More diplomatic confusion between U.S. and Poland

Polish Soldier in AfghanistanOpinia.USOpinia.US SAN FRANCISCO — U.S. media has not yet picked up on the latest diplomatic controversy between Poland and the U.S. But the public disagreement between president Obama’s new ambassador in Warsaw Lee A. Feinstein and the Polish defense minister over plans to send additional Polish troops  to Afghanistan is drawing media attention in Poland.


Ambassador Feinstein made a public statement, in which thanked the Polish government for planning to enlarge its military contingent in Afghanistan, but Polish Defense Minister Bogdan Klich has denied that a decision to increase Poland’s troop deployment in Afghanistan had been taken.


U.S. Ambassador to Poland Lee A. Feinstein

On Saturday, Ambassador Feinstein said on the TVN24 Polish television channel that Poland’s president and prime minister “declared that not only would they be keeping Polish soldiers in Afghanistan, but they would also enlarge the contingent. This is something for which we are very grateful.”


Speaking Monday morning at a press conference, Bogdan Klich denied such claims and suggested that Ambassador Feinstein may have been guilty of a diplomatic faux pas. Mr. Klich said “The ambassador committed a blunder, since neither the prime minister, nor the minister of foreign affairs, nor the minister of national defense made any declarations to the American side about an increase in the contingent. But, please remember that these are the ambassador’s first days at a new post.”


Picking up on the Polish defense minister’s comments, the English-language newspaper Krakow Post ran an online headline “U.S. Ambassador to Poland ‘Committed a Blunder’.” The Polish Radio’s International Service posted on its website a report under a more diplomatic headline “Confusion over Poland’s Afghan deployment deepens.”


Polish Radio quotes Mr. Klich as saying “There is no such decision, nor plans.” The Polish defense minister added that the contingent of 2,000 Polish soldiers in the Ghazni province in Afghanistan will not be enlarged unless it is absolutely necessary. He did confirm, however, that 200 soldiers would be going to Afghanistan to be held in strategic reserve in case of emergencies.


Responding to questions about Ambassador Feinstein’s comments, President Kaczynski’s office said that no detailed plans had been sent by the defense ministry on the issue of enlarging the Polish military contingent in Afghanistan, and that it was far too early to make such a decision.


Surprisingly, U.S. media, which has been lately reporting extensively on Afghanistan, has not yet picked up on this story. It was reported by the Chinese news agency Xinhua. A brief summary of the Xinhua report was placed on The USA Today website.


Whether other U.S. media outlets report on this story will become clearer on Tuesday. An earlier diplomatic blunder between Poland and the U.S. over President Obama’s announcement about the removal of the U.S. missile defense shield system from Poland and the Czech Republic, which he made on the day of the 70th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland at the beginning of WWII, received considerable U.S. media attention.


Media criticism may have forced President Obama to send Vice President Biden on a face-saving mission to Central Europe. During the visit, Mr. Biden made several strong comments in support of U.S. commitments to the defense of Poland and other Central European nations, which President Obama may now find difficult to ignore in his attempts to improve relations with Russia.


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