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Central and Eastern European Leaders Urge Obama Not to Forget Their Region

It's the first open letter of this kind since 1989. A group of former heads of state, heads of government, and cabinet ministers from Poland, Hungary, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Romania, the Slovak Republic and the Czech Republic warn President Obama that their close alliance with United States is undergoing a severe test:

Twenty years after the end of the Cold War, however, we see that Central and Eastern European countries are no longer at the heart of American foreign policy. As the new Obama Administration sets its foreign-policy priorities, our region is one part of the world that Americans have largely stopped worrying about. Indeed, at times we have the impression that U.S. policy was so successful that many American officials have now concluded that our region is fixed once and for all and that they could "check the box" and move on to other more pressing strategic issues. Relations have been so close that many on both sides assume that the region's transatlantic orientation, as well as its stability and prosperity, would last forever.

That view is premature. All is not well either in our region or in the transatlantic relationship. Central and Eastern Europe is at a political crossroads and today there is a growing sense of nervousness in the region.

The open letter is published in English in Gazeta Wyborcza via Atlantic-community.org's Top Press Commentary section.

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Pamela on :

Well, find some dictators he can suck up to, then he'll pay attention. I suspect he's going to be paying attention to Africa. Money down a piss hole in my book, but Susan Rice is hot about it.

Don S on :

Actually it's the other way around; the US alliance with Central Europe has been subject to a stress test for more than 20 years now, and is finally showing signs of breaking down. That delegation ought to be going to Berlin and Paris....

Pat Patterson on :

I know I'm relying on the anecdotal but most of the Polish and Romanian government officials and military personnel I have contact with want even closer relations with the US. They want bilateral trade and defense treaties, they want that missile system sometimes to the point of foolishness because they haven't held out for either more money or more US training cadres for their military and yet are also clear eyed enough to realize that membership in the EU means subsidies that the US will not give them. Two years ago at a military exercise held in Nevada with one the first completely NATO compatible light armored brigades of Romania was still an eye opener for both sides. The US higher ranks were surprised at the discipline and the adaptability to changing circumstances of the exercise the Romanians showed. While the Romanians couldn't get over that the US didn't chase all the gypsies out of the country or at least turn a blind eye to pogroms. But since its approval in 2005 the US air and army bases in Romania has served as a substitute for our shrinking presence in Germany. The Romanians are currently agitating for the US to remove its European command from Stuttgart to Romania as a simple matter of facing reality and obviously tweaking a few German and Russian noses in the meantime.

Zyme on :

It is a region in which Americans are not supposed to be meddling in in the first place. These countries will have to turn to either Berlin, Moscow or Ankara. It is about time that Europe can re-adjust itself without foreign influence. Which also means that without foreign distortion, these countries in between will fulfill their traditional role as buffer states again.

Pamela on :

'buffer states'? jeebus. So Germany fights right down to the last Romanian. Nice.

Zyme on :

What? I mean they are within the traditional spheres of influence again. You know, the pawns on the chess board. With no foreign power protecting them, they will have to look for new strongmen in the region.

Kevin Sampson on :

‘With no foreign power protecting them, they will have to look for new strongmen in the region.’ Coming from a German, that is absolutely hilarious. Do I actually need to remind you that our ‘meddling in the region’ is the only reason you don’t speak Russian?

Zyme on :

This coming from an American is even more hilarious. I could remind you that your former meddlings caused the Russians to rise in the first place - great job protecting us from a bear we could have dealt with earlier without you guys falling in our back. This is getting us nowhere. US influence has to go, period.

Pat Patterson on :

Somehow I remain unconvinced that the US had anything to do with the wonderful idea the Germans had of helping Lenin return to Russia from exile. With boxes of cash for incidental travel expenses and a revolution.

Don S on :

Pat, I think Zyme had in mind the rise of Imperial Russia to the greatest power in Europe post-Napoleon. Or perhaps the Russian invasions of Prussia during the Seven Years War. The US clearly was the chief cause of those things.....

Zyme on :

Peace was signed in 1917, do you really believe this Russia would have become a threat? Take a look here: http://images.encarta.msn.com/xrefmedia/dencmed/targets/maps/mhi/3640c781.gif And then a new power enters the war with a 14 points program, making all of this academic. Do you really think we should be grateful for your meddlings in Europe?

