U.S.-Polish Relations: Undoing What's Already Been Done

The U.S. relationship with Poland and the Polish people dates back to the Revolutionary War when Polish military engineer Tadeusz Kosciuszko arrived to help the revolutionaries. Since then, Poles have been deeply involved in shaping U.S. history even at times when their home country didn’t exist as a sovereign state. Following the end of the Cold War, Poland has grown to be the strongest Eastern European state and is the one we hold the closest alliance with. Under the Obama administration though this relationship has diminished in strength and only now with events unfolding in Eastern Europe does the president feel compelled to brighten relations. Now, President Obama is in Poland trying to restore what he had a hand in undermining.

The Clinton and Bush administrations greatly expanded American ties with Eastern Europe particularly in defense related areas. These countries couldn't afford to maintain large militaries while simultaneously attempting to grow their economies. We offered security guarantees, military training, paths to NATO membership, and the possibility of missile defense systems. Among Eastern European states, Poland is perhaps our closest ally and the Polish people hold a high approval of the U.S. Additionally, Poland has the star economy in Eastern Europe so it behooves the U.S. to advance relationships with Poland.

With President Obama coming into office though, advancing relations with Poland and other Eastern European states was put on hold to instead allow for a "reset" of relations with Russia. Relations with Russia had under the Bush administration initially thawed only to freeze again as his term came to a close. Now while there was merit to President Obama then seeking enhance relations with Russia, it should not have came at the expense of our allies. Poland had made sizable contributions to U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, contributions that were essentially disregarded.

Almost immediately cracks in the relationship occurred with Obama taking office. The missile defense system was scrapped; the White House public explanation was that it was to allay Russian concerns though leaks of diplomatic cables later revealed that they were used as a bargaining chip to gain Russian support in sanctioning Iran. Several other minor events served to further diminish the importance of the relationship. And now, we come to where we are today; Poland facing an increasingly assertive Russia on the East, and its uninterested allies on the West.

Now is Poland at threat of Russian invasion; no. But then again who knows, those who argue such as thing is impossible such as myself also never believed that Russia would actually carry through with conquering the Crimea while the West would watch. Whatever the case, Poland needs to know that in the event something does occur, the U.S. won't act as a bystander. Our attempts to reignite positive relations with Russia failed and they failed miserably. In pursuing that eventual failure, we pushed our allies to the side. Don't think for a second that Poland and its neighbors will forget that.

On his trip to Poland, President Obama said to a group of Polish and U.S. serviceman "Our commitment to Poland's security, as well as the security of our allies in Central and Eastern Europe, is a cornerstone of our own security, and it is sacrosanct." Given what has transpired in recent months, if I was a Pole I would only take the president's statement with a grain of salt. Judging by early Polish reactions, Warsaw is not overly enthused nor are they impressed with the amount the Obama administration is willing to spend on military concerns in Eastern Europe.

If the U.S. seeks to take a stand against Russia in Eastern Europe, Poland is where it will occur. Positioning more troops in Poland, locating a base there, or increasingly engaging in joint training operations, any of these actions would go far in reigniting relations and trust me, the Poles would support these actions. Poland is the economic and military leader of Eastern Europe, there is no reason why we must treat it as secondary in an attempt to curry favor with Russia, a country that will always be out for itself. I'm happy President Obama is visiting Poland and is taking steps to improving our relationship but our dedication to that relationship should never have been in question in the first place.

Posted by SPBrooker at June 4, 2014 3:21 PM
Comment #379044

What really jerks my chain is that we lost contact with Iraq, Kuwait, Jordan, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and so on down the middle eastern line. What happened with the INC or the Palestinian alliance? I do not want these people in the Obama administration doing any more foreign policy, they just don’t get the mission plan of what we were doing before in both the Clinton administration and the Bush administration (not to mention Herbert Walker Bush).

With Kerry in there it’s like a soap opera that for some reason just cut short. We need internationalism again and Kerry and Rice are not meeting that mission plan. This administartion is small-minded/small mission.

Posted by: simpleheaded at June 5, 2014 10:40 AM
Comment #379143

We (“we” being the Obama administration) are arming the Ukranian militias with flack jackets and other binary defensive goods (gas masks etc.)is that a build-up? Do we suit them up with munitions et al weaponry? What should be our stance on this attempted take-over of a sovereign nation?

If we have to go to war with Russia at any future point we will, if we do nothing, have to litterally trek thousands of miles to track down an individual or a group militia. Is what Obama doing enough or is it weak?

So too for Poland right there in that region, they are dependent upon us to keep peace in that region against Putin’s incursion upon sovereign nations and preemptive annexation.

Posted by: simpleheaded at June 6, 2014 8:06 AM
Comment #379176

The US relationship with Poland has improved dramatically under Obama.

When conservatives and Republicans were in power, we used Poland’s black sites as central stopping points for extraordinary rendition. They were way stations as we sent prisoners to other countries for torture.

Today, we no longer do that. Poland and the US no longer engage in war crimes and violations of the Geneva Convention. Seems like quite an improvement to me.

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