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Poland–United States relations


Poland–United States relations

Polish–American relations
Map indicating locations of Poland and USA


United States

Polish–American relations were officially established in 1919. Since 1989, Polish–American relations have been strong and Poland is one of the most stable European allies of the United States, being part of both NATO and the European Union.

In addition to close historical and cultural ties, Poland is one of the most consistently pro-American nations in Europe and the world, with 79% of Poles viewing the U.S. favorably in 2002 and 67% in 2013.[1] According to the 2012 U.S. Global Leadership Report, 36% of Poles approve of U.S. leadership, with 30% disapproving and 34% uncertain,[2] and in a 2013 BBC World Service Poll, 55% of Poles view U.S. influence positively, the highest rating for any surveyed European country.[3] Despite their apparently close relationship, a Polish magazine obtained a recording of Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski calling the Polish-US alliance "downright harmful" and caused a "false sense of security".[4]


  • Before the 20th century 1
    • American response to the November Uprising 1.1
    • Lincoln and the Civil War 1.2
  • Second Polish Republic 2
  • Communist period 3
  • Post Communism 4
  • Issues 5
    • US missile defense complex in Poland 5.1
    • American entry for Poles issue 5.2
    • "Polish death camps" 5.3
    • Images 5.4
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9

Before the 20th century

Although the partitioning of Poland which erased the Polish state from the map in 1795 prevented the establishment of official diplomatic relations between Poland and the new American state, Poland, which enacted the world's second oldest constitution in 1791, always considered the United States a positive influence, and even in the 18th century, important Polish figures such as Tadeusz Kościuszko and Kazimierz Pułaski became closely involved with shaping US history. Many Poles emigrated to United States during the 19th century, forming a large Polish American community.

American response to the November Uprising

Poland's 1831 fight for independence from Russia was extensively-documented and editorialized in American newspapers. As historian General Lafayette was an outspoken voice in France, urging for a French intervention to aid Poland in its independence from Russia. The French government sought to make peace with Russia and generally stayed out of the revolution.[6]

Following the collapse of the Insurrection, American newspapers continued to publish news from British and French sources documenting oppression of Poles by Russia. Newspaper editors made mention of the Russians as "brutal" and "evil" whereas the Poles were "gallant" and "heroic" in their efforts. The American public was apprised of the ongoing suppression of the Polish culture and forced conscription of Poles into the Russian Army, hurting Russian-American relations. An American writer in Boston, Robin Carver, wrote a children's book in 1831 called Stories of Poland, which said that for Polish children, "Their houses are not peaceful and happy homes, but are open to the spies and soldiers of a cruel and revengeful government...There is no confidence, no repose, no hope for them, and will not be, till, by some more fortunate struggle, they shall drive the Russians from their borders, and become and independent people."[7] Poetic tributes to Poland were written in America, and literature denouncing Russian treatment towards Poland continued after the Uprising. The Russian czar Nicholas I and his emissaries asked the U.S. Secretary of State for a formal rebuke of American newspapers reporting Russian mistreatment of Poles. Then Secretary of State Edward Livingston chose to wait two months before responding to Russia's demands, but the United States Ambassador to Russia James Buchanan made promises to the Russians that the American press would circulate evidence that Russian cruelty was "much overplayed". Historian Jerzy Jan Lerski was critical of Buchanan's pro-Russian stance on the Polish issue, and said he made statements on Poland without visiting the country or "listening to Polish testimony".[8]

Lincoln and the Civil War

A British 1863 political cartoon with Lincoln and Russian czar Alexander. The cartoons suggests both are blood-soaked tyrants, shaking hands against images of civilian devastation in the American Civil War and the Russian war against Poland.

Poland's independence lost favor among American intellectuals during the United States Civil War. Historians have argued that President Lincoln himself was sympathetic to the Poles but chose not to intervene in Europe's affairs out of fear that they would join the Confederacy. Historian Tom Delahaye pointed to 1863 as a critical breakdown in relations between the "Crimean Coalition" (Britain, France, and Austria) and Russia, with Poland's independence a key reason for conflict.[9] Russian sympathies with solidly in favor of the North, and Lincoln expressed non-interventionist policy towards Russia's "Polish problem". By doing so, he alienated himself from British and French politics and came closer to the Russians, contributing to a balance of power in favor of the czar. Because of the comparisons of the Southerners and Poles as insurrectionists, a British political cartoon in 1863 depicted both Lincoln and the czar as allies.

Second Polish Republic

The United States established diplomatic relations with the newly formed Polish Republic in April 1919 but the relations between the two countries were distant, while positive (due to United States non-interventionism and Poland not being seen as important for US interests).

