Poland-USA: A Special Relationship?
Trump praises Poland and attacks Germany at NATO Summit
By Robert Strybel
WARSAW–Poland’s current Polish administration speaks and acts as if a special Polish-US relationship with America were an undeniable fact of life. The rhetoric of the ruling conservative Law and Justice party is visibly pro-American and is closer in spirit to today’s Washington than to many European capitals.
Poland was favorably singled out at the latest NATO summit in Brussels by US President Donald Trump who said: “There are countries like Poland that would never accept Russia’s diktat. And there are countries like Germany that are totally controlled by and captives of Russia.” He added that the US was spending billions to protect Germany from Russia, while Berlin goes and pumps billions into Russia to make it richer.
Trump was referring to the controversial Russo-German Nordstream 2 pipeline which circumvents the countries of Central-East Europe and threatens Ukraine’s political and economic stability. More importantly, it is due to pipe Russian gas into the heart of Europe. On the basis of Moscow’s previous dealings with its customers, that may also run the risk of potential energy blackmail.
Germany was also criticized by Trump for reneging on its pledge of two percent GDP defense spending and is earmarking only 1.5 percent for that purpose. Poland has achieved the 2 percent mark and is planning to increase military spending 2.5 percent over the next few years. According to Trump, the US spends 4 percent GDP on defense and bankrolls three-fourths of NATO’s budget.
An anti-American thread seems to run through much of the West European establishment. It displayed a skeptical attitude towards Trump’s meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. And strong opposition has been triggered by Trump’s withdrawal from his nuclear deal with Iran and by his custom duties on European steel and aluminum.
“With friends like that, who needs enemies?” sniffed European Council chief Donald Tusk, a former liberal Polish prime minister.
But, when asked to comment on the situation, Polish President Andrzej Duda preferred to rise above divisive current issues. “From a Polish perspective, most important is to keep Euro-Atlantic bonds in good condition.” In fact, Warsaw has indicated its willingness to serve as a keystone connecting Europe and America.
Polish pro-Americanism goes back at least to President Woodrow Wilson’s demand for a free Poland during World War I. More recently, it was reflected during the US-led Operation Iraqi Freedom to which Poland eagerly contributed troops. Being ridiculed as “America’s Trojan Jackass” by some West Europeans didn’t seem to faze most Poles.
FDR was said to, have sold Poland to Stalin at Yalta, but many realized that the ailing and failing US chief executive already had one foot in the grave at the time. Older Poles prefer to remember the US-funded Voice of America and Radio Free Europe, the CARE packages and the people-to-people contacts which gave Poles hope during their 45-year communist nightmare.
A year ago, tens of thousands of Poles heard Trump describe their country in the most glowing of terms at Warsaw’s Krasicki Square. He publicly praised Poland and the Polish people for their patriotism and courage, their fidelity to God, country and family as well as their willingness to fight and sacrifice “for your freedom and ours.” The American president’s views were entirely in sync with the traditonal values of the now ruling Law and Justice government.
Whether all that qualifies as a “special relationship” is debatable. But the fact remains that for the Polish nation America has always been a special case, often the sole beacon of hope, inspiration and consolation amid alien threats. For 45 years, it was ideologically alien communism. Now it is post-communism, as many Poles refer to the pro-globalist, anti-Polish leftist-liberal opposition.