President Obama arrived in Poland Friday for the final leg of his
European tour on a visit that will focus on military ties between
Washington and Warsaw.
President Obama landed in Poland Friday on the last stop of his
four-nation European tour for talks that are expected to focus on
improving bilateral relations and the American military presence in
Mr. Obama may announce rotating F-16 fighter jets from the US
airbase in Aviano, Italy, to a base in Lask, central Poland, a
largely symbolic gesture in to boost relations with Poland, a key US
ally in Europe.
Obama has worked to improve relations between Warsaw and
Washington, which took a hit with his announcement in 2009 that he
was scrapping Bush-era missile shield plans, including 10
interceptor missiles in Poland and a tracking radar in the Czech
Republic. The project had much support among local elites, but not
among the public.
Eastern European leaders, including regional heavyweights Lech
Walesa, the former Polish president, and Vaclav Havel, former Czech
president, accused Washington of caving to Moscow, which long argued
the system would blunt its own nuclear deterrent.
Such was the political fallout that Vice President Joe Biden was
dispatched to the region in late 2009 to reassure Eastern European
leaders that Washington's "reset" with Moscow would not jeopardize
their security. Obama repeated that theme when he held a summit with
regional leaders in 2010 in Prague, where he and Russian President
Dmitry Medvedev signed the New START treaty.
Following his appearance at a G8 meeting in France, Obama's first
visit to Poland will signal "a new chapter" in Washington's
relations with Poland and Eastern Europe, according to Bartosz
Wisniewski, a research fellow at Warsaw's Polish Institute of
"The two past years, Washington has ignored the region for the
most part with events in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan. Now, it
seems Obama is focusing on it again," says Mr. Wisniewski.
"Every visit of an American president is important for Poland,"
said Polish-born Zbigniew Brzezinski, longtime US foreign policy
expert. "For Poland, relations with the US are a guarantee of
independence," Brzezinski to the Polish Press Agency.
As Obama arrived Friday in Warsaw, much of the news about his
trip was dominated by Mr. Walesa's refusal to meet with the
president. He didn't reveal many details about his decision, other
than to say, "This time a meeting does not suit me."
Washington has been charming the Poles with talks of arms and
soldiers ever since burying the first missile shield. A battery of
Patriot missiles was deployed in Poland in 2010, along with a small
contingent of US troops, the first foreign soldiers on Polish soil
since Soviet troops pulled out in the 1990s.
Moscow not only objected to the deployment of Patriots but to
where they were deployed: MORAG, just 60 kilometers from Russia's
enclave of Kaliningrad. …