Stratfor global intelligence analysis website reports that “rumors are flying late Sept. 16 that the United States could be shelving its plans to build a ballistic missile defense (BMD) system in Poland and Czech Republic. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates reportedly will hold a news conference on the issue sometime Sept. 17 or Sept. 18, and U.S. security officials are apparently in Poland briefing Warsaw on the development.”
If these reports are accurate and indeed the announcement is made on September 17, the date might have a historical significance that the Obama White House may have not intended. 70 years ago the Soviet Union invaded eastern Poland on September 17, 1939 under the terms of the Hitler-Stalin Pact while western and central parts of Poland were being overrun by German armies.
Stratfor reports that “a U.S. concession on BMD would be one of the first major steps in a Russian-U.S. deal — one which could see Iran’s greatest foreign backer flip sides.”
President Obama’s “flip” on the Bush Administration’s BMD deal with Poland might remind the Poles of another popular and progressive US president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who made a deal with Stalin in Yalta at the end of World War II to get Moscow’s military support against Japan. Poland and the rest of Central and Eastern Europe paid for that deal with decades of Soviet domination.
These may be completely different times and different political stakes, but the Obama Administration has already demonstrated its lack of historical sensitivity and public diplomacy strategy when it refused Poland’s invitation to send a high level representative to the official observances in Gdansk of the 70th anniversary of the start of World War II. Prime Minister Putin was there and even made sort of an apology for the Hitler-Stalin Pact.
The Poles are proud and they think in historical terms. This may turn out to be a new public diplomacy disaster for President Obama.