Radek Sikorski’s party, the governing Civic Platform, attacked the Kaczyński twins (Lech and Jaroslaw, president and prime minister of Poland in 2005, respectively) and their Law and Justice Party for their staunchly pro-American policies and assertiveness vis-à-vis Moscow, Berlin, and Brussels (which they depicted as “trouble-making”) even before coming to power in 2007, i.e. before the Russian invasion of Georgia and prior to Obama’s election and subsequent “reset” policy.
By Paweł Piotr Styrna | July 1, 2014
Poland’s foreign minister Radek Sikorski (left) and U.S. president Barack Obama (right)
Polish foreign minister Radek Sikorski’s crass comments—uttered in a restaurant conversation with the country’s finance minister, Jacek Rostowski, and revealed by Wprost magazine – have caused great embarrassment to the government of Donald Tusk and generated an international scandal.
The Oxford graduate and one-time AEI resident fellow asserted to Rostowski that “the Polish-American alliance is worthless. In fact, it’s harmful because it gives us a false sense of security.” When asked to explain, the foreign minister resorted to churlish sexual metaphors: “[the alliance is] complete bull****. We will antagonize Russia and Germany, [and] we will think everything is hunky-dory because we gave the Americans a blow***. Chumps, complete chumps.”
The tasteless language aside, Sikorski’s views reflect the frustration and disappointment of quite a few U.S. allies with the Obama administration’s policies. Barack Obama suddenly scrapped President George W. Bush’s missile shield on the 70th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland without even bothering to notify Warsaw beforehand. Next, following the suspicious Smolensk Plane Crash in Russia of April 10, 2010, Obama preferred to play golf rather than attend the funeral of Poland’s late president, Lech Kaczyński. Most recently, Obama has vacillated during Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.
At least the Bush administration backed up the red line that it drew regarding Moscow’s invasion of Georgia in 2008 and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice secured the U.S.-Georgia Strategic Charter on January 9, 2009 before Obama’s January 20 presidential inauguration.
Yet, what conclusion are the generally pro-American ex-“captive nations” to arrive at when Moscow seizes the territories of two pro-U.S. nations – Georgia and Ukraine – with relative impunity, while the Obama White House dithers?
Nevertheless, all the blame cannot be laid at the door of the White House. Radek Sikorski’s party, the governing Civic Platform, attacked the Kaczyński twins (Lech and Jaroslaw, president and prime minister of Poland in 2005, respectively) and their Law and Justice Party for their staunchly pro-American policies and assertiveness vis-à-vis Moscow, Berlin, and Brussels (which they depicted as “trouble-making”) even before coming to power in 2007, i.e. before the Russian invasion of Georgia and prior to Obama’s election and subsequent “reset” policy. The post-communists and their liberal allies in Poland simply utilized Obama’s lack of interest in Central and Eastern Europe to justify their geopolitical and ideological proclivities.
Even so, the events of 2008-2014 in the region, and Washington’s reactions to these, have led some otherwise pro-American elements in the Intermarium to ask themselves: if the U.S. leaves us in the lurch when we face Russian aggression (military, economic, or cyber), perhaps we should make the best of a bad situation and seek an accommodation with Moscow? Such conclusions are no doubt reinforced by the growing current of “neo-isolationism” among Americans, who – following such costly expeditions like Iraq and Afghanistan – are increasingly unwilling to intervene in foreign conflicts.
At the end of the day, it is clear that the weakening of the bonds of the Polish-American alliance – for which both the Obama administration and the Tusk government are responsible – has benefited neither Poland nor the United States. History has shown that strong partnerships between Russia and Germany were usually detrimental to Poland’s independence and even existence. Moscow and Berlin have no interest in a Poland that is anything but a weak and impotent vassal state. Thus, a policy based on docility vis-à-vis Russia and Germany offers Poland precious few advantages. From the American perspective, Obama’s policy of sacrificing pro-American Central and Eastern European nations to placate an anti-American Kremlin has failed. As a result, countries that have demonstrated a willingness to support the U.S. in areas where they have no pressing national interests, while asking for little or nothing in return, have been alienated. Simultaneously, post-Soviet Russia – an aggressive bully whose anti-Americanism is almost as rabid as that of the Ayatollahs in Tehran – has interpreted Obama’s overtures as a green light to accelerate the reconstruction of the Muscovite empire.
Paweł Styrna has an MA in modern European history from the University of Illinois, and is currently working on an MA in international affairs at the Institute of World Politics in Washington, DC, where he is a research assistant to the Kościuszko Chair of Polish Studies. Mr. Styrna is also a Eurasia analyst for the Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research and a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis.