Marek A. Cichocki: The Flashpoint

It looks like the U.S. State Department was surprised that there were some misunderstandings on the Warsaw-Berlin route over the transfer of additional Patriot batteries to Poland.

It has long been known that Polish-German relations are a major flashpoint in European politics. As we hear, American diplomacy in Warsaw recently organized a special “sermon” for politicians from the ruling camp and the opposition on the crucial importance of Polish-German relations for security policy.

This reminded me of interviews with Zbigniew Brzezinski, who after 2005 admonished Polish politicians on how important smooth cooperation between Poland and Germany in Europe is for America. It seems, however, that today the admonishments and sermons may prove to be ineffective. Even if one wanted to side with the narrative dominant in the German media, according to which “right-wing nationalists” from Warsaw are to blame for everything, it is impossible not to see these objective problems, which today are a real burden on Polish-German relations.

From the Polish perspective, the list of German problems is getting longer: attitude toward Russia, delayed aid for Ukraine, selfish energy policy, reduction of allied capabilities within NATO, treating Europe, especially our part of it, as its economic resource and a dismissive attitude to the issue of compensating Poland for war losses.

According to Włodzimierz Czarzasty, it was the pressure of public opinion that made Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak change his stance on accepting Patriots. “I’m a rational man. Błaszczak has gotten wiser. Patriots will be stationed on the Polish border. I applaud that,” said the co-leader of the left-wing Lewica party.

It would still be a misunderstanding to boil all of these issues down to a typical Polish-German “brawl” in Europe. As a matter of fact, something far more important is at stake – it is the changing power balance in Europe, for which the consequences of the war in Ukraine will be fundamental. This is why America’s sermons and admonishments might not be sufficient. The security system that was created after the reunification of Germany, built and guaranteed by Americans, is coming to an end, because no one sees Germany as the basis for European stability anymore. This would not have happened had it not been for the cardinal errors of German policy. Can another series of Polish-German pleasantries remedy them?

The tensions around Germany are structural, and diplomatic cosmetics might not suffice. Only authentic American commitment to reestablish the rules can provide a solution.

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