What You Need To Know:
✅ The Polish Government is overall positive about President Trump;
✅ President Trump’s anti-NATO position has raised concerns all over the world, especially in Poland and in the Baltics;
“The current views in Warsaw are that the Polish Government needs to discuss this, as soon as possible…. And they will be able to persuade Americans to stay in the region and to stayactive, because this is the interest of the U.S. to have forces deployed in the region;”
✅ “[Trump] will understand that President Putin was kind and friendly, but at the end of the day, he plays his own game. A game, where he wants to win America.”
The Polish Government, according to Michal Kobosko, Director Of The Atlantic Council Poland Office, is generally positive about the new U.S. President. “There is an expectation that Donald Trump and his administration will be not easy talk to, but perhaps easier to understand each other. It could be easier to persuade each other than it was in the past,” says Kobosko. The Polish government is quite conservative, and is looking to establish good relations with Washington.
President Trump’s anti-NATO position has raised concerns all over the world, especially in Poland and in the Baltics. Following the Warsaw NATO summit in 2016, a number of U.S. troops were deployed to the areas, and Kobosko says that Trump has not tried to stop this process. “The current views in Warsaw are that the Polish Government needs to discuss this, as soon as possible…. And they will be able to persuade Americans to stay in the region and to stay active, because this is the interest of the U.S. to have forces deployed in the region.”
In terms of heightened relations between Russia and the U.S., Kobosko is hopeful that the links between the two countries are not as close as was expected, which could be dangerous for Eastern Europe, including Poland and Ukraine. Kobosko believes that Trump’s position will change after he starts ruling the country: “He will understand that President Putin was kind and friendly, but at the end of the day, he plays his own game. A game, where he wants to win America.”
U.S President-elect, Donald J. Trump, Washington D.C., 20/01/2017. Photo credit: Reuters
MICHAŁ KOBOSKO: I would say that when you’re listening the Polish government and Polish ministers, you can hear the first reactions. They are pretty positive. There is an expectation that Donald Trump and his administration will be not easy talk to, but perhaps easier to understand each other. It could be easier to persuade each other than it was in the past. What we are hearing from the Polish government is that at last, in Washington, black will be black and white will be white. No more political correctness, no more grey colors. It’s going to be rather clear – Washington positive or negative. This is a rather warm welcome, obviously, the Polish government is conservative. “Poland first” as they also say. As we hear, they initiated contacts with the incoming Trump administration. They planned to invite Trump to visit Poland later this year. There are delegations, which are already planning to go to Washington to establish good relations with the new administration of Donald Trump.
How about the defense sector? How does it go together with these remarks going from NATO, as Donald Trump doesn’t sound as somebody, who is really so much pro-NATO. Sometimes it feels from his comments. Aren’t there any questions from defense community, from people, who in this government think that NATO is even more important than the EU for Poland and polish stability?
MICHAŁ KOBOSKO: We would say that there are facts and there are declarations. Following the Warsaw NATO summit in July 2016, a number of heavy troops and brigades is already been deployed in Poland. There is this four battalion group, which would be deployed in Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. So this process is under way and President Trump and his administration didn’t try to stop it. Americans will stay in Poland; they will stay in this region. This is in the deep interest of the National Security of the USA to keep the soldiers deployed in the Eastern Europe. Even though President Trump is saying what he says about the NATO. These are just initial words, but the reality is a bit different. Also this reality is expressed by another member of Donald Trump’s administration, mainly General Mattis a new chief of the Pentagon, whose views on Russia and its aggressive actions are very different from official Trumps’ declarations. Basically the current views in Warsaw are that the Polish government needs to discuss this, as soon as possible…. And will be able to persuade Americans to stay in the region and to stay active, because this is the interest of the US to have forces deployed in the region.
U.S. troops have been sent to Poland as a part of NATO show of force, Zagan, Poland, 14/01/2017. Photo credit: Reuters
What is general discussion about the Trump connections with Russia if we also think about current Warsaw-Moscow relations? They aren’t very clear from Kyiv, all of Polish government is to some extent conservative.
MICHAŁ KOBOSKO: Whenever we hear western politicians, either from Europe or the United States linking Warsaw to Moscow, to president Putin. It’s obviously raising some eyebrows and there are many discussions about what is there. As I said, we hear different voices from the president himself and from his incoming administration. We believe that these links aren’t as close as we feared. This links might be even dangerous for us and for the region – Poland, Ukraine. President Trump after he starts ruling the country, his position will change. He will understand that president Putin was kind and friendly, but at the end of the day, Putin plays his own game. The game, where he wins America. Any opportunity he has, he’ll show how strong he is, and how weak president Trump might be. This may lead not to the conflict, but to the dispute and different views from both sides. I mean Washington and Moscow. That might be in a few weeks, when we’ll have the Russian-American summit in the upcoming days or weeks, or perhaps in Reykjavik. This is just the beginning of new US-Russian relations. We will never forget that president Obama started with the idea of a reset of relations with Russia and Putin, but this went nowhere. It was very costly to Americans to waste this time, hoping that President Putin will change his mind. He wouldn’t change his mind about Americans.
Polish society is pretty divided. We followed protests in Poland. We have part of Polish society, which talks about the human right agenda, about liberal values. This is something, which is also in the debate that Trump is coming to a global political agenda. Are there any talks that this administration wouldn’t be raising the issues of media freedom, human rights etc? Would it have any impact on Polish discussion?
MICHAŁ KOBOSKO: Absolutely, yes. We have very active discussions and very active campaigns about this. Lots of people are talking about politics these days in Poland. Society is divided and we have two camps. This is similar to the US current situation – republicans and democrats are so far in distance from each other. This is also the case of Poland. We have big number of supporters of the current government and still have over 50 percent who receive public support and there is a group of those, who lost more than a year ago in parliament. Part of the society, which is supporting liberal politicians, is afraid that it will be very difficult in Poland-US relations. We already know from numerous statements of some representatives of Trump camp, including Rudy Giuliani, who was in Warsaw a few weeks ago said that U.S. doesn’t see any reason why is should interfere with democratic issues in Poland. The U.S. might lose interest in how countries like Poland are governed, rule of law, state of freedom media and freedom of speech. This may cause some problems for countries like Poland, because over the years, we knew that the U.S. was there and watching us. We are a very pro-American society in Europe. Some say we are the most pro-American society in Europe. What we have from Washington is very important for Polish society and government.
The situation might mark a significant change and might mean that Americans will lose interest in Poland and the region. This is also causing some concerns for the liberal part of society. They hope that the U.S. will not go away and won’t forget about Poland and the region because that would be really dangerous for society. Considering our history, and the geopolitics, we need Americans to stay active and involved.
Hromadske’s Nataliya Gumenyuk spoke to Michal Kobosko, Director Of The Atlantic Council Poland Office via Skype on January 22, 2017 in Kyiv.