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Thursday, January 05, 2006

So is this kissing ass or showing spine?

Polish press reports that the current government has promised the US support in any future attack on Iran

Recently, discussions on WS and elsewhere have centered around whether Polish military support of the US in Iraq has more to do with self-interest of the enlightened or not-so enlightened sort. Some argue that Poland's presence in Iraq is driven by a will to "help the Iraqi people" - despite the fact that survey after survey shows that Poles want nothing to do with Iraq.

However, today Rzeczpospolita (Polish link) reports that Poland is chomping at the bit to get involved in another of the US' military campaigns, this time of a much less altruistic nature.

The WBJ sums up the Rz article:

Wayne Madsen, a former US military intelligence officer who is currently an independent analyst, stated that Poland has fully backed the administration of George W. Bush and the potential decision it might make to attack Iran. Madsen backed this announcement on anonymous sources from Polish intelligence, and went on to say that during recent visits of Defense Minister Radosław Sikorski, as well as Foreign Minister Stefan Meller, both ensured their counterparts in the USA, Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice respectively, that Poland will support a possible attack. According to Rzeczpospolita, the Foreign Ministry denies these allegations, and states that the issue of Iran during the past visits was not even touched upon during the talks.

It's widely agreed that if the US indeed were to attack Iran, the campaign would not be an Iraq-style governmental overthrow, but rather a systematic bombing of believed nuclear weapons-making sites, so "helping the Iranian people" is excluded. A bombing campaign would inevitably produce "collateral damage" (heavy loss of innocent Iranian life) for which the US and any of its partners would be roundly criticized. There is no reason to believe that Poles would be any more supportive of an Iranian military adventure than the current Iraqi one, and there is some question as to how much military support Poland could actually give the US in such a situation.

So, if as reported, these promises were indeed made, what in the world could be the Polish government's motivation for making such pacts?

This is about staying on the good side of the guy with the biggest wallet and the biggest guns. Kaczynskis and Co realize that the US is a good partner for a small country which often angers its allies and neighbors to have on its side.

Kissing ass? More like irrigating.


Blogger Michael Farris said...

The US is geographically far enough from Poland that it is perceived as non-threatening. And, the US has yet to really burn Poland. Lots of little indignities, but nothing hugely major.

The Polish government is also hoping/convinced that having the US as a strong ally will act as a deterrent against Russia if/when Russia returns to an agressively expansionist military policy. Failing to act as a deterrent, the Polish government hopes for military assistance in said scenario.

I myself am fairly sure that the US would not offer more than verbal support in such an eventuality.

That said, it's devotion to the US has cost Poland in the EU and will cost it more especially in terms of gaining a reputation as being a poor ally/member. Hint: you can't play on two teams at the same time

1/06/2006 09:19:00 AM  

Blogger Gustav said...

Nail on the head, Michael.

Poland's best hope was to become the type of bridge between Europe and the US that Britain is. I still hold out hope that it could be, but it's done such a good job of turning EU allies away that I don't think it has any of their trust. The bridge has been burned on the EU side, and it will take a while before it's rebuilt.

1/06/2006 10:43:00 PM  

Blogger Redneck Texan said...

That said, it's devotion to the US has cost Poland in the EU and will cost it more especially in terms of gaining a reputation as being a poor ally/member. Hint: you can't play on two teams at the same time.

Perhaps having recently lived under the rule of a real dictator gives the Poles, and the rest of Eastern Europe, much better perspective than the cowards who benefited from the Marshall Plan and American military presence throughout the cold war.

Maybe thats why they don't share the western weenie's jealousy and resentment that fuels their irrational Americaphobia.

Maybe Poland and eastern Europe has not been free long enough to share the west's arrogant attitude towards condemning the Americans for having the balls to keep Europe out of the range of Iranian nuclear missiles. Maybe the new Polish government has enough class and self-respect not to just sit back and let their new ally do all the heavy lifting that ultimately will benefit Poland's security more than Americas.

Y'all are always crying that Poland's relationship with America has not brought Poland instant prosperity, but exactly where would Poland be today if America (Reagan) had not forced the Soviet Union to spend itself into collapse?

I myself am fairly sure that the US would not offer more than verbal support in such an eventuality.

What are you expecting from Poland's EU allies in the event of a resurgence in Russian aggression? About the same as last time?

It appears to me that America shows more respect for Poland than Poland's EU buddies do, seems like a no brainer why they would support America in it's role as the world's policemen......its the right thing to do.


1/07/2006 01:41:00 AM  

Blogger Michael Farris said...

Redneck, can I ask what your experience with Poland and/or Polish people has been? I've lived here for over 10 years and can't recognize anything relevant to Poland in what you write.

First, you assume that Polish people have similar ideas toward government (and specifically the US government) and Poland's past that Americans have. I've never come across any evidence to make me think that.

Are Polish people glad the communist era is over? Overwhelmingly yes. Do they regard it as a time of repression? Not especially (among most). It was economically more unpopular than politically (which is why former party members won so many elections). Kaczynski won the presidential election _despite_ his hard line anti (post)-communist leanings, not because of them.

