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Jul 14, 2024

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Optimist vs Pessimist On U.S. Relations
With Poland And Eastern Europe


Mr. Ian Brzezinski, former Assistant Secretary of Defense (2001-2005), and currently Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council, and Vice President and Policy Advisor of the American Polish Advisory Council (APAC), forcefully expressed his views on what United States policy should be toward Poland and Eastern Europe at two recent conferences in Washington, DC – APAC’S Second Annual Conference, and the Sixth Annual Conference of the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA).  He is the son of Professor Zbigniew and Emilie Benes Brzezinski and the brother of the United States Ambassador to Sweden, Mark Brzezinski; his sister Mika is a television journalist with CNBC and author of several books.

In photo on right: IAN BRZEZINSKI

APAC is a nonpartisan organization that strives to build relationships with candidates and elected officials regardless of party affiliation.

Readers recall that APAC’S first annual conference took place last year – a presidential election year, – in late September at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, and was a memorable because Mr. and Mrs. Adam Bak, stalwart Republicans, forcefully expressed their dismay to the Romney Campaign’s liaison officer about the Governor’s visit to Poland. During his visit to Poland in the summer of 2012 to win the support of Polish-American voters, Governor Romney DID NOT visit the Wawel in Krakow and pay his respects to Poland’s late President Lech Kaczynski, victim of the Kremlin’s anti-Polonism.  The Adam M. Bak Foundation is a leadership contributor to the Kosciuszko Chair in Polish Studies at the Institute of World Politics in Washington, DC, which has been at the forefront of the effort to put forward the truth about the Smolensk Disaster of 10 April 2010.

At the APAC’S second Polish-American Conference, 28 September 2013, which took place at the headquarters of the Atlantic Council, a non-governmental and non-NATO organization that hosts meetings of political and military leaders from both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, Mr. Brzezinski served as Chair of the panel on “The U.S.-Poland Strategic Relationship”.  Panelists were:  the Honorable Lee Feinstein, United States Ambassador to Poland (2009-2012) and now Senior Fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, Professor Janusz Bugajski, Center for Strategic and International Studies, and Ms. Anne Hall, Director, Office of Central European Affairs, U.S. Department of State.

Readers recall that Poland’s Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski repeatedly requested that then Ambassador Feinstein, a lawyer, refrain from meddling in World War II era private property compensation cases under litigation in the Polish courts. When Ambassador Feinstein persisted, Foreign Minister Sikorski called for the Ambassador’s re-call to Washington. Now Ambassador Feinstein is the expert on Poland at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, a German think tank set-up to register gratitude to the United States for the Marshall Plan and to work for the strengthening of Atlantic Institutions.  In the recent past, the German Marshall Fund, like the German Government, have opposed the enlargement of NATO to include Ukraine, and other countries in the former Soviet Union.   By contrast,  the Atlantic Council has supported the accession to NATO of Ukraine and several other former Soviet Socialist Republics.

The gist of Ambassador Feinstein’s remarks was that Poland’s economy is robust.  He did not mention that the vast majority of Poles do not benefit from this boom.  Instead, the beneficiaries of the boom are the mostly foreign investors  in Poland.   Without citing specifics, the former Ambassador described the US-Poland Strategic Relationship as strong.

The Director of the Office of Central European Affairs, Ms. Anne Hall, also described United States relations with Poland as strong and focused on the future.  She was long on optimistic platitudes and short on specifics.  Measured by money,  state-to-state relations between Poland and the United States unambiguously are focused on the past.  This writer asked Ms. Hall:  Why does the United States Government continue to bully Poland into enacting lump-sum compensation legislation, payable by Polish taxpayers, for World War II era private property on conquered Polish territory that was first despoiled by Nazi Germany and then nationalized by the Soviet Union’s communist proxies?  Why does the United States government disagree with the Polish government’s decision announced on 17 March 2011 to suspend work on lump-sum compensation legislation and to encourage claimants to seek compensation through the Polish courts?  Ms. Hall tersely answered that this is a Holocaust legacy issue and the United States Government will continue to encourage the Polish Government to enact lump-sum compensation.

Professor Janusz Bugajski focused on the resurgence of Russian imperialism.  According to him, this is the key to understanding the near term prospects for the U.S.-Poland security relationship.  As domestic economic and social destabilization accelerates in Russia, the Kremlin’s leaders are increasingly likely to resort to the forceful reassertion of  power over the former Soviet space in  order to divert attention from their internal political difficulties.  The Polish-Swedish Eastern Partnership Initiative (EaP) within the European Union is intended to prevent the restoration of the Kremlin’s imperium over Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova in Eastern Europe.   In the Caucasus, the EaP’s goal is to bolster the sovereignty of Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan.

According to Professor Bugajski, the Vilinius Conference on the Eastern Partnership Initiative, that will take place at the end of November 2013, will be a “make-it-or-break-it” event. Without strong American support for the EaP, this Polish led initiative will fail and democracy will receive a set-back throughout Eastern Europe. Professor Bugajski  suggested that strong United States support for the EaP was most unlikely.  Readers recall that Germany has given anything but strong support to the EaP.  Professor Bugajski is pessimistic about the future of the European Union (EU), and doubts that the EU will establish an army to fill the void as the United States continues to downscale its armed forces in Europe.

As Chair of the panel on the near-term prospects for “The U.S.-Poland Strategic Relationship”, Mr. Brzezinski gave a fair summary of the panelists’ observations and supported the pessimistic position expressed by Professor Bugajski on America’s support for the EaP.  Moreover, Brzezinski added important new facts that will dismay optimists.  While it is true that President Obama ordered the drafting of NATO contingency plans for the defense of Poland and Lithuania in 2009, the United States armed forces required to implement this plan already have been , or soon will be, withdrawn from Europe.  This makes hollow NATO’s Article V, unless the United States shows that it can project over very long distance, by large scale amphibious maneuvers, massive armed forces into the Baltic.  According to Brzezinski, it is by no means certain that the United States will demonstrate its ability to land large numbers of troops on the shores of the Baltic Sea as part of STEADFAST JAZZ, the name for NATO’s early November 2013 war games.

Brzezinski persuasively made these same points at another conference, which took place on 3 October at the elegant Mayflower Hotel, the U.S.-Central Europe Strategy Forum. This event was organized by the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA), a think tank where many former United States foreign policy officials evaluate the interests of the United States in Central Europe.  CEPA Senior Adjunct Fellow, Ms. Kori Schake, who is also a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, first expressed her view that the Kremlin’s leadership does not pose a threat to democratic institutions now taking root in the former Soviet space.  After Brzezinski challenged her position she then acknowledged the plausibility of Brzezinski’s observation that resurgent Kremlin imperialism is the Russian leadership’s response to the threat of mounting domestic destabilization which could lead to their downfall.

Mr. Edward Lucas, International Editor, THE ECONOMIST, and CEPA Senior Adjunct Fellow, made several telling observations.  First, he holds that the quality of democracy anywhere needs to be evaluated based on what happens between elections, and corruption is democracy’s most formidable foe.  He sees widespread corruption in the former communist countries, and, perhaps more importantly, he sees a will to challenge entrenched and corrupt authority.  His second observation goes to the heart of the matter.  Central Europe for most Americans is the Bloodlands, the place where the Holocaust took place.  This past prevents wholehearted support on this side of the Atlantic to help Central Europeans to defend themselves against resurgent Russian imperialism.

 By John Czop