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Poles Apart

Obama alienates our ally Poland.

12:00 AM, Sep 21, 2009 • By REUBEN F. JOHNSON
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Krakow, Poland

Conventional wisdom is that with the Obama administration in office relations between the U.S. and the rest of the world--particularly with our European allies--had no place to go but up. European nations, we were told, would be deliriously happy with a president who never hesitates to apologize for "American hubris and aggression abroad." Obama's view of the world was rated as being far more enlightened than that of his predecessor who, according to the chattering classes, believed "most nations only fall into two categories--those to be invaded and those to be ignored."

Talk about being invaded is not just some blasé babble that should be thrown about, particularly when there are nations that are our allies who have forgotten more about being invaded than most of the White House's ideological soulmates will ever know. One of those is Poland, and the current government in Warsaw is anything but pleased with what is constantly being described in America as Washington's "new and more intelligent approach to foreign affairs."

This month marked 70 years since the Second World War began on 1 September 1939, when the German Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe began a merciless invasion of its neighbor, Poland. There is hardly a nation other than the Soviet Union that suffered more during the next six years, but it does not end there. In 1945 when the war was over and peace was declared most Poles will tell you even to this day "our troubles were just beginning."

The next four and half decades would see the nation under the thumb of Soviet occupation, its economy strangled, the population's historical Catholic faith suppressed to the maximum extent possible, and its people placed under an oppressive puppet regime and a secret police force backed up by the sadistic and murderous Zomo riot squads. The despair of many of the Poles who lived through those years is surpassed only by the brutality they experienced almost every day.

The anniversary of WWII earlier this month was therefore the beginning of a time of troubles for Poland that few who lived outside of this part of the world can appreciate. The government in Warsaw rightfully expected Washington to demonstrate its recognition for all that their nation has endured--as well as for Poland being one of the new NATO nations that has tried to contribute as much as possible to the military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq--by sending an individual of appropriate rank to attend this historic commemoration.

Imagine the Poles dismay--and the extent to which they have been offended--when the initial word was that the head of the U.S. delegation that would attend the ceremony in Gdansk would not be any senior member of the administration, but would instead be former Secretary of Defense William Perry, who has been out of office for 12 years now. Deciding that all of the U.S. executive branch and foreign policy officials were too busy to be bothered with this event is bad enough. But, the initial decision of the BHO White House to low-ball this particularly pivotal moment in Polish history was all the more insulting when one considers that the head of the delegation from Moscow would be none other than Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, the man who is accepted by most to be the real power and the real ruler of Russia.

During that week's Polish International Defence Exposition in the city of Kielce representatives of U.S. defense companies trying to do business with our Polish allies had their ear bent about this turn of events. U.S. industry appears to be the vehicle that the Polish Ministry of Defence and other government institutions have chosen to express their displeasure through because: a) it involves jobs and money for American industry at time when both are hard to come by, which means they can get the attention of Congress, and, b) Warsaw's attempts to communicate their unhappiness through the U.S. Embassy and other official channels have not had much of an impact. (Even though they should have.)

"The Poles are not at all happy with how they are being treated this week," said one industry marketing executive--lowering his voice so that no one within earshot could hear "They look at Putin saying he will show up on the podium at Westerplatte [Gdansk] and then see our first response--no Obama, no Biden, no Hillary--and combine this with all the earlier talk about Washington wanting to press the 'reset' button on relations with Russia. What are they supposed to think about the U.S. commitment to them and where they rank on our list of priorities?"