Opinia.US SAN FRANCISCO — Lee A. Feinstein, the new U.S. Ambassador to Poland, arrived in Warsaw on October 13, 2009. He faces a serious crisis in U.S.-Polish relations, precipitated by President Obama’s decision to remove the American missile shield from Poland. Warsaw’s fears and suspicions have been made far worse by the clumsy handling of the decision’s announcement on September 17, which coincided with the 70th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland.
This, combined with the lack of sufficient consultations and President Obama’s frantic, middle-of-the-night phone calls, to Polish and Czech leaders, made it one of the most embarrassing failures of U.S. diplomacy in recent years.
President Obama had announced his missile shield decision before Ambassador Feistein’s nomination was confirmed by the U.S. Senate. It is not clear what role, if any, the new U.S. ambassador to Poland had played in the decision making process, which was centered in the White House at the National Security Council. Ambassador Feinstein was at one time a political advisor to Hillary Clinton during her unsuccessful presidential campaign and an outside foreign policy adviser to Barack Obama during the general election. He served on the Presidential Transition Team after the election and then as Senior Advisor to the Office of the Secretary of State.
After a series of critical media reports and protests from Polish-American organizations following President Obama’s September 17 decision, the White House has entered into a damage control mode, planning to dispatch Vice President Biden to Poland, the Czech Republic and Romania. The trip is designed to reassure the Poles and other Central Europeans, but President Obama still seems fully committed to his goal of resetting relations with Moscow. The clumsy diplomatic handling of his missile defense decision has shown that Central Europe has not been high on his list of priorities.
Vice President Biden’s hastily arranged visit seems designed largely for public relations purposes, but due to the criticism and embarrassment following the announcement of President Obama’s decision, Poland may be in a better position to negotiate a somewhat greater U.S. military presence on its territory. Such a presence will, however, be far less significant than it could have been under President George W. Bush’s missile defense plan.
Poland can expect from Vice President Biden strong comments about the importance of U.S.-Polish ties. Ambassador Feinstein, who is the 25th U.S. Ambassador to Poland, said upon his arrival in Warsaw, that it will be an honor for him to represent America in Poland. He called Poland “one of our closest allies and a country with whom we share both vital interests and common values.”
The U.S. Embassy in Warsaw pointed out on its website that Ambassador Feinstein arrived ahead of two significant visits from the United States: in addition to a visit by Vice President Biden, a delegation of the High Level Defense Group led by Assistant Secretary of Defense Alexander Vershbow is also due in Poland.
Ambassador Feinstein was nominated by President Obama on July 20, 2009 and was confirmed by unanimous consent by the U.S. Senate on September 22, 2009. He was sworn in on September 28, 2009.
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The following is the U.S. Embassy Warsaw announcement.
New U.S. Ambassador Arrives in Poland
15 October 2009
Lee A. Feinstein, the new U.S. Ambassador to Poland, arrived in Warsaw on October 13, 2009, and will soon present his credentials to the President. Ambassador Feinstein is the 25th U.S. Ambassador to Poland. Upon arrival, he said, “It is an honor to represent America in Poland, one of our closest allies and a country with whom we share both vital interests and common values.” Ambassador Feinstein arrives ahead of two significant visits from the United States: a delegation of the High Level Defense Group led by Assistant Secretary of Defense Alexander Vershbow, and a visit by Vice President Joe Biden. Ambassador Feinstein was nominated by President Obama on July 20, 2009 and was confirmed by unanimous consent by the U.S. Senate on September 22, 2009. He was sworn in on September 28, 2009. The text of his Senate testimony can be accessed here. The video of his testimony can be accessed here. Upon his confirmation, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said, “I worked closely with Lee Feinstein during my years in government and expect that he will make a superb ambassador to our close allies in Warsaw. Ambassador Feinstein is deeply knowledgeable about European affairs, strongly committed to the Trans-Atlantic partnership, and highly-respected by leaders on both sides of the Atlantic.”
Ambassador Feinstein has worked in several senior capacities in the U.S. Departments of Defense and State, including as Principal Deputy Director of Policy Planning, where he advised on strategic goals and objectives in political-military affairs. Ambassador Feinstein was National Security Director to Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton during her presidential campaign and an outside foreign policy adviser to President Barack Obama during the general election. He served on the Presidential Transition Team after the election and then as Senior Advisor to the Office of the Secretary of State.
As a Visiting Fellow in Foreign Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution and Deputy Director of Studies and Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), Ambassador Feinstein wrote widely on U.S. national security, foreign policy, and international institutions. He advised Newt Gingrich and George Mitchell, who chaired a congressionally mandated Task Force on the United Nations and co-directed the non-partisan CFR Task Force on Enhancing U.S. Leadership at the United Nations.
Ambassador Feinstein served as senior advisor to Human Rights First and is an authority on the principle of the “Responsibility to Protect.” He is the author of Darfur and Beyond: What is Needed to Prevent Mass Atrocities, which was featured in CFR’s Emmy Award-winning multimedia Crisis Guide-Darfur. With Tod Lindberg, he is also author of Means to an End: U.S. Interest in the International Criminal Court, published by the Brookings Institution Press earlier this month.
An international lawyer, Ambassador Feinstein holds a J.D. from Georgetown University, an M.A. in political science from the City University of New York, and an A.B. from Vassar College. He is married to Elaine Margaret Monaghan, a native of Scotland and a foreign correspondent, who has covered the Kosovo conflict, Northern Ireland peace talks, and the former Soviet bloc. They have two young children.