Don S on :

Zyme brings out an interesting point which has occurred to me. On the morning of July 19, 1909 the Kaiser woke up as the head of the most powerful nation on earth. This morning Angela Merkel will wake up as leader of a power certainly in the top ten but not remotely close to a top-rank power. The US was the country which did most to bring that about. Germany would have won a pyrric victory in WWI but for the US intervention. But it was the Kaiser's naval strategy attacking neutrals and attempting to induce Mexico to attack the US which caused the US to intervene in WWI. So Germany committed suicide more than the US killed Germany. Similarly, Hitler killed Central Europe by killing or driving the Jews out. Any nation which murders half it's scientests, artists, businessmen, and other creative talent can be considered to have comitted suicide, and Germany not only comitted cultural suicide itself but did it for all of it's neighbors. I've often asked myself whether German actions of the past 15 years vis the US weren't driven by the fact that Germany regards the US of having deprived it of it's birthright. Of course many French harbor similar sentiments against the US - they can't both be right....

Kevin Sampson on :

If you zoom out so you can see ALL of Russia, then Hell yes!

Pat Patterson on :

One thing Zyme has ignored as at the time war finally broke out Germany realized that it could never compete with the British in the Atlantic and the growing presence of the US and Japan in the Pacific doomed its overseas colonies there. Russia under Count Kokovtszov, post 1905, managed to grow its economy by balancing the budget, allowing larger industries to operate without royal monopolies, recognized the former freed serfs as citizens and a multitude of acts of the newly created Duma and Tsarist edicts. But the fly in the ointment was that all of this was based on not spending any of the budget on the Russo-Japanes War but rather going into hock to the French for almost a billion dollars. But the revolution, helped along by German strategic shortsightedness, essentially threw all progress back to the feudal period. So if blame should be apportioned blame the French for loaning the money and the Germans for shipping Lenin home.

Kevin Sampson on :

Care to expand on that, Zyme? Precisely which of our former meddlings are you referring to? By the way, I'm actually on your side in this. I agree we shouldn't get too involved with Eastern Europe. Not because I go for any of that 'Spheres of Influence' bullshit, but because the unfortunate fact is that Eastern Europe is militarily indefensible without the total commitment of Western Europe. And Western Europe is not totally committed to defending anything, including itself.

Don S on :

Yes, Kevin. Precisely so. And once we leave that should be it. Defend yourselves, or speak Russian.

Pamela on :

"I could remind you that your former meddlings caused the Russians to rise in the first place" BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Germany attacked Russia in both wars. Hell, Germany STARTED both wars. Now that's what I call 'meddling'. ------------------------ Presented by the German Ambassador to St. Petersburg -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The Imperial German Government have used every effort since the beginning of the crisis to bring about a peaceful settlement. In compliance with a wish expressed to him by His Majesty the Emperor of Russia, the German Emperor had undertaken, in concert with Great Britain, the part of mediator between the Cabinets of Vienna and St. Petersburg; but Russia, without waiting for any result, proceeded to a general mobilisation of her forces both on land and sea. In consequence of this threatening step, which was not justified by any military proceedings on the part of Germany, the German Empire was faced by a grave and imminent danger. If the German Government had failed to guard against this peril, they would have compromised the safety and the very existence of Germany. The German Government were, therefore, obliged to make representations to the Government of His Majesty the Emperor of All the Russias and to insist upon a cessation of the aforesaid military acts. Russia having refused to comply with [not having considered it necessary to answer]* this demand, and having shown by this refusal [this attitude]* that her action was directed against Germany, I have the honour, on the instructions of my Government, to inform your Excellency as follows: His Majesty the Emperor, my august Sovereign, in the name of the German Empire, accepts the challenge, and considers himself at war with Russia. http://wwi.lib.byu.edu/index.php/The_German_Declaration_of_War_on_Russia ---------------- Archduke Ferdinand is assasinated, the Emperor of Austria declares war on Serbia (at the behest of the Kaiser, I might add), Russia, as an ally of Serbia mobilizes, and Germany declares war on Russia. WTF? Where is the U.S. in this? The last time I got scolded re: WWI it was because we "came late to the party". WWII - well, even discussing 'the bear on our (Germany's) back' is absurd. Sometimes, Zyme, you appear sane. This isn't one of them.

Kevin Sampson on :

So if we liquidate Raoul Castro, Hugo Chavez, and Evo Morales, all we have to do is claim they were invading our 'traditional sphere of influence' and Europe will give us a pass? Sweet!

