News / Europe

Missile Defense is Key Issue of Obama's Poland Visit

For the third day workers clean an equestrian monument to Prince Jozef Poniatowski, a general who fought for Poland's independence in 18th and 19th century, in front of the Presidential Palace in Warsaw, May 25, 2011
For the third day workers clean an equestrian monument to Prince Jozef Poniatowski, a general who fought for Poland's independence in 18th and 19th century, in front of the Presidential Palace in Warsaw, May 25, 2011

U.S. President Barack Obama is preparing to visit Poland, the last stop on his European trip. Polish leaders are hoping the visit Friday will lead to progress on some of the thornier issues affecting U.S./Polish relations in recent years, namely missile defense and visa waivers.

It will be U.S. President Barack Obama's first visit to Poland, and one anxiously awaited in the Polish capital, where recent changes in U.S. defense policy have led to suspicions of diminishing American interest in the region.

Agenda

Workers prepare a red carpet in the Royal Castle courtyard one day ahead of the Central and East Europe Presidents summit, in Warsaw, May 26, 2011
Workers prepare a red carpet in the Royal Castle courtyard one day ahead of the Central and East Europe Presidents summit, in Warsaw, May 26, 2011

Obama will be meeting with Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk. The U.S, leader is expected to dine Friday with a number of other Central European leaders, including the presidents of Germany, Hungary and the Baltic states.

High on the agenda will likely be economic cooperation and promoting democracy in neighboring Belarus and in the Middle East.

US military presence

But for the Polish side, the American military presence in the country will be one of the most pressing questions. Michal Baranowski, of the Warsaw office of the German Marshall Fund, explains why.

“The presence would signal continuous American engagement in Europe, and in Poland in particular, which provides a strengthened guarantee of security for Poland. So making sure that the U.S. still looks to this part of Europe is something key for the Polish public and the Polish politicians,” said Baranowski.

A 2008 file photo of People demonstrating against plans to deploy a missile shield defense system in the town of Redzikowo, northern Poland
A 2008 file photo of People demonstrating against plans to deploy a missile shield defense system in the town of Redzikowo, northern Poland

Until 2009, Poland and the Czech Republic had been slated to host an American anti-ballistic missile shield. But these plans were scrapped. Instead, more mobile SM-3 interceptors will be deployed in Poland, as well as a possible rotation of F-16 warplanes.  

Disappointment

Former Polish Defense Minister Janusz Onyszkiewicz, now at the Warsaw-based Center for International Relations, says that for the Polish government, this was a disappointment.

“There was disappointment because we were very eager to have American military presence in Poland.  I think that the Polish government, unfortunately, treated the whole issue much more in the area of symbolism and national prestige than in terms of down-to-earth politics,” said Onyszkiewicz.

He adds that missile defense in Poland is also being closely watched by Russia, uneasy at the prospect of American military hardware deployed so close to the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad.

“Russians, unfortunately, still think in terms of balance of power, not in terms of building their security on the basis of cooperation, on the basis of trust, on the basis of transparency. They would be quite ready to accept a system which would be ready to cope with medium to intermediate-range missiles," said Onyszkiewicz. "Everything else, which goes above this range, they would consider as diminishing their striking capability.”

One-sided?


Scrapping the Bush-era missile shield was widely seen in Poland as an American attempt to appease Russia at Poland’s expense. This, along with Poland’s unpopular involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, made many Poles feel that their alliance with the United States was becoming increasingly one-sided. The feeling has not entirely subsided, says one woman.

“I think Russia is a more important partner for the United States when it comes to defense," said the woman. "Even though they promised that it all will happen here in Poland, that we are very important for them, it turns out when Russia said, 'No,' they changed their mind without taking Poland into consideration. We all have the feeling that we are giving so much, and all we get in return are promises.”

But as another woman explains, the most important issue for many Poles is something much more concrete: visa waivers.  Unlike some of their neighbors, including Czechs and Hungarians, Poles still need visas to travel to the United States.

“I think that we are even treated as intruders, not having visas assigned and being always questioned when wanting to enter the country," another woman said. "To see a very sincere and binding answer to what will happen in terms of our visas and Polish people entering the U.S. - I think that this is the most important,”

Changing ties

The relationship between Poland and the United States has changed in the past few years, but as the German Marshall Fund’s Michal Baranowski explains, this may be for the best.

“The relationship needs to change from a country that is looking up to the United States, very unequal, and it has been changing. It is more mature, it is more based on interests rather than emotions, and goes beyond bilateral aspects,” said Baranowski.

White House officials say President Obama’s visit is intended to help reaffirm American commitment to Europe and to European security. Although they might be less eager than they once were, many in Poland are hoping for the same thing.

You May Like

Photogallery Pistorius Sentenced, Taken to Prison

Pistorius, convicted of culpable homicide in shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, will likely serve about 10 months of five-year sentence, before completing it under house arrest More

UN to Aid Central Africa in Polio Vaccinations

Synchronized vaccinations will be conducted after Cameroon reports a fifth case of the wild polio virus in its territory More

WHO: Ebola Vaccine May Be in Use by Jan.

WHO assistant director Dr. Marie Paule Kieny says clinical trials of Ebola vaccines are underway or planned in Europe, US and Africa More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid