American Foreign Policy to Poland

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International cooperation and diplomacy play a significant role in helping countries to improve their internal as well as external outlook and improve the potential for development. The nature of those tools, as the history shows, is rather fickle and constantly changing. On the one hand, countries follow their national interest following the raison d’etat policy, which is all about serving its citizens for their highest possible well-being. On the other hand, due to the multinational nature of the political landscape, some of the interests need to be sacrificed for the sake of productive diplomatic relations that lead to cooperation between countries.

During his recent visit to the White House, the president of Poland Andrzej Duda signed a statement with the president Donald Trump that offers an updated view and future outlook on relations of both countries. Present essay focuses on that official statement made during 18th of September 2018 and investigates such areas as defense, energy, economics, values as well as long-term strategy, while attempting to extract some valuable takeaways in the current political landscape. The starting point of the analysis of foreign policy is an attempt to distinguish what is the perspective through which particular country and its administration view the world. By perspective meant the fundamental theories of international relations such as realism and liberalism.

Although this separation can hardly be made clearly in practice, it plays a major role in framing the actions and strategies of the country as well as its view of the international political landscape. While liberalism views the world as an interdependent ecosystem in which countries can benefit the most if they cooperate and find some middle ground. Having said that any conflict or war would be an irrational policy to follow from the long-term perspective. Also, liberal and its more updated version called neo-liberal view emphasize the importance of shared values due to the alleged irresistible tendency towards peace, integrity as well as cooperation. (Smith et. al., 2016, p.55)

Realism, on the other hand, is often presented as the opposite to liberal theory of international relations. Unlike a liberal theory, realism’s underlying assumption is that human nature is essentially egoistic and considered rather pessimistically. Such an underlying assumption is translated into the view of the international political landscape as the dangerous and uncertain arena where countries being the most important players seek their interests. (Smith et. al., p.36) In the context of present analysis, the most important point is the national interest. While liberal and neo-liberal view consider it as being rather integrated into the interdependent ecosystem where consensus is a more desirable long-term solution. For the realist theory, national interest is the top priority objective that country should seek having in mind that other players are also egoistic and seek their objective on the highly competitive and chaotic international political arena.

The reason why this starting point is relevant in the present analysis is because it helps to understand how presidents who represent countries also represent a particular worldview that inevitably shapes their rhetoric and consequently behavior. It seems very likely that rules of the game that president Trump acknowledges are more embedded or represent the realist worldview. At the same time, president Duda during his visit made it clear that he stands for ‘Poland First’ similarly to ‘America First’ meaning national interest of the country. Although on the surface at least it seems rather intuitive and obvious, this fundamental distinction is essential for an underlying understanding of more specific points of the declaration that was signed between two presidents and in particular for the foreign policy of Poland toward the United States of America.

What seems to an interesting message that can be seen in the rhetoric of both presidents is the shift of mindset and hence the view of international relations having in mind mentioned above theories through which those are most often considered and analysed. What Trump brought with his presidency to the international political landscape is a reminder that countries should not forget about their raison d’etat. In the context of neo-liberal institutionalism that is crystallised in such institutions as the United Nations as well as World Trade Organisation, such a shift caused a lot of critics.

Certainly, Trump did not reinvent or provided some novel approach. Yet he pointed a light on what was anyways behind the carpet or closed doors. It is not to say that the world was always a rough place with only laws of nature that were sometimes dressed in the fancy words and presented in a nice way. However, it seems that the window dressing that was taking place during the last two decades made the international political dialogue and discourse rather empty worded and rather unclear for a general public. Having said that, the so-called ‘law of the jungle’ as President of China Xi Jingping recently called approach of President Trump were not criticized but on the contrary accepted by the Andrzej Duda during his visit. (Bloomberg.com, 2018)

Therefore, what seems to the core message that comes from the foreign policy shift by the Polish president is that Poland should go first with its national interest. Such a shift differs a lot from the previous foreign policy discourse that was fully reliant on the partnership and focuses on cooperation with the European Union. (Bieleń, 2011) The first specific area that gained the most attention is the question of defence. Since year 2013 and growing political instability in Ukraine, the importance of Poland when it comes to European defence increased dramatically. The previous head of the American government pointed out a number of times the importance and need of increasing defence of Eastern Europe and Poland as a partner. While on the side of Obama it the commitment amounted around $1 billion USD on improving troops conditions and overall security of the region.

