New York Times covers Biden in Warsaw from Berlin

Opinia.US SAN FRANCISCO — It is not a good time for Poland in Washington and in U.S. media. The New York Times covered Vice President Biden’s visit to Warsaw from Berlin. It could have been worse; the report could have been filed from Moscow or the paper could have used a short AP story, as did The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Chicago Tribune, and almost all other major U.S. newspapers.

The fact that Vice President Biden went to Warsaw to reassure the Poles about American security commitments to Poland was partly due to earlier negative media coverage in the U.S. of President Obama’s decision to scrap missile defense plans in Central Europe initiated by President Bush. Thanks to the ineptitude of the White House and the State Department public relations experts and diplomats, the announcement of the decision by President Obama on the 70th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland actually helped to elevate U.S. media coverage of the whole issue and may have resulted in Biden’s trip to the region.

But U.S. media interest in Biden’s trip is limited. There is still a great reluctance on the part of liberal papers like The New York Times and The Washington Post to engage in any serious questioning or criticism of of President Obama’s foreign policy. Also, in general, U.S. media does not pay much attention to vice presidents.

A visit by the vice president was the best Poland could hope for. Biden is far more interested in Central Europe than Obama, but the president is likely to continue his rapprochement with the Kremlin. It’s difficult to say whether his worldview will allow him to conclude at some point that Moscow is not interested in improving relations with the U.S. or in helping him in Iran. For now, he is using Biden to prevent a major loss of electoral support for himself and the Democratic Party from Americans with Polish and other Central European backgrounds, while still trying to implement his policy toward Russia.

Poland, of course, has no choice but to wait out this difficult period in relations with its only real political and military ally. American presidents do not govern forever, and American people would not tolerate a major sellout of Central Europe to Russia, as they did during President Roosevelt’s last years in office. What Poland needs is more critical U.S. media coverage of President Obama’s foreign policy and much greater involvement of the Polish American community in the public debate of these issues.

Polish Americans can only feel sorry for Prime Minister Tusk who had no choice but to repeat Vice President Biden’s undiplomatic talking points, which bordered on being offensive. Poland cannot afford not to have a good relationship with the U.S., particularly with the president who has very little interest in Poland and in Central Europe but is quite focused on Russia.

Some U.S. analysts, who may have been briefed off the record by the Obama White House, have suggested that Vice President Biden’s visit to Central Europe was meant as a subtle warning to Moscow. That is highly unlikely judging from on the record comments to reporters by Biden’s national security advisor Tony Blinken. His remarks were clearly designed to let the Poles know that they should not try to interfere with President Obama’s attempts to improve relations with the Kremlin.

During the trip, Europe will mark the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall that effectively signaled the beginning of the end of the Cold War in Europe and around the world. Adding to his earlier problems with comprehending European and world history, President Obama cancelled his plan to attend the anniversary ceremony in Berlin.

“The vice president’s going to mark the moment, but his focus is going to be much more on the future than on the past,” Biden’s aide Tony Blinken said before the vice-presidential trip to Poland. “In his view, the real validation of 1989 is less in what we took down and more in what we built and continue to build together: strong democracies, strong partnerships that deliver for people in all of our countries and beyond.”

This comment reflects the Obama Administration’s thinking that Central European leaders and societies are too focused on history and are too fearful of Russia. Sounding more like an “Ugly American” than a member of the administration that promised a new, sensitive approach to dealing with other nations, Blinken also said that “The United States is thinking about the region less in terms of what we can do for Central Europe and more in terms of what we can do with Central Europe.”

“The countries are no longer ‘post-communist,’ or ‘in transition’; they are full-fledged members of the NATO alliance and the European Union, with serious and substantial responsibilities,” Blinken said. He failed to mention that while Poland has carried a heavy burden for the U.S. in Iraq, in Afganistan and in Central Europe, President Obama refused a Polish invitation to attend the ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II, made repeated comments about “resetting” relations with Russia, and made many Central Europeans highly nervous by cancelling the Bush missile plans.

Poor Prime Minister Tusk repeated Biden’s talking points almost word for word. He had no choice.

Contrary to news reports, Vice President Biden did not come on a fence-mending mission. He and his security advisor told the Poles to expect less from America, to get over Cold War and World War II history, and on top of it, to accept more responsibilities for supporting democracy in the region because President Obama does not want to look bad to the Kremlin by doing it himself. Hence his decision not to go to the fall of the Berlin Wall commemoration.

Critics had said that the Bush Administration was harsh and undiplomatic in dealing with other countries. It did not even come close to the level of arrogance shown by senior Obama Administration officials in dealing with Poland. Unfortunately, due to limited interest and limited U.S. media coverage, most Americans are still not aware of this shameful treatment of one of America’s closest ally.

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