Russia maintains 80,000 troops on the eastern Ukrainian border so America wants to know that it has faithful allies behind the western Ukrainian border. This will help thaw out the relationship between Warsaw and Washington.
More than half a year — that’s how long Andrzej Duda has had to wait to speak with Joe Biden. Duda did, in fact, take part in the remote Leaders Summit on Climate attended by American and other world leaders, but there was no real interaction, nor was the most important area for Poland in relations with America addressed: security.
In mid-March, it was decided in the Presidential Palace in Krakowskie Przedmieście that this gridlock in bilateral relations could not be overcome. The idea was to invite the U.S. leader to a summit of nine NATO countries from Eastern and Central Europe in Bucharest May 10, together with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis.
The radical wing of the Democratic Party, not without the influence of The Washington Post, The New York Times, and Anne Applebaum* herself, is putting pressure on the administration to refrain from making friendly gestures toward Poland. However, among the summit participants in Bucharest, there are favorites of the liberal West such as Slovak President Zuzana Caputova, and Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid, or Iohannis himself. This has helped overcome the resistance of the White House, according to diplomatic sources.
Our sources tell us that the positive response from Biden did not come until late last week. Duda, at the time, was determined to fly to Bucharest, even though other summit participants, including NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, were to take part in it remotely.
Yet the main reason for Biden’s participation in the meeting is the big gamble that he took with Russia. Before the summit with Vladimir Putin, whose date has not been set up yet, he wanted to show that he also has a powerful instrument with which to influence the situation in Ukraine in the form of faithful allies on NATO’s eastern flank. All the more so, as in parallel with the Bucharest summit**, military exercises involving 30,000 troops, including Americans, were conducted as part of Defender Europe 21.
It is possible to speak of something like the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (an alliance between the U.S., Australia, India and Japan against China) against Russia — although it should also include the British and Scandinavians.
The Bucharest summit was meant to demonstrate the importance that the new administration places on NATO as well as on multilateral diplomacy. In the closed session the pact’s new strategy was discussed. It’s based on coordinating operational plans in the event of Russian aggression and giving much larger importance to defending the alliance’s territory than before. After Blinken’s visit to Kyiv in early May, it was also a matter of coordinating a position on Ukraine: Though it has no chance of becoming a member of NATO, it has prospects for increased arms supply.
The joint position of the Bucharest Nine, with Biden’s support, may considerably change the course of the whole NATO summit in Brussels on June 14, limiting the influences of the countries more docile toward Moscow, such as France, Germany or Italy.
Despite the Bucharest opening, it is still not clear whether the U.S. president, who will personally fly to the Belgian capital, will find the time to meet Duda. According to our sources, despite certain delays related to the pandemic, the process of strengthening U.S. forces in Poland is going according to the arrangements made with Donald Trump. Washington hasn’t lost interest in cooperation with the Three Seas Initiative*** either.
*Editor’s Note: Anne Applebaum is a writer for The Atlantic and a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and journalist.
**Editor’s Note: The Bucharest Nine Summit was held virtually on May 10, 2021.
***Editor’s Note: The Three Seas Initiative is composed of 12 countries that touch the Adriatic, Baltic and Black Seas. It is a regional collaboration focused on building local energy, transportation and digital infrastructure.
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