This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
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A Jubilant Reception
US-Polish relations have taken a positive turn since the election of Donald Trump. President Trump’s visit to Poland last year showed the support he has garnered in parts of Eastern Europe. Upon his arrival he was given a jubilant reception with flags waving, crowds cheering, and the President of Poland smiling.
This relationship has certainly not dimmed, with Poland looking to develop ever closer ties to the U.S., both economically and from a military perspective. This, back in June, took the form of weapons purchases by the Polish Government of American Patriot Missiles. The deal was signed at $4.75 billion, making it the largest arms procurement deal in the country’s history.
When the President of Poland, Andrzej Duda, visited the U.S., a new offer was extended to develop military cooperation between the two nations further. This visit inspired the creation of an American military base in Poland named Fort Trump.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Poland has seen Russia as a threat to its national security. The experiences of 44 years under the Soviet Union have left the country struggling to find independence and identity free from Russian influence. The threat has not receded, though independence was gained in 1989.
Poland has traditionally turned to the west, looking for support from America in the form of NATO and bilateral relations. Poland is also looking for integration into Western Europe via the European Union. Despite the country gaining all of this, its leaders still feel threatened. The EU has consistently spoken against Polish leadership and national policy, especially on immigration, since the Refugee Crisis began; at one point in 2018 voting on Article 7 applying to Poland.
Hungary supported its close ally, so the vote never progressed further. However, it does show EU attitudes toward a country who looked to it for protection. Similarly, the EU is currently pursuing a less aggressive stance on relations with Russia. In addition, France and Germany are strengthening their relations significantly with Russia.
Russia was and is still a huge threat. The annexation of Crimea only served to deepen such concerns, given the lack of European and American response to the move. All of this has led to a country concerned about national security, with no idea where to turn in order to counter a perceived threat.
On the economic front, the Polish Government signed its first deal to buy natural gas from a U.S. supplier in April of 2017. This deal marked the end of Poland’s energy dependence, which began with purchasing natural gas from other countries rather than Russian sources. With Poland buying natural gas from the U.S., it becomes less dependent on Russian natural gas.
Although Poland is unlikely to take actions against Russia’s pipeline, it still serves as a reminder that Europe is becoming less dependent on Russia for its energy needs. Russia may now be forced to change its rhetoric, lowering the threat Poland feels currently exists. Consumption of U.S. natural gas involves the liquefication process. The fact that Poland is still opting for this costly method demonstrates the value placed in a relationship with the U.S.
Future for Polish- American Relationship
Weapons deals, natural gas deals, and a military base in Poland are all strong building blocks for the future of a Polish-American relationship. It sends a strong message to Russia that America, unlike Europe, is unlikely to forsake her allies. It also sends a clear message that Crimea was to be a one-time occurrence and that such a move is not going to be ignored in the future, as the U.S. is paying attention to its eastern allies.
Russian and European responses to the idea of an American military base in Poland is one of protest regarding implications for Russia, as well as American support given to a controversial member of the EU. Relations are, without a doubt, on the rise between Poland and the US. Between the economic and military deals, formal relations can be expected to climb as this relationship develops.
Another factor is the close alignment of values between Trump’s America and Polish patriots; values such as freedom, identity, and security in a world trying to squash such ideas. America has found an ideological ally which will only grow in the future. Seeing President Trump’s grin when President Duda announced the name of the military base was to be Fort Trump is the icing on the cake.