Polish commitment was to ensure the spending of 2% of national GDP. (Economist, 2014) In the statement signed by both presidents in September this year several important points on defence were made. Starting with the commitment to the collective defence as a core part of strategic Polish-American cooperation, the point of increasing individual defence capacity was emphasized. On the side of Poland the promised goal is 2.5% of GDP to be spent of defence. While on the side of Washington it is the completion of missile shield plant in Poland called Aegis Ashore that this year was delayed till year 2020. (Goclowski & Kelli, 2018) The second major area that was mentioned in the statement was the area of energy security.

Firstly, it pointed out the potential of bilateral cooperation and commitment to establish ‘U.S-Poland Strategic Dialogue on Energy’. At the same time, the emphasis was made on the joint efforts regarding ‘energy projects that threaten our mutual security, such as Nord Stream 2’. (Whitehouse.gov, 2018) These two particular points suggest the bilateral nature of cooperation as well as national interests of both countries that intersect. When it comes to the economic aspect in the above-mentioned statement there are several points that should be highlighted. Starting with an emphasis on the bilateral nature of cooperation and successes of the past, governmental efforts were mentioned as well. In particular, the ‘Three Seas Initiative’ that is aiming to enhance European and transatlantic economic cooperation. (3-sibusiness.com, 2018)

This initiative was launched three years ago as an informal political platform in order to enhance political and economic integration of European countries from the Baltic region with the United States as a strategic partner at the table. During the last year summit as a part of this initiative, it was joined by the president of the newly elected president of the United States of America Donald Trump. (Blank, 2018) However, in the statement signed by both presidents very little attention was paid to the question of values. The statement included the following part: ‘We reaffirm our respect for and commitment to common democratic values and principles, including freedom, independent institutions, and human rights’. (Whitehouse.gov, 2018)

Apart from this sentence, the statement focused primarily on the specific areas of defence, energy, and economic cooperation. Such carefulness and minimalistic emphasis on values seems to be different for foreign policy on both sides and is likely to be connected to the overall international political context as well as internal political dynamics. Last but not least, it is important to mention future outlook and strategic development of relations. Although the statement itself has in its name strategic partnership, an elaborate and clear roadmap of how that strategic partnership will develop or how it will look like are not included. On the contrary, the document rather suggests immediate and short-term areas where interests of both sides seem to intersect, while any long-term objectives are not specifically mentioned.

After pointing out the main highlights of the joined statement issued on September 18, 2018, it is possible to analyse the following points in the context of foreign policy change of Poland: bilateralism, national interest, strategy and vision. The first key insight is the underlying message of the bilateral nature of relations between the United States of America and the Republic of Poland. The rhetoric of President Duda ,as well as the content of the statement, clearly represent the point that Poland stands out for itself and emphasizes on bilateral nature of relations. This shift seems to be very much different from the identification as being an integral part of the European integration project. Although framing and execution of foreign policy are fully in the domain of national ministries of foreign affairs, it seems rather intuitive that the voice of one is weaker that the united voice of many.

Therefore, such a decision to act and focus on bilateral nature of the relations might be an indication of two political developments. On the one hand it might indicate a separation of Poland as being an integral part of the project European integration that does not longer serve the national interest of Poland. Or, on the other hand, inability to reach compromise as well as inability to reach common interests for the European Union that could have been communicated and discussed with the White House. Indeed, it seems that one would not resort to individual action if he or she felt stronger or its interests considered in the group. Actions and rhetoric of Duda seem to indicate lack of established dialogue with its European partners and the European Union in general.

Therefore, an emphasis on the national raison d’etat might suggest an ineffective multilateral approach according to which international relations and foreign policy were mostly conducted having in mind recent approach of the European Integration. Secondly, another very important takeaway from the analysis of the above mentioned statement for the understanding of today’s foreign policy of Poland is the question of national interest. It is not only the question of seeing bilateral approach as being more effective, but it more the question of alignment of national interests to the shared interests on the European Union level. While the primary interest of Polish foreign policy after 1989 was integration into the European communities that later became the European Union, the primary national interests seem to view such an identification as limiting and not fulfilling according to the present government officials.

That is why seeing national interest of Poland as being aligned or intersecting with the United States more than with the European Union represents a fundamental shift in foreign policy orientation. However, the question then arises whether the fulfilment of different aims of foreign policy in case of Poland can be accomplished via bilateral cooperation with the United States without significant consideration for its core European partners and the European Union in general. While the first two key takeways have some degree of clarity and one can attempt to investigate the reasons behind them, the last point is rather fickle and unclear.