Eventually both countries became part of the Allies in the Second World War, but there was relatively little need for detailed coordination between the United States and the Polish government in exile based in London

The American media – the newspapers[10] and Hollywood – largely ignored Poland during the war. Hollywood made numerous films about the German occupation of France, Norway and Czechoslovakia, but Poland was almost off the map. Biskupski explains that it was not so much anti-Polish sentiment, as pro-Soviet sentiment in Hollywood and Washington. Many top screenwriters were communists or fellow travelers, and Biskupski says they have the primary goal of protecting the image of the Soviet Union, so the coverage of Poland would be a distraction. That was also the position of the federal government offices that supervised Hollywood during the war years. Furthermore, public opinion generally favored the Soviets and agreed with the official Washington and London positions that the Polish government in exile was obstructionist.[11]

Communist period

On July 5, 1945, the US government recognized the communist government installed in Warsaw by the Soviet government, thus abandoning the Polish Government in Exile. After 1950, Poland (or the People's Republic of Poland since 1952) became part of the Soviet bloc, and as such, America's enemy in the Cold War. US first ambassador to post-war Poland, Arthur Bliss Lane, wrote a book I Saw Poland Betrayed about how the Western Allies abandoned their former ally, Poland, to the Soviet Union. However, Polish people have unofficially always considered United States a friendly power, and the Soviet Union an occupant.

After Gomułka came to power in 1956, relations with the United States began to improve. However, during the 1960s, reversion to a policy of full and unquestioning support for Soviet foreign policy objectives and negative attitude toward Israel during the Six-Day War caused those relations to stagnate. U.S.–Polish relations improved significantly after Edward Gierek succeeded Gomulka and expressed his interest in improving relations with the United States. A consular agreement was signed in 1972.

In 1974 Gierek was the first Polish leader to visit the United States. This action, among others, demonstrated that both sides wished to facilitate better relations.

The birth of Solidarity in 1980 raised the hope that progress would be made in Poland's external relations as well as in its domestic development. During this time, the United States provided $765 million in agricultural assistance. Human rights and individual freedom issues, however, were not improved upon, and the U.S. revoked Poland's most-favored-nation (MFN) status in response to the Polish Government's decision to ban Solidarity in 1981. MFN status was reinstated in 1987, and diplomatic relations were upgraded.

Post Communism

Polish President Gdańsk, June 2007, during the G8 Summit 2007[12]

The United States and Poland have enjoyed warm bilateral relations since 1989. Every post-1989 Polish government has been a strong supporter of continued American military and economic presence in Europe, and Poland is one of the most staunch allies of the United States.

When Poland joined NATO on March 12, 1999 the two countries became part of the same military alliance. As well as supporting the Global War on Terror, Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, and coalition efforts in Iraq (where Polish contingent was one of the largest), Poland cooperates closely with the United States on such issues as democratization, nuclear proliferation, human rights, regional cooperation in central and eastern Europe, and reform of the United Nations.

Obama-Tusk meeting, Warsaw, 28 May 2011

Barack Obama visited Poland on 27–28 May 2011. He met with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and President Bronislaw Komorowski. The American and Polish leaders discussed economic, military and technology cooperation issues.


US missile defense complex in Poland

The 'US missile defense complex in Poland was part of the Ballistic Missile Defense European Capability of the US, to be placed in Redzikowo, Słupsk, Poland, forming a Ground-Based Midcourse Defense system in conjunction with a US narrow-beam midcourse tracking and discrimination radar system in the Brdy, Czech Republic. The plan was cancelled in 2009.

Polish society was divided on the issue. According to a poll by SMG/KRC released by TVP 50 per cent of respondents rejected the deployment of the shield on Polish soil, while 36 per cent supported it.[13]

The Obama administration's decision to cancel a proposed defense complex in Poland was categorized as "appeasement" to the Russian Federation by the supporters of the plan.

In October 2009, with a trip by Vice President Joe Biden to Warsaw, a new, smaller interceptor project on roughly the same schedule as the Bush administration plan, was introduced, and welcomed by Prime Minister Donald Tusk.[14]

American entry for Poles issue

A substantial and repeated criticism in Poland of US approach to Poland revolves about US refusal to allow Poles a visa-free entry to United States, despite the fact that most European Union countries – often much less supportive of US on the international scene – have no visa requirements. USA remains the last non-Arab developed country in the World to require short-stay visas from Polish citizens. Polish passport basically allows free movement or easily obtaining a visa for every country in the World, except for the USA - see Visa requirements for Polish citizens. This may have also been a factor in the recent decrease of highly skilled Polish immigrants to the United States.[15]

