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The Rocky U.S.-Polish Relationship

Jan Cienski reports [1] 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 [2] and Russia as part of their tilt towards the U.S. Cienski described this tilt in an article [3] 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.

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12 Comments To "The Rocky U.S.-Polish Relationship"

#1 Comment By Ken Hoop On March 30, 2016 @ 7:17 pm

couldn’t they form an alliance or become more friendly with Russia? Didn’t the Galacian Ukes take a part of their land? There’s some kind of nazbol syncretic party in Poland that is pro-Russ, anti-Uke, not sure of these guys.

#2 Comment By Lee On March 31, 2016 @ 12:35 am

If European nations have any common sense, they’ll follow Poland’s lead in moving toward Nationalism, and slam the door shut on Washington’s face.

#3 Comment By William Dalton On March 31, 2016 @ 1:04 am

“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.”

Is the Polish foreign minister trying to say that his nation’s relationship to the United States has been that of a slave to a master and that Poland intends no longer to play the role of America’s slave?

Does this make his statement any more “politically correct”?

#4 Comment By Tony On March 31, 2016 @ 8:55 am

I support Poland’s stand viz-a-viz the US. The US should not get drawn into yet another defense system in which we do all the heavy lifting, only to, at some point in the future, become the object of scorn and disdain by the country we are “helping”. We’ve been down that road much too long with the west Europeans. Let Europe do its own work.

#5 Comment By SteveM On March 31, 2016 @ 9:08 am

Re: “It seems likely that Poland could end up as isolated in Europe as it was a decade ago without enjoying warm relations with Washington.”

In this day and age, what does “isolated from Europe” mean anyway? What are the tangible implications for Poland of that “isolation”?

Likewise, the “warm relations with Washington”. What is the benefit to Poland of those “warm relations”? Putting more U.S. military assets in Poland to protect it from a Russia that has absolutely no intention of invading? To say nothing of the hyperbolic fear-mongering of an Iranian ballistic missile attack on Warsaw ginned up by the Bush Neocons. That proposed U.S. missile defense system in Poland would be yet another worthless expenditure. If those go away, then so what?

Except for the dollars that the American military may spend in Poland, that Big Brother security posture provides essentially no benefit at all to the Poles.

The U.S. Global Cop plays overbearing Big Brother because it’s in its DNA. In the grand scheme of things, that intrusiveness provides essentially nothing to countries that are capable of decently governing themselves and legitimacy for the repulsive autocratic regimes like Saudi Arabia that live inside the U.S. sphere of influence.

And as always, when you connect the dots, it’s the American taxpayers that get hosed…

#6 Comment By Mike Krupa On March 31, 2016 @ 9:48 am

As a Pole living in Poland, I can say that a reset with Russia is in order. The Russian bogeyman is exactly that- a bogeyman. Russia in no way harbors aggressive intentions towards Poland. Our neoconish current government is in many ways russophobic to the core. We are waiting for a Polish Nixon. But don’t believe the propaganda- most Poles believe our one-sided support of the Maidan protests was dumb and costly. People are coming around to that reality quickly.

#7 Comment By mf On March 31, 2016 @ 9:57 am

American conservatives should learn from Polish example. The present Polish government came into power by lying in your face, noxious, sustained over many years, propaganda campaign. Real economic issues were a backdrop to this campaign, but the campaign itself promoted paranoid thinking, claims of the country in ruins, and unfortunately neo-fascist, burning antisemitism that is a traditional signature of the European brand of fascism. The campaign worked and the law and justice party came to power. Now it is being hoisted on it’s own propaganda petard, ruining reasonably good relations that Poland enjoyed both with Europe and in the United States. Their economic promises are mostly unrealistic, so we may expect compensatory chaos in everything else to satisfy their base.
Donald Trump anyone?

#8 Comment By John On March 31, 2016 @ 10:00 am

He’ll get along swimmingly with President Trump’s Secretary of State.

#9 Comment By marteen On March 31, 2016 @ 10:45 am

As a Pole living in Poland, I can say that a reset with Russia is in order. The Russian bogeyman is exactly that- a bogeyman.

Yes, a “bogeyman” that has invaded two neighboring countries (annexing part of one), launched cyber-attacks on neighboring countries, repeatedly violated air space with war planes of neighboring countries. Sound about right?

#10 Comment By Damoj On March 31, 2016 @ 11:03 am

As Bismarck said: the Poles are unconquerable, but when left to their own devices, they usually destroy themselves. Within a year of being reconstituted as an independent state, Poland went to war with all of her neighbors; isolating themselves is a recurring part of Polish political character, unfortunately.

#11 Comment By Hate Us But Defend Us? On March 31, 2016 @ 1:47 pm

Isn’t Poland (and the Baltics) the NATO allies begging for the U.S. to station 150 U.S. tanks and U.S. support vehicles, U.S. troops, etc., to bolster their defense last year?

#12 Comment By Just a comment On April 3, 2016 @ 4:58 am

“Isn’t Poland […] the NATO all[y] begging for the U.S. to station 150 U.S. tanks and U.S. support vehicles, U.S. troops, etc., to bolster their defense last year?”

This is correct and has not changed. In January Waszczykowski even lowered its opposition to a certain welfare deal in the UK that would excluse polish immigrants. His famous word: “It would be very difficult for us to accept any discrimination, unless Britain helped us really effectively with regard to the Polish defense ambitions at the summit in Warsaw.”