On the whole Polish people respect Americans as people who know what they want (money) and go after it but we're also seen as naive, politically immature and prone to panic (and simplisitically religious rather than spiritual).
US governments are generally evaluated on their pro-Polish (in word and deed) stance. The first Bush was very popular as was Clinton (after a slow, uncertain start). Most people have not warmed to Bush II who's most often seen as a lightweight who's done nothing for Poland after Poland has risked a lot to support the US.

In the Polish media, I've yet to hear Polish participation described in terms of bringing democracy to Iraq. They don't even pretend it's about anything but supporting the US.

Poland voted to join the EU and there's _no_ will to leave now. As things stand now, Poland doesn't really have _any_ allies in the EU. Spain under Aznar was an ally but his party's defeat ended that. Britain was an ally but Poland (and other countries) publicly humiliating Blair over the budget ended that. Poland needs to create some allies within the EU and just doing anything Washington wants isn't going to get that done.

1/07/2006 07:10:00 PM  

Blogger PierreM said...

"Are Polish people glad the communist era is over? Overwhelmingly yes. Do they regard it as a time of repression? Not especially (among most)."

Sure. Tanks in the street, thousands imprisoned and executed in the 50's, your friends beaten nearly to death under martial law, and the daily, perpetually humiliating scramble needed to find the necessities of life, all dictated by a political system you were powerless to do anything about.

Yeah, it was an 'economic inconvenience' to live under communism.

Michael, you are either a complete fool or you and your friends are too young to remember what it was really like.

Regarding the US, Poland has no choice but to curry favor with Washington. The Poles know very well that any European security guarantees are not worth the paper they are written on.

Given Schroeder's actions, they can see already that Poland's economic and political interests don't even register on the EU radar screen when dealing with Russia. And Poland can find additional allies among the smaller states such as the Netherlands, Denmark, the Czechs, Hungarians, Slovenes, the Baltic states, and even on occasion the Swedes: basically any smaller EU member that does not want France and Germany to dictate every EU policy.

The US guarantees are not merely verbal: the presence of US troops and bases in Poland, Bulgaria and Romania ensures that any military threats against them are also threats against the US.

1/08/2006 04:12:00 AM  

Blogger Michael Farris said...

"Michael, you are either a complete fool or you and your friends are too young to remember what it was really like."

Why thank you kindly. My remarks are based on many dozens (if not hundreds) of conversations with Polish people over many years from all walks of life who lived large chunks of their lives in the Polish Peoples Republic.

What people mention about the communist period is primarily material inconvenience (lines and rations). There really is not that much talk about politics one way or the other (even from those who suffered politically a modern cliche is the most strident anti communists now didn't do much then). There were exceptionally bad periods but those were mostly the exception, not the rule. Poland wasn't East Germany or Romania. Poland at its worst, as in martial law, was still probably freer than peoples Romania at its most lax.
IME Polish people in the great majority are absolutely oblivious to politics (determinedly so) and grimly indifferent about form of government provided they can provide for their families and the government doesn't interfere too much in their personal business.

All in all, Polish memories of the PRL (people's republic) in Poland (as opposed to those who emigrated then) are conflicting and complex. They certainly don't correspond with what conservative Americans think/wish that Polish people think. You might not like it (I'm not always happy about how little Polish people are interested in who makes up the government) but that does seem to be the way of it.

1/08/2006 07:11:00 PM  

Blogger beatroot said...

Pierrem: I agree with you that Polish governments feel they have no choice but to go with the US on defense matters.

But Pierrem - we generally have a rule on these blogs that discourages personal remarks...so please, let's battle about ideas, and not trade insults.

But Mike is right, Poles do have complicated memories about the past here. It all depends on how well they are doing in the new capitalist Poland. If they are the new middle class then communist days have no attraction at all. But if you are an unemployed miner, or a pensioner, or just some of the older Poles who think that all this new (capitalist) popular culture is a disgrace, then the old days can seem, through communist red rosy glasses, to be a much safer place than today.

1/10/2006 12:35:00 AM  

Blogger PierreM said...

Michael, Beatroot:

You're right, I apologize for the personal comments. But it would also help if not every petty cliche about Americans were trotted out with the assuredness of the Pythagorean Theorem.

From the Poles I have met and the time I have spent in Poland, it strikes me that they are a deeply pragmatic people regarding political issues. That lack of animus (despite the depredations of their neighbors to the East and West) combined with an equally innate sense of personal liberty bodes well, I think, for Poland's political future (at least internally).

Regarding her external relations, Poland is still in the unenviable position of having no neighbors who are both trustworthy and militarily competent. In this respect (as noted at AFOE and elsewhere), the swift and united response of the EU to gas problems with Russia had to be very welcome in Warsaw. In the end, I think, the US has no desire to prolong its current heavy involvement in European affairs: so the Poles either have to work harder to get the EU to step up to the task or do more to get the US to maintain a credible presence in Eastern Europe. The problem of course is that pushing too hard on either direction antagonizes one partner or the other.

1/11/2006 03:37:00 AM  

Blogger Michael Farris said...

Well Paul Bremer's book criticising the Polish contingent in Iraq as useless will certainly help!

1/13/2006 06:25:00 PM  

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