During his visit to Poland in 2011, Pres. Obama said of the Visa Waiver Program, "I am going to make this a priority. And I want to solve this issue before very long. My expectation is that this problem will be solved during my presidency." Some Poles have been deeply disappointed by the Obama administration's inaction on the issue, and believe this was an empty promise.[16]

The European Union has threatened to impose visa requirements for Americans to enter any of its member countries if visa requirements for Poles are not lifted.[17]

"Polish death camps"

In May 2012, during Medal of Freedom Ceremony, Obama referred to the concentration camps run by Nazis in Poland during World War II as "Polish death camps," a term the Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said showed "ignorance, lack of knowledge and ill will." Calling them "Polish death camps", Tusk said, implied that Poland was responsible and that "there had been no Nazis, no German responsibility, no Hitler."[18] After a White House spokesman issued a regret of misstatement by clarifying that the President was referring to the Nazi death camps, Tusk expressed an expectation of "a reaction more inclined to eliminate once and for all these kinds of errors."[19]


See also


  1. ^ Opinion of the United States - Poland Pew Research Center
  2. ^ U.S. Global Leadership Project Report - 2012 Gallup
  3. ^ 2013 World Service Poll BBC
  4. ^ "Polish foreign minister says country's alliance with US worthless". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 June 2014. 
  5. ^ #Jerzy Jan Lerski p. 26
  6. ^ #Jerzy Jan Lerski p. 7.
  7. ^ Stories of Poland. p. 141-142.
  8. ^ #Jerzy Jan Lerski p. 32.
  9. ^
  10. ^ David G. Januszewski, "The Case for the Polish Exile Government in the American Press, 1939-1945," Polish American Studies (1986): 57-97 in JSTOR
  11. ^ M.B.B. Biskupski, Hollywood's War with Poland, 1939-1945 (2009) pp 2-5, 76, 110 excerpt and text search
  12. ^ President Bush Participates in Joint Statement with President Kaczynski of Poland
  13. ^
  14. ^ "Poland Agrees to Accept U.S. Missile Interceptors" by Peter Baker, The New York Times, October 21, 2009. Retrieved October 21, 2009.
  15. ^ Żebrowska, Grażyna; Marek Konarzewski (2/10/14). "Choosing between the United States and the EU". Science & Diplomacy 3 (1). 
  16. ^ David Harris (2011-10-18). "Bad idea to exclude Poland from U.S. Visa Waiver Program - Chicago Tribune". Retrieved 2012-09-30. 
  17. ^
  18. ^ "Tusk Demands U.S. Response to Obama Death Camp Remark". Bloomberg. 
  19. ^ White House shrugs off Polish apology demands
  1. Janusz Reiter, The Visa Barrier, Washington Post, August 29, 2007

Further reading

  • Biskupski, M.B.B. The United States and the Rebirth of Poland, 1914-1918 (2012)
  • Biskupski, M.B.B. "Poland in American Foreign Policy, 1918-1945: "Sentimental" or "Strategic" Friendship?: A Review Article," Polish American Studies (1981) 38#2 pp. 5-15 in JSTOR
  • Blejwas, Stanislaus A. "Puritans and Poles: The New England Literary Image of the Polish Peasant Immigrant." Polish American Studies (1985): 46-88. in JSTOR
  • Cienciala, Anna M. "The United States and Poland in World War II." The Polish Review (2009): 173-194.
  • Feis, Herbert. Churchill Roosevelt Stalin The War They Waged and the Peace They Sought A Diplomatic History of World War II (1957) ch 2, 7, 21, 29, 39-40, 54, 60; very detailed coverage
  • Lipoński, Wojciech. "Anti-American Propaganda in Poland From 1948 to 1954: A Story of An Ideological Failure." American Studies International (1990): 80-92. in JSTOR
  • McGinley, Theresa Kurk. "Embattled Polonia, Polish-Americans and World War II." East European Quarterly (2003) 37#3 pp 325-344.
  • Michalski, Artur. Poland’s Relations with the United States, Yearbook of Polish Foreign Policy (01/2005), [1]
  • * Pacy, James S. "Polish Ambassadors and Ministers in Rome, Tokyo, and Washington, DC 1920-1945: Part II." The Polish Review (1985): 381-395.
  • Pease, Neal. Poland, the United States, and the Stabilization of Europe, 1919-1933 (1986) excerpts
  • Pienkos, Donald E. "Of Patriots and Presidents: America's Polish Diaspora and U.S. Foreign Policy Since 1917," Polish American Studies (2011) 68#1 pp. 5-17 in JSTOR
  • Sjursen, Helene. The United States, Western Europe and the Polish Crisis: International Relations in the Second Cold War (Palgrave Macmillan, 2003)
  • Wandycz, Piotr S. The United States and Poland (1980)

External links

  • History of Poland - U.S. relations
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