The Future of Eastern European Security
BSSB.BE Hudson Institute 4/02/2019
* «I am tomorrow, or some future day, what I establish today. I am today what I established yesterday or some previous day.» James Joyce
While NATO now encompasses many more nations than it did during the Cold War, this critical alliance continues to face challenges in developing effective strategies and tactics to respond to Russian provocations and threats to neighboring nations, allies, and the world. In this environment, Eastern Europe’s strategic importance is returning to Cold War levels.
The Republic of Poland, in particular, has become a key player in this new Eastern European dynamic and a potential bulwark against Russia. On June 26, Hudson Institute hosted noted scholars, historians, and politicians. Panelists considered Poland’s contributions to fighting tyranny, its active role in NATO, and the country’s strategic importance in countering an assertive Russia and strengthening the security of key European infrastructure, including energy. The panel consisted of historian Andrew Roberts, Hudson Institute fellows Walter Russell Mead and John Fonte, and Polish Senator and Minister Anna Maria Anders.
Following are some extracts from transcript of the June 26 Hudson event Poland, NATO, and the Future of Eastern European Security .
KENNETH WEINSTEIN: Good afternoon, and welcome to the Stern Conference Center here at Hudson Institute. I’m Ken Weinstein, president and CEO of Hudson Institute. Hudson Institute is a policy research organization dedicated to U.S. international leadership in partnership with our allies for a secure, free and prosperous future.
And I’m absolutely delighted to welcome everyone here to a very timely panel discussion on Poland, NATO and the future of Eastern European security. I’ve actually, by chance, just returned from Warsaw, where I was in Poland this last week, where I took part in a German Korber Stiftung workshop at the Polish Foreign Ministry focused on European Union issues. The workshop, among others, featured Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz and other officials from the Prime Minister’s Office and the Foreign Ministry, as well as Bundestag members, and a member of the U.K. Parliament. And it was a very lively discussion. And I think we will have a rather lively discussion here this afternoon.
Let me note how inspiring it is to see the transformation of Poland in our lifetimes, from being literally the place where the Warsaw Pact came to be, to being a bulwark of NATO’s defense in the east.
And as we look at a revanchist Russia, we see Poland taking a critical lead in terms of security issues: in terms of, as a close U.S. ally, its arms purchases from the United States – including the significant purchase of Patriot missiles –, Poland’s recent and dramatic request to host a heavy armored U.S. division and to pay $2 billion to host it, which is something very welcome in this administration, and of course, Poland purchasing U.S. liquefied natural gas, which is notable, given the critical importance of energy security for Poland and the region.
WALTER RUSSELL MEAD: Well, thank you, Ken. And thanks to our guests for coming. This is really an important subject and an important time. And Poland does play a significant role in the thinking of the Trump administration in American foreign policy at this time. I should mention, for example, something that didn’t get into the newspaper column.
But I was speaking with Secretary Pompeo, and I was asking him what people should be looking at for guidance about the thinking of the administration in foreign policy. He specifically singled out President Trump’s speech in Warsaw as one of the things that very much guides their thinking. So that’s an important speech. I understand John will probably be referring to it in some way. But it is a landmark, I think, for American strategic thought at this point in time.
Poland and the United States have had a long history even though for most of that history Poland wasn’t independent. No country has had, I think, more sympathy from the United States more consistently than Poland, as Americans have always favored Polish nationalism and Polish aspirations. The carve up of Poland by Prussia, Russia and Austria was often taken by Americans as a sign of the worst kind of cynical old world diplomacy.
The independence of Poland was a very noncontroversial element of Woodrow Wilson’s “Fourteen Points.” It was widely supported. But at the same time, that sympathy has only translated at certain times into real support for Poland’s aspirations. And I think that remains a key to thinking about the future of Polish-U.S. relations: to what extent will this broad popular and elite sympathy for a country that Americans instinctively look to as a friend – and an ally and a partner in shared values – translate into real support?
At the end of the Cold War, I think we all hoped that Poland would be able to live as a normal country. But as time has gone by, the difficulties and the strategic fault lines that one sees in Central and Eastern Europe have begun to re-emerge.
ROBERTS: Thank you. It’s a great honor to be invited to address you this afternoon. And thank you very much indeed for those kind words, Walter. I sit on the board of three think tanks, and I speak to them often. One can’t automatically assume that they’re going to be – what’s the right word? – sane. And the great thing about Hudson is that it is. It’s sane and thoughtful and thus one of the best think tanks in the world.
