the shield, there would be American troops stationed on Polish territory and that the United States would have something to defend here has also been diminished. The rocket bases are mobile and the command and control systems are to be situated, not in Poland, but in German Rammstein.



Kommersant, Russia: U.S. Reversal: Romania to Host Anti-Missile Shield  

Yezhednevniy, Russia: Shall Russians Praise or Curse 'Those Treacherous Yankees'?

Rzeczpospolita, Poland: Poland Agrees to Accept Modified U.S. Missile Shield  

Dziennik, Poland: 'Live American Shields' Better than Bush Missile Defense  

Financial Times Deutschland: Missile Shield: 'Time for Confrontation is Over'

Der Spiegel, Germany: Biden Seeks to Smooth Feathers in 'New Europe'  

Gazeta, Russia: After the Shield: Time for Kremlin to Bring Itself to Reciprocate

Novosti, Russia: Iran Can't Be 'Swapped' for Halt to U.S. Missile Defense  

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Russia: Medvedev 'Confesses' His Plans Differ from Putin's    

Rzeczpospolita, Poland: Obama's Russia 'Gambit'

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

Rzeczpospolita, Poland: Banish All 'Magical Thinking' Regarding the Russian Bear

Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland: Missile Shield Talks: How the Bush Team Lost Poland

Sydsvenskan, Sweden: Obama's Anti-Missile Gambit Pursued for the Greater Good

Le Monde, France: Obama's Missile Policy Change a Shrewd Gambit

Der Spiegel, Germany : 'Russian Euphoria' at Obama's Decision To Shelve Missile Shield

The Times, U.K.: 'Dismay in Europe' as Obama Ditches Missile Shield

Novosti, Russia: Russia's NATO Envoy Warns Against 'Childish Euphoria' Over Shield


Construction of the shield is no longer a “guarantee of our independence,” as Lech Kaczyński put it, but a source of difficulty. The shield is meant to defend the United States against a hypothetical ballistic rocket attack from Iran and Korea. At the same time, Poland is the only NATO nation within range of the very real Russian Iskander missiles stationed in Kaliningrad.


Few in Warsaw are likely to be seriously upset if - in accordance with his overheard exchange with Dmitry Medvedev - Barack Obama proves “more flexible” on the issue after the election.


What is the future of Polish-American relations? For the first time in a very long time - nobody knows. And Americans also have something to lose. Up to now, the biggest military contract it has signed in this part of Europe is with Poland, which has purchased 48 F-16 fighter planes. In short order, Poland will begin modernizing its air defenses; new planes will be needed to replace its aging Su-22 bombers. And this time, the missiles and aircraft will not necessarily be American.




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[Posted by Worldmeets.US June 23, 1:49am]





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