by RAFAEL BENAROYA
“Poland has not yet perished, so long as we still live.” Those are the opening words of Poland’s defiant and aspirational national anthem. They were written in 1797, just as Russia, Prussia, and Austria partitioned the ancient Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, erasing it from the map of Europe for 123 years. The anthem carries great relevance to raw memories of the recent past, marked by the Nazi German invasion and the atrocities Poles suffered in World War II, followed by 50 years of Soviet occupation. Both experiences are deeply and indelibly etched in Poland’s national consciousness.
It is no wonder, then, that the Poles view with great concern Russia’s open aggression against nations to its East – the 2008 attack on Georgia, the 2014 seizure of Crimea, and the continued war of attrition Russia has been waging in Ukraine.
To its West, Germany is another source of concern for Poland, for two reasons. One is Germany’s drive to source Russian gas directly, so as to bypass Ukraine as a hub for Russian energy exports to Western Europe. The other is Berlin’s drive, directly or through proxies in Brussels, to impose social values on E.U. member states. In particular, Poland and other Eastern European states view Germany’s “welcome” policy toward migrants as a threat to their national identity and sovereignty.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, the Poles emerged a free people once more, members of NATO and part of a new geostrategic reality essential to American interests in post-Cold War Europe and beyond. But the world is being transformed once again. Power centers have shifted, new threats have arisen and new alliances formed. China, Russia, and Germany are playing their own disruptive roles. The East-West divide has clearly shifted eastward, with Poland at the forefront.
A free, secure and prosperous Poland is in the strategic interest of the U.S. It is time for the U.S. to clearly communicate its commitment to Poland and develop a special security and economic partnership with it in the context of the North Atlantic Alliance.
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