Obama Abandons Eastern Europe
Adding insult to injury has become a trademark of President’s Obama policies regarding Poland and other Central and Eastern European (CEE) states. After several political jabs and diplomatic mishaps, including referring to Nazi concentration camps as “Polish death camps,” he has created considerable tension in relations between the U.S. and the region. Of course, the administration’s lack of commitment to strengthening ties with CEE in the short run is a far greater problem for CEE than for the U.S. Still, Obama’s policies regarding Russia and the CEE states seem to consist in eschewing some old, faithful allies without acquiring new ones. In the long run, the decline of American influence in the region and the failure of the Russian “reset” will undermine the U.S.’s strategic foreign-policy goals.
“What on earth happened to Sikorski, why has he become so pro-German and pro-EU all of a sudden?” I was recently asked by a renowned British journalist and writer known for his skepticism toward the European Union and his support for the Anglosphere. “He thinks that Barack Obama may be reelected” was my immediate answer.
Indeed, until last year, Radek Sikorski, Poland’s minister of foreign affairs and Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s most trusted adviser on international matters, was known to be one of the most Atlantic-oriented politicians in Europe. He was educated at Oxford; he wrote for National Review; he was a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute; and he is happily married to Anne Applebaum, a Pulitzer Prize-winning American writer. Formerly the Polish minister of defense, Sikorski has supported the U.S. war effort in Iraq and Afghanistan and Poland’s participation in both operations.
This commitment to alliance with the U.S. was neither well understood nor welcomed in Western Europe (especially in Paris and Berlin), and it was not fully backed by the Polish public. Before 2011, Sikorski and other leading Polish politicians were frank about their belief that the European Union is merely an economic pact and that only their alliance with the U.S. could guarantee geopolitical security. This was the view of other CEE states as well. Their leaders were convinced that Russia’s rekindled ambitions were a threat to the region’s stability; their concerns grew, understandably, after the 2008 war in Georgia. But for no good strategic reason, the bulk of NATO’s defense facilities and troops have remained idly stationed in Germany, still burdening American taxpayers. Even today, CEE states host no significant NATO bases.