Poland’s Wprost newsmagazine on Sunday quoted excerpts of what it said was a recording of a conversation between Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski and a Polish lawmaker, in which the Sikorski says the alliance with the U.S. is “worthless.”
The man identified as Sikorski is quoted as saying, “There is no doubt that the policy pursued by the prime minister and the defense minister is wrong. You know that the Polish-American alliance is worthless. It is even harmful, because it creates for Poland a false sense of security.”
The second voice, said to be that of lawmaker and former Finance Minister Jacek Rostowski, asks why.
“Complete bulls**t,” says the first, adding that in the event of a conflict with the Germans or Russians Poland will mistakenly “think that everything is super” because of the close relationship with the Americans. (The speakers uses crude language here to describe the intimacy of that relationship.)
“[We are] suckers, total suckers,” he continues. “The problem in Poland is that we have shallow pride and low self-esteem.”
Wprost said it would release the actual audio clips on Monday or Tuesday, and a government spokeswoman declined to comment until the magazine makes available all illegally-recorded conversations in its possession.
The publication has released a series of snippets of embarrassing conversations involving high-level officials since June 14, and Prime Minister Donald Tusk has suggested he may call elections a year earlier than scheduled in response to the scandal.
A lawmaker in Tusk’s ruling Civic Platform party, Julia Pitera, told Polish television that “the government's foreign policy is not the personal policy of Radoslaw Sikorski.”
“Foreign policy is being carried out well, so I hope this was just a demonstration of stupidity,” she added.
Sikorski, an Atlanticist and former resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, is an ambitious politician who earlier this year was named as a contender for NATO secretary-general. The post eventually went to former Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, who will succeed Anders Fogh Rasmussen in October.
Last month Poland officially proposed Sikorski as a candidate to succeed European Union (E.U.) foreign policy chief Cathy Ashton.
The release of the alleged Sikorski comments comes less than three weeks after President Obama visited Poland as the E.U. and NATO member marked the 25th anniversary of the end of communism.
The only early response from the administration to Sunday’s report was a tweet by the U.S. ambassador to Poland, Stephen Mull, who said, “I’m not going to comment on alleged content of private conversations. As for our alliance, I think it’s strong.”
Sikorski has not commented publicly to the claims, but retweeted Mull’s message.
Poland has been an active ally of the U.S. It was one of just three countries to participate alongside the U.S. in the 2003 invasion of Iraq – Britain and Australia were the others – and maintained a sizeable troop presence there for longer than most, until an eventual withdrawal late in 2008.
Poland has also been among the leading contributors to the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan, and one of a very few European members not to apply “caveats” restricting how and where its troops operate there.
The Bush administration selected Poland as the location for interceptor missiles as part of its proposal for a ballistic missile defense (BMD) shield, designed to protect U.S. troops and allies from missile attack by Iran.
The plan to place the silo-based missiles in Poland, and an associated radar facility in the Czech Republic, angered Russia, which claimed the shield was aimed at countering its nuclear deterrent. In response to the proposal, the Kremlin periodically threatened to deploy short-range missiles in Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave bordering Poland.
After Obama took office, he launched his touted “reset” of relations with Russia, and in pursuit of that goal later that year abandoned the BMD plan in favor of what it called a “smarter, safer and swifter” approach, focusing on a short- and medium-range missile threat. (Russia continues to oppose the alternative proposal, which inter alia involves a more modest missile defense facility in Poland in 2018.)
The eventual decision was announced on the day Poland was marking the 70th anniversary of the Red Army’s invasion. Sikorski called it “clumsy.”
Poland’s leaders have invariably regarded Russia as a far more serious potential threat than Iranian missiles. That view was dramatically reinforced by Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine and annexation of Crimea this year, which set off alarm bells in Poland and other countries across eastern Europe.
The U.S. has taken pains to assure Poland and other anxious NATO allies in the region of its commitment to their security, and during his recent visit Obama announced plans for a $1 billion fund to increase U.S. troop rotations in eastern Europe.
His Polish hosts welcomed the news, but also hinted strongly that what Poland really wants is a NATO base on its soil – something which Russia says the alliance pledged not to do when it admitted new members after the Cold War ended.