When U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled for an official visit to Poland a week ago, the Poles were celebrating a centennial of their victory over the Soviet Union.
Pompeo probably did know that there was a strong American connection, even a Hollywood one. In 1933 Merian C. Cooper produced his smash hit "King Kong" to tell America about the Beast from the East who seduced a gullible maiden of the West, went rampant at her home turf, but gallant pilots rode to the rescue and the monster ape crashed to his death.
Cooper, in fact, narrated a recent history: Polish-Bolshevik War of 1919-1921, the only time in history when the Red Army was trounced in the field, the Kremlin lost a war, and the Communists sued for peace.
Cooper and a rag-tag band of his American friends volunteered as pilots to fight for Poland's freedom in the wake of the First World War. They felt they were repaying the debt to the Poles for the services to America of General Thaddeus Kościuszko, chief engineer of the Continental Army, the founder of West Point, and the architect of our victory of Saratoga; and of Casimir Pułaski, who established and led U.S. Cavalry, rescued George Washington's life at Brandywaine, and perished "For Your Freedom and Ours" at the battle of Savannah.
About 140 years later, the American pilots reciprocated and then some. Their help was very valuable, but the assistance of the American Relief Administration headed by future President Herbert Hoover was simply indispensable.
The U.S. taxpayer and charity-funded operation saved Poland (and the rest of Europe) from starvation and diseases. The American aid will never be forgotten, though it was not as glamorous a performance as that of the Bolshevik-slaying American pilots, who deserve a major motion picture of their own.
The Poles remember. They are big on symbols and commemorations. They still cringe that Obama cancelled a US-Polish missile defense arrangement on September 17, 2009, which fell on 70th anniversary of the Soviet Union's invasion of Poland in 1939, when Stalin joined Hitler in destroying and dismembering the Polish Republic.
This time the timing of Pompeo's visit was perfect, his message perfect, and the fruits befitting of the joyous anniversary. America's top diplomat inked several momentous agreements with Warsaw. There are no surprises; rather, we see consistent continuity in American-Polish relations under the present administration.
First, Poland and the U.S. pledged to work together on civilian nuclear energy projects. This is indispensable as an alternative to Europe's dependency on Russian gas and oil. Also, American technology is safe and efficient. It is superior to French products; it beats Japanese offers (think Fukushima); and it leaves post-Soviet solutions in the dust (remember Chernobyl).
The current agreement builds on a June 2019 memorandum of cooperation. It is a signal that U.S. companies are most welcome to make their offers for Poland's updated Program of Atomic Energy.
Second, the Americans and the Poles concurred to exclude Huawei from the Polish 5G system. This is a very contentious issue because Germany, France and the Czech Republic have rejected American advances to curtail China's power in the EU via denying Huawei access to the technology market.
The problem is that getting rid of the Chinese is expensive. It will cost the Poles $120 million to get rid of Huawei. So far the Chinese firm accounts for about 60% of Poland's 5G infrastructure which is based upon the Chinese-made 4G system augmented with new elements.
America's CISCO competes for the contract in Warsaw, but the problem is that the American company's offer is much more expensive than Huawei's.
Market calculations dictate to spurn the Americans, and stick with the Chinese. Some European states take America for granted and feel no need to bend over backwards to accommodate Washington's quest against Bejing. However, the Poles treat the 5G project comprehensively as a national security issue and are willing to bear some losses to court their main NATO ally, the United States.
Third, and most importantly, Secretary Pompeo brought good tidings about stationing more American military in Poland. Along with Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak, he signed the Enhanced Defense Co-operation Agreement (EDCA).
Unfortunately, rather than sending U.S. troops from Fort Bragg, for example, they will come from Stuttgart. The Trump administration has decided to withdraw some 10,000 personnel from Germany. A thousand will be dispatched to Poland to join 4,500 already stationed there permanently. A provision stipulates that up to 20,000 will show up in case of trouble.
The Poles agreed to grant American GIs a virtual immunity and Pompeo accordingly signed an appropriately worded Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). There is some chaffing by the opposition in Poland; the right in particular is prickly about this impingement on national sovereignty.
Well, I say the Poles will do anything to shield the gullible maiden of the EU and keep King Kong out. So that the American pilots would not have to ride to the rescue again.
Marek Jan Chodakiewicz is Professor of History at the Institute of World Politics, a graduate school of statecraft in Washington D.C.; expert on East-Central Europe's Three Seas region; author, among others, of "Intermarium: The Land Between The Baltic and Black Seas." Read Marek Jan Chodakiewicz's Reports — More Here.
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