Friday, August 22, 2008

The Poles and Old Europe.

In an article yesterday uncharacteristic of it, the New York Times points out the dramatic change of attitude Russia’s invasion Georgia has had on the Poles. From reluctance to accept a missile shield on their territory, they have instantly reversed positions and signed an agreement to allow it. The article points out the lack of faith Poles have in “Old Europe,” and the need to tie themselves to the US. "

But since the Georgia crisis, this largest of post-Communist European Union members has moved to cement its relationship to action-oriented America and not just the tentative bureaucracies of Europe and NATO. " "The Russian invasion reminded Poles once again how quickly and dangerously Eastern Europe can divide. Poland is struggling to show that it will not fall behind the faint old lines of the cold war, which may have seemed foggily forgotten in the West since the Berlin Wall fell but are remembered all too well here. "

The article goes on to explain Poland’s memories go beyond the cold war era, but back to their invasion by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union in 1939 when they were left to defend themselves, despite a treaty with Great Britain and France. They fell in 4 weeks, and lived 50 years under the subjugation of a foreign power.

"It is not a cold war mindset that drives Poland, Mr. Sikorski said, but one that harks all the way back to World War II, when, despite alliances with Britain and France, Poland fought Nazi Germany alone, and lost. " "It was “the defining moment for us in the 20th century,” Mr. Sikorski said. 'Then we were stabbed in the back by the Soviet Union, and that determined our fate for 50 years.' " 

"As a result, Poland’s foreign policy is stamped by mistrust not only for Russia’s ambitions but also for hollow assurances from its own allies."

The last comment (bold) is a zinger directed at France and Germany. You have to remember France pulled its military out of NATO in the 1960’s, knowing that any Soviet attack would have to come through Germany and be fought there primarily by Americans and Germans. During the cold war France played footsie with the Soviets with the dream of establishing a French and Soviet hegemony from the Urals to the Atlantic. Germany, likewise, now feels the comfort of a Polish buffer. Both have gone soft.

There is nothing like recent memories to reinforce the fears of Russian domination when you are on the front lines, as Poland now is. For those who believe doing away with anti-missile technology and cutting our military to the bone is the way to make other nations love and respect us, think again. For those who believe our military prowess doesn’t make friends, think again.

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