Don S on :

I have a question for some of the European readers out there, especially Germans. Do you cringe when you read twaddle like this? Time was (not all that long ago) when Germany was a "buffer state"), or rather a group of unimportant buffer states. Does anyone remember how Napoleon and Czar Alexandre treated Prussia after the battle of Jena-Auerstadt? As not much more than a buffer state, that's what. And in 1807, what was the US? Not even a buffer state. Now let's talk about China and India, whose 'historical role(s)' were opium market for the British and possession of Britain, respectively. Eastern Europe may have been 'buffer states' between Germany and Russia after the rise of Germany, but history is clearly not destiny. And anyone who believes that is wrong.

Zyme on :

Of course things may go differently. But right now, what impact do these countries have on Europe besides the fact that they are hoping to be rescued in the event of further financial decline?

Don S on :

What impact do you suppose Germany (current birthrate per couple 1.3) will be having? It's reasonable to guess - less than it has now. So perhaps it might be wiser to stop sneering at the Poles and try to make some friends instead?

Zyme on :

Oh no not this one again. The birth rates are even lower in most parts of Eastern Europe, and in Russia. I hope a solution will be found one day, but right now it does seem to affect all at a similar intensity.

Pat Patterson on :

But, I picked at random, Poland(10.04), Russia(11.11) and Bulgaria(9.51) per thousand, all have higher birth rates than Germany(8.18). It may be a race to ZPG but these former communist nations are going at a much slower rate than Germany. In sprinting the winner is the athlete who appears to be accelerating yet is actually slowing down at a slower pace than the other competitors. The country to back in this race for dominance on continental Europe is clearly France as they have a birth rate slightly below the US of 12.57 per thousand. They have shown on occassion an interest in increasing defense appropriations if they think the goals are worthwhile and have shown a remarkable ability to act in their own interests and not have a collective nervous breakdown over the results. But they pick and chose in small areas whereas the US still can act anywhere.

Pamela on :

Pat are you sure about that Russian birthrate? I think it may be misleading even if accurate. ------------ Russia and its Abortion Apocalypse Russia is, in other words, the world capital of abortions by a wide margin. It is, in fact, an abortion factory, butchering over 2 million fetuses each year, more than 5,400 per day, more than it has live births — a situation virtually unprecedented in human history. Every ten years, Russians kill more of their own people simply by means of abortion than did Hitler’s invading Nazi hoardes in the whole of World War II. (this is UN data - more at the link) http://larussophobe.wordpress.com/2008/10/06/editorial-russia-and-its-abortion-apocalypse/ ----------------- Islam to become Russia’s predominant religion by 2050? Islam is likely to become the primary religion in the Russian Federation by 2050 due to the high birth rate in Muslim republics. The current Chinese-led conquest of Russia’s Far East already seems to be a matter of immediate concern for the Kremlin. The ethnic birth rate disproportion in different regions of the country is another problem. The Muslim community may become the largest community by the middle of the current century. Therefore, Islam has all chances to become the predominant religion in Russia. http://english.pravda.ru/russia/history/21-07-2008/105837-russia-islam-0 --------------- And birthrate is not a predictor or mortality rate. I think we all know about the ravages of alcohol so I won't post links (unless requested of course, I'm sure I have some around)

Pat Patterson on :

Yeah, I used the CIA World Factbook and then checked UNESCO and WHO for explanations and confirmation. I've given up on infant mortality rates as regardless of what the Europeans say they simply massage the numbers and we end up comparing apples and oranges. But one worrisome fact is that 92% of the Russian population are between 15 and 65 which would indicate, but might not neccessarily result in a larger pool of workers and military age citizens available. Germany on the other hand only has 66% of its population in the same cohort and over twice the percentage of elderly as Russia. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/RS.html I think this goes directly to the World Factbook's homepage but its easy to navigate.

Don S on :

Zyme, you may be weary & bored of hearing about the demographic crisis but it is a fact, and facts have a habit of not going away. The fact is that the German demographic numbers are an absolute disaster both by themselves and compared with other countries. The fact that the Russians and the Eastern Europeans are currently worse off does little to mitigate that. Not all of your neighbors are doing so poorly - the French don't quite replace their numbers but they are much better off than Germany. And across the Atlantic there is that declining power on the final slide as predicted by Herr Steinbruck (when he pauses from his serious labors threatening Switzerland with the mighty German Army). Somehow unacountably, the declining US manages to replace it's population and even manages some population growth from immigration. But Germany wll defy gravity and be on top in the future. Possibly under sharia law.....

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