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The Rocky U.S.-Polish Relationship

Jan Cienski reports on the new Polish government’s dim view of the relationship with the U.S.:

Poland’s new government has shed the country’s “negro mentality” when it comes to relations with the United States, Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski said on Polish public television.

Waszczykowski’s use of murzyńskości, a phrase insulting in both Polish and English, was supposed to be his way of showing that Poland’s right-wing Law and Justice party (PiS) government has broken with the supposed servile attitude towards Washington demonstrated by the previous government.

These comments can only hurt Poland’s relations with Washington. They will further damage the new government’s image in the West. Many already perceived it to be too nationalistic and heavy-handed, and this episode will reinforce that impression. The funny thing is that Poland was arguably very subservient to Washington under the last Law and Justice government during the Bush years. It was that government that went along with Bush’s missile defense scheme when most other NATO governments wanted no part of it, and it was the Kaczynski brothers that presided over a deterioration in relations with both Germany and Russia as part of their tilt towards the U.S. Cienski described this tilt in an article for Foreign Policy a few years ago:

The triumph of the right-wing Law and Justice party in 2005, led by the twin Kaczynski brothers — Lech, who became the president, and Jaroslaw, who was the prime minister — brought pro-U.S. policy to its peak. The Kaczynskis were suspicious of the EU, fearing that Poland’s traditional culture and Roman Catholicism would be diluted in a larger, cosmopolitan Europe. They saw Poland’s traditional enemies, Germany and Russia, as potential foes, and relations with both neighbors soured. Poland’s only true friend, they felt, was the United States.

In fact, it was the previous government that had made a priority of improving relations with its German and Russian neighbors at the same time that it de-emphasized the relationship with the U.S. The new government is in a bind, since it probably can’t cultivate better relations with many of its fellow EU members but also doesn’t want to be associated with the U.S. under Obama. It seems likely that Poland could end up as isolated in Europe as it was a decade ago without enjoying warm relations with Washington.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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