Regional Diplomatic Boon Lies in Warsaw
On Aug. 5, the State Department announced specifics to the Warsaw Process Working Groups, in what can uniformly be seen as a positive benefit for diplomatic relations between Poland, United States, and Israel. “These working groups will drive momentum on areas of consensus to advance shared security interests in the Middle East and enhance regional cooperation,” as written in its press release.
In February, representatives of more than 60 nations assembled for the Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced at its conclusion the creation of seven working groups. These included broad steps to “confront terrorism, missile non-proliferation, maritime and aviation security, cyber security, energy security, humanitarian issues and refugees, and human rights.”
Poland’s incentive to forge good ties with Israel and the U.S. stem for different reasons, stresses Dr. Patrycja Sasnal, who serves as head of the Middle East & North Africa Project. “The two relations – Polish-Israeli and Polish-American – are very different and I’d say strategic for different reasons: relations with Israel are strategic socially because our fates have been historically intertwined and this will never change but relations with the U.S. are strategic in the more traditional political sense: the U.S. is a security guarantor,” she says.
Dr. Lukasz Fyderek told reporters that the summit’s emphasis was “maximum effort to put pressure on Iran. What is needed from the perspective of Washington, is a better coordination of its Middle Eastern allies, namely Israel and Saudi Arabia.” Those with keen understanding of the underlying tension in the Middle East rests with Iran and Saudi Arabia’s disparate quests for regional and religious hegemony.
“Relations with Israel are strategic socially because our fates have been historically intertwined and this will never change,” adds Dr. Sasnal, before reminding that the conflict with Iran should not be so simply defined. “There are 80 million Iranians. This fact alone does not allow for a black and white designation of the country. Poland, like the EU, agrees that Iran does pose an international security challenge. It is, however, politically more efficient to use diplomatic contacts and engage than exert dangerously uncontrollable pressure.”
Pompeo met with his Polish counterpart Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz in February, touting one hundred years of good diplomatic relations. “You have been an outstanding partner on this initiative and a true ally across many fields,” he gestured before emphasizing that Iran’s “aggression in the region has brought Israel and Arab states closer together. What I think was even more more remarkable is that it didn’t feel all that historic. It felt right. It felt normal because we were working on a common problem.”
Robert Czulda, an assistant professor at University of Łódź, penned an Atlantic Council piece leading up to the summit, describing Poland’s real incentive for hosting it. “Poland has been trying to persuade the Trump administration to build a permanent US military base on Polish soil because it would – at least according to Polish decision-makers – be a stronger deterrent against Russia, which is Poland’s greatest challenge… Poland is now willing to pay the price of strained relations with Iran in order to please the White House.”
Dr. Sasnal adds that while the Poles’ overall positive feelings toward the U.S. may be construed as an anomaly in Europe, such affection belies a ‘political logic.’ “Poles think favorably of the U.S., which is not always the case in the rest of Europe,” she says. “This favoritism has a political logic: in a multipolar world, it is easier to face challenges together with the U.S. rather than without them. This logic will make any Polish government try to mend Transatlantic ties when strains occur.”
Is Poland perhaps leaning toward the U.S. to offset a perception that alternatively it would be dependent on Russia for oil or gas?
“No,” says Dr. Sasnal. “Poland is a member of the European Union – the European community together with the Transatlantic community form a circle of values and security that makes Poland work toward a strong European-American linkage.”