President Obama with President Lech KaczynskiOpinia.USOpinia.US SAN FRANCISCO — Displaying unprecedented boldness for a US diplomatic mission, the US Embassy in Warsaw conceded on its official public website that Poles believe that the “insensitive timing” — as the Embassy put it — of the Obama administration announcement on canceling the US missile shield system in Central Europe “shows that Obama does not understand Poland.” In what may be a deliberate US public diplomacy effort to repair the public relations damage in Poland, a news item on the embassy website, posted in both English and Polish, acknowledged that “the timing of Obama’s announcement upset Poland and Polish Americans because it came on Sept. 17, the 70th anniversary of the Russian invasion of Poland at the beginning of World War II.” The US Embassy in Warsaw also pointed out that “Russian troops occupied Poland for the next five decades, and did not withdraw until after the Cold War.” It was not a classic military occupation by a foreign power, since the communist regime in Poland had its own army and police and Soviet troops were confined to military bases, but all major decisions regarding Poland’s foreign and domestic policy had to have Moscow’s approval — something the Poles fear might happen again if the United States disengages militarily from the region.

The Peasant PrinceThe US embassy website annoucement dealt with the presentation of a book about Polish history to President Obama last week in New York by Polish President Lech Kaczynski. According to news reports, President Kaczynski sat next to President Barack Obama at a luncheon in New York where world leaders gathered for the UN session of the General Assembly. During his meeting with Barack Obama, President Kaczynski gave him a copy of Alex Storozynski‘s book about Tadeusz Kosciuszko: The Peasant Prince: Thaddeus Kosciuszko and the Age of Revolution. President Obama’s copy of The Peasant Prince had an inscription from the author which said: “To President Obama, May Kosciuszko inspire you to learn more about Poland, the country whose motto is, For Your Freedom and Ours.” Poles are particularly upset that the Obama administration in its desire to win favors with Moscow does not appreciate their military contributions in Iraq and Afghanistan, where Polish soldiers have been fighting alongside American soldiers and suffered casualties.

President Kaczynski, who was elected in 2005 for a five year term, had a close relationship with former President Bush and supported his missile defense plans. The current government in Poland is headed by one of President Kaczynski’s political rivals, Prime Minister Donald Tusk, but as most Polish politicians, he has also supported the Bush plan. Prime Minister Tusk was reported to be upset by the Obama administration announcement on September 17 and the lack of proper consultations with America’s allies in Central Europe to the point of refusing to accept a telephone call from President Obama, which came in the middle of the night in Poland on September 16.

The US Embassy in Warsaw noted that the book The Peasant Prince by Alex Storozynski outlines Kosciuszko’s pivotal role in the American Revolution and his efforts to spread that democratic revolution to Europe. If the first African American US president was not offended by being told in such a public gesture that he needs to improve his knowledge of Polish history and takes time to read the book, he would learn that in addition to fighting to overthrow the British monarchy in the United States, Kosciuszko championed the rights of black slaves in America. Kosciuszko was also a champion for the rights of white serfs in feudalistic Europe, Jews, women, Native Americans and all people who were disenfranchised. His motto was, “For your freedom and ours.”

The Embassy describes Kosciuszko was a true American hero. He joined the Continental Army in 1776, and after building forts near Philadelphia; he devised the strategy for the Battle of Saratoga – the turning point of the American Revolution. Kosciuszko also drafted the blueprints for West Point and built the fortress that Benedict Arnold tried to sell to the British. Jefferson said of Kosciuszko: “He is as pure a son of liberty, as I have ever known, and of that liberty which is to go to all, and not to the few or rich alone.”

President Obama may share some of the basic attitude toward Poland, Polish Americans and Russia as another progressive and popular US president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The Polish question became a major nuisance for FDR during World War II, just as it may now become for President Obama, who apparently believes that Russia’s help is essential in dealing with Iran and other global issues, said a former US government official who was in charge of American radio broadcasts to Poland during the Cold War.

FDR was convinced that the Soviet Union and Stalin were indispensable to maintaining peace in East-Central Europe and would help the US in the war against Japan while Poland was just a minor military ally. In an exchange that took place in 1943, FDR observed in response to doubts being expressed by one of his advisors about Stalin, “I just have a hunch that Stalin is not that kind of a man. . . . I think that if I give him everything I possibly can and ask for nothing from him in return, noblesse oblige, he won’t try to annex anything and will work with me for a world… of democracy and peace.”

FDR’s wildly optimistic assessment of Stalin and Russia led to the Yalta Conference agreement in February 1944, in which the United States and Great Britain effectively gave Moscow control over Poland and other nations in East-Central Europe. While American public opinion, US strategy and policy toward the Soviet Union changed drastically shortly after FDR’s death, it took several decades of the Cold War, the wars in Korea and Vietnam, and billions of dollars in military expenditures before the Soviet Union collapsed and Eastern Europe was liberated peacefully from Moscow’s domination.

The fear in Poland that history may repeat itself may explain, according to a former US official, the unprecedented frankness of the news item placed by American diplomats in Warsaw on the US Embassy website. Another explanation may be the absence of a US ambassador in Poland, the lack of usual bureaucratic supervision and the desire of the embassy staff to redeem themselves after failing to get the attention of the Obama White House that making the missile announcement on September 17 would be seen as a major offense in Poland.

It is not clear whether the news on the US embassy website is a purely local initiative of American diplomats in Warsaw or represents a major effort approved in Washington to repair the public relations damage from President Obama’s decision. A former employee of the now defunct US Information Agency, which was once responsible for conducting public diplomacy, said that in any case it was a commendable display of diplomatic frankness and courage.

President Bush’s ambassador, Victor H. Ashe, had left Poland last week. The new ambassador-designate to Poland is Lee A. Feinstein, a former political advisor to Hillary Clinton. He apparently also failed to educate the White House and his former and current boss at the Department of State on the sensitivity of this issue for the Polish people.

End of Opinia.US report. Opinia.US reports may be republished with attribution.

Be Sociable, Share!