War in Ukraine makes Poland America’s ‘indispensable’ ally – POLITICO

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WARSAW — When Polish President Andrzej Duda met his American counterpart Joe Biden last June, it was a hasty nudge at a NATO summit in Brussels.

That’s when the Polish nationalist government’s pro-Trump stance, efforts to bring the media and courts under tighter political control, and attacks on LGBTQ+ minorities made Poland something of a pariah. among liberal democracies.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine changed that.

Biden will be in Warsaw on Friday to meet with Duda and other top officials; two weeks ago Vice President Kamala Harris was in town, and a week before it was Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

“The presence of the American leader in our country, in this difficult period, is an extremely important signal confirming the Polish-American strategic relations,” Duda said in a national address on Thursday evening, adding that the two countries were bound by “values common”. .”

Today, Poland is considered a key NATO ally in the confrontation with Russia. Historically shaped by hostilities with Russia, it has hosted more than 2 million Ukrainian refugees and has an army of more than 120,000 men reinforced with Allied aid.

Poland is “an important partner as we work to stay united in the weeks and months ahead,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday when announcing Biden’s visit.

This is an unusual position for Poland.

“There has been a sea change in terms of relations with the United States,” said Katarzyna Pisarska, president of the Casimir Pulaski Foundation, a Warsaw-based foreign policy think tank. “Poland has become ‘the’ strategic partner in the region for the United States.”

Warsaw’s relations with Washington have been quite rocky in recent years. Poland’s right-wing leaders were briefly hypnotized by former President Donald Trump and hoped the Mercurial President would permanently station US troops in Poland – with Duda’s unofficial suggestion that such a base be named Fort Trump. Nothing came of this plan.

Despite their ideological similarities, the Trump administration fell out with Warsaw when US Ambassador Georgette Mosbacher read the Polish government the riot act following its attacks on TVN, an independent television station critical of the government and detained by Discovery Channel of the United States.

That didn’t stop Duda from hedging his bets after the election, when he bliss Biden “on a successful presidential campaign” but also added, “Pending nomination by the Electoral College.”

In the United States, anti-LGBTQ+ campaigns launched by Duda and other politicians to build support among far-right voters have also been met with disgust.

These tensions, along with Poland’s longstanding dispute with the European Union over the rule of law and judicial independence, have left Warsaw marginalized and unable to take a leading role in warning United States and the rest of the EU of the danger posed by Russia.

A new leaf

That began to change late last year, when the United States began issuing strident warnings about the danger of Russia attacking Ukraine.

In January, Duda was invited to a video call with Biden with the leaders of the UK, France, Germany, Italy, NATO and the EU.

Just two weeks before the Russian invasion, Duda worked to mitigate conflict with the EU, proposing legislation that would dismantle the Supreme Court’s disciplinary chamber. This is a key issue in the rule of law dispute, as the chamber is seen as a way to punish judges who fail to meet political demands. The draft law has not yet been adopted, but it is being considered by parliament. There is a feeling that Duda is trying to distance himself from the more right-wing elements of the ruling coalition.

This was noticed by the White House.

“Over the past few months, President Duda has taken several positive steps to improve the quality of Poland’s democratic institutions, which is a demonstration of the strength of the transatlantic relationship and of our common values,” an official said this week. senior Biden administration official. “We hope that these first steps represent a renewed commitment to strengthening democratic institutions and the rule of law in Poland.

Poland is now a frontline state in clashes with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Given the situation, the administration is clearly prioritizing defense and security in the relationship,” said Alina Polyakova, president of the Washington-based Center for European Policy Analysis. “Poland is the indispensable ally for European security. Other questions and concerns have just taken a back seat. When the going gets tough and there is a direct military threat to NATO, we need Poland. This does not mean that all is forgiven, but it does show very clearly where the priorities are.

The new, warmer relationship was not without its hitches.

An effort to hand over Soviet-era Polish MiG-29 fighters to Ukraine has turned into a communications disaster, with Warsaw, kyiv, Washington and Brussels all sending mixed messages. So far, the case is dead.

The surprise suggestion by Jarosław Kaczyński, the leader of the ruling Law and Justice and Polish party, also caused dismay. de facto leader during a visit to kyiv earlier this month that NATO sent a “peacekeeping mission” to Ukraine to end the war. This was firmly rejected by the United States, NATO and other allies.

A seat at the table

But there is no doubt that Poland has gone from a marginal player to a key member of the Western alliance. He is pushing for the EU to block all energy imports from Russia – a joint effort with the Baltic countries – and pushing for a ban on transport traffic. Warsaw, along with other allies, is sending arms and aid to Ukraine.

The government aims to raise defense spending to 2.5% of economic output, from 2.2% previously, which would put it near the top of NATO’s spending league.

It is also seeing more than 100,000 refugees crossing from Ukraine every day. World leaders are praising Poland’s response, and the United States has said it will accept up to 100,000 Ukrainians fleeing the war.

This puts earlier tensions far into the background, but they are not entirely forgotten.

“U.S. officials at all levels continue to raise concerns about the independence of the judiciary, media freedom, and respect for the rights of members of minority groups, including the LGBTQ+ community, in Poland,” said an American official.


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