The question of strategy that includes future outlook as well seems to be missing in the rhetoric of both presidents regarding their bilateral foreign policy cooperation. Yet it seems to be an essential column of foreign policy framing that guides smaller tasks and goals in the respective areas. The absence of clear strategic outlook as well as objective for the partnership on the side of Poland can be viewed as a warning sign that can be counterproductive in future. While short term goals can be helpful in achieving some of the most alarming national interests and threats, the long-term well-being of citizens depends a lot on long-term look and vision. To a significant degree long-term strategy and vision can be viewed as a story that nation follows and citizens support.

The lack of such story produces rather disintegrated action and disintegrated view of foreign policy of the country. On the other hand, having consistent long-term strategy is more likely to produce clear short term goals and their alignment to the called ‘story’. What seems to be the case is that the story of the European integration does not seem to be appealing any more for Poland in particular even though the contribution to country’s development should not be underestimated. While it made sense in the early 1990’s, it seems to lack this appealing long-term view where Poland can see itself. This clarity on the European level seems to correlate with the confusion when it comes to the foreign policy.

Lack of long-term view in the rhetoric of president Duda and in particular in the statement analysed in the present essay seems to be highly linked to the general situation in the European Union. It might be an overstatement, but to a certain degree such a behaviour of one of the exemplary states of the European Union reminds the metaphor of sinking boat when individual members try to save themselves the only possible way they could. However, then the following question arises: ‘Is the shift foreign policy shift towards the United States as a strategic partner for Poland will bring more benefits than previous European oriented direction? During his lecture called ‘American dream’ organised by the American Studies Centre at the University of Warsaw on 4th of October this year, former minister of foreign affairs of Poland Radoslaw Sikorski addressed the question of US-Poland relations and the critical areas.

One of the most crucial remarks made by Sikorski was about what can Poland offer to the United States so that it can position itself as a strategic partner. He questioned whether the so-called ‘American dream’ that current government is following has any chances of withstanding reality test. Mr. Sikorski referred to several number just to support his argument about an obvious imbalance between two partners, meaning the United States of America and Poland. In particular he referred to the difference in the GDP and annual military spending. In year 2017 GDP of Poland was equal to $524.5 billion, while in the same year GDP of the USA was $19390.6 billion. In simple words, the value of goods produced by the American economy was 37 times bigger than produced by Polish economy. (Tradingeconomics.com, 2018)

When it comes to the military spending, the difference is even more dramatic. In year 2017 Poland spent $10 billion on its military, while on the same year military expenditures of the United States of America was equal to almost $610 billion. Such a dramatic difference in spending clearly indicates the difference in military capacity as well as defence abilities. (World Bank, 2018, a) Apart from those two indicators it seems to be relevant to consider the difference in foreign direct investment for both countries. In year 2017 net inflow of foreign direct investments in Poland was equal to $7.5 billion, while in the same year the inflow in the United States was 50 times bigger and equal to $355 billion. (Wolrd Bank, 2018, b)

When putting those three indicators together, the point that former minister of Foreign affairs was making during his lecture seems to be quite reasonable. Although the current trajectory of foreign policy is largely inclined towards the United States that is seen as a strategic partner, it seems that the imbalance between two countries is disproportionately large. This in turn once again raises the question why such political player as the United States should consider Poland as its strategic partner. It seems that by clearly indicating its intentions to build stronger diplomatic relations with the United States of America and hence accepting the ‘law of the jungle’ as the president of China called Trumps policies, the duality component seems to be missing.

Although both presidents signed the statement that points out intentions for strategic partnership, solid and productive strategic partnership requires more or less equal players who has something to offer to each other. Recalling the emphasis on raison d’etat and national interest first, it does not seem that interests of both countries intersect to a degree that can lead to a strong and consistent strategic relations. Poland might be very interested in having the United States as a strategic partner, but whether the United States finds Poland as a strategically important country to develop strong relations is a totally different question.

Summing it all up, it should be stressed that the foreign policy of a country requires consideration of number of factors and even the most unnoticeable might have an impact. Throughout century diplomacy was used as a tool by politicians to increase well being of their countries and citizens. However, as the context was changing as well as new politicians taking posts no policy between two or many countries could stay the same. Likewise, the foreign policy of Poland can be seen as an instrument to increase well being of the country in the present context.

Cite this paper

American Foreign Policy to Poland. (2021, Dec 25). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/american-foreign-policy-to-poland/

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