The statistic that you must remember about Poland, which explains so much about Polish psychology and about its assumptions in world affairs and geopolitics, stems from the Second World War.
The true Polish people preferred the London government in exile, but by the January 1947 entirely rigged elections, it was the Lublin Poles that were put in place. And they and their successors – effectively men like Gierek and Gomulka and Rokossovsky and Jaruzelski – these men, some of them pretending at some stage to be to be reformists, but all of them, ultimately, under the thumb of Moscow, managed to run that country into the ground – primarily economically, of course. They used all the ways that you usually get in ultra-socialist and communist regimes: nationalization, collectivization, three-year plans, five-year plans and others, such as refusing to take any Marshall aid, for example.
And this is the thing I’d like you to take away from this talk: against appalling odds – one thinks of the Polish second call under the command of General Wladyslaw Anders, the father of the state senator that we have here today, whose grave I’ve visited at Monte Cassino, one of the great heroes of the Second World War, along with General Wladyslaw Sikorski and others – they, when faced with these terrible times, showed leadership.
Me as an Englishman, of course, I can’t forget the Poles who fought in the RAF during the Battle of Britain as well. And what they were able to do again and again at battles like Monte Cassino, where Anders led, and which actually finally captured Monte Cassino, opened up the Liri Valley, and allowed the allies to capture Rome, but at the loss of over 11,000 brave Poles killed and wounded.
So you have to see a people who sees the threat from the east, for whom it has led to massive and severe blood loss, people who show leadership again and again, but who are trapped in a tragic geographical position, where in the 20th century, the two most vicious totalitarian powers of that century sought to crush them, and to impose a partition that was just as bad as – nay, much, much worse than – any of the three partitions that Walter mentioned from the 18th and 19th centuries. So there you are. I’ve taken you up to the Berlin Wall, and now John will take you to the next stage. Thank you.
JOHN FONTE: When thinking about Poland, America and the West, we should begin with President Trump’s Warsaw speech, as was mentioned. The late Charles Krauthammer wrote, “This is the best speech he’s given.” The editors of The Wall Street Journal lauded the president for, quote, “Taking a clear stand against the kind of gauzy globalism and vague multiculturalism represented by the worldview of, say, Barack Obama and most contemporary Western intellectuals.”
And that’s The Wall Street Journal, not Breitbart. At the core of his speech is the Trump administration’s answer to the question: “What is the West?” President Trump concluded his speech by saying, “Our freedom, our civilization, and our survival depends upon the bonds of history, culture and memory.” We should fight like the Poles for family, for freedom, for country and for God. The concept of the West outlined at Warsaw is a more inclusive one than the pinched, post-national, culturally barren, relatively secular West presented by others.
The Trump version includes Christianity and Judaism and the classical Greco-Roman patrimony, as well as the Enlightenment and modernity. So it’s not the Enlightenment only; it’s the Enlightenment plus. For Trump and Law and Justice [the Polish political party], the West and Europe did not begin with the Treaty of Rome in 1957 – that is, with the formation of the European community. Jerusalem is as central to the West as Brussels. Repeatedly, both the Trump administration and the Law and Justice government have emphasized one very core Enlightenment principle: the principle of government by consent of the governed, or democratic sovereignty.
Poland is one of five NATO countries that does actually meet its 2 percent defense spending goal. And we’ll hear more a little bit later about the Nord Stream 2.
I did want to mention that on the economic front, Poland is one of the most attractive European nations for foreign investments. Clearly the world’s leading CEOs are not worried about the rule of law in Poland. At the U.N., Poland votes closer to the United States than many of our Western European allies. For example, in the motion condemning the United States for moving our embassy to Jerusalem, the Poles, unlike the Western Europeans, did not condemn the U.S. move to Jerusalem.
And way back in the vote in the European Parliament, when the European Parliament voted by 84 percent – 500 out of the 600 members of Parliament – to fix labels on goods produced by Jews in the West Bank, Law and Justice MEPs stood with the 16 percent of European Parliament’s parliamentarians who did not gang up on Israel.
YOUTBUBE: The Future of Eastern European Security. The principle of government by consent of the governed, or democratic sovereignty.
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