Towards the NATO summit: Poland
The 2016 NATO summit this week is coming at a turbulent time. There are concerns about the Baltics and Syria, there is the political fallout from the Brexit vote, and the government of host country Poland is facing criticism from Brussels and Washington over the appointees to the Constitutional Tribunal.
Politico reported on growing tensions between Washington and Warsaw in March:
The escalating conflict between Poland’s right-wing government and the country’s top constitutional court is starting to taint its crucial security relationship with the United States. [...]
These days, Washington sees Poland as less of an asset and more of a problem, alongside other Central European countries seen as democracy backsliders.
Two weeks later Politico commented on the USA-Poland relationship again, when Polish President Duda failed to secure a tête-à-tête with Obama during the nuclear summit in Washington:
That Duda isn’t formally meeting with President Barack Obama or top congressional officials during the Nuclear Security Summit, which is taking place in Washington this week, has caused a stir in Polish media, with some observers arguing that Washington is freezing Duda out because of worries about the independence of Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal and media freedom under the right-wing Law and Justice party.
The very same day Politico published this piece as well, inspired by Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs Waszczykowski's declaration that his country felt liberated from "negro mentality":
Poland’s new government has shed the country’s “negro mentality” when it comes to relations with the United States, Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski said on Polish public television.
The piece went on to note Waszczykowski's distaste for like vegetarians, cyclists, and racial mixing (what?):
In a January interview with German tabloid Bild, he denounced vegetarians, cyclists, racial mixing and renewable energy as hallmarks of a left-wing ideology that “has little in common with traditional Polish values.”
You could say Politico just has it in for Poland. But the Ärger is real. On June 1, Eurocommissioner Timmermans castigated the Polish government:
First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said today: "The rule of law is one of the foundations of the European Union. There have been constructive talks which should now be translated into concrete steps to resolve the systemic risk to the rule of law in Poland. The Opinion adopted today presents our assessment of the issues at stake, building on the dialogue which started in January. On this basis we stand ready to continue the dialogue with the Polish authorities. "
RT smelled blood and hastily penned an awkard op-edge piece:
If there was a prize for the favorite ’New Europe’ country of the EU elite over the past couple of decades, then Poland would certainly be in the running for the gold medal. [...]
But is the love affair between Brussels and Warsaw coming to an end? This week, the European Commission formally adopted an ‘opinion’ - saying that there is a "systemic risk to the rule of law in Poland" which could even land (sic) to imposition of sanctions
You might think Poland's executive would be cowed by the disapproving noises from Brussels and Washington. On the contrary. Here's Defense Minister Macierewicz in response to concerns from USA Senators:
"People who only built their state in the 18th century are going to tell us what democracy is?" Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz said last weekend.
With respect to the EU, it appears as if the Polish government has been emboldened by the Brexit vote:
"After the potential Brexit, I for sure expect an increase in Britain's role in NATO," Macierewicz said, in comments authorized for release on Tuesday. [...]
"Right now is a time of a certain sway in public opinion, a certain ambiguity (regarding the EU)," Macierewicz said.
Macierewicz feels confident enough to prescribe NATO's agenda for the summit:
Planned NATO talks with Moscow should be focussed solely on Russia's "withdrawal" from Ukrainian soil, Polish Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz said Tuesday.
But why should NATO heed the advice of a government that is embroiled in a fight with the European Commission because it does not respect the rule of law and has problems understanding freedom of the press as well?
Since [January 12] at least 163 other people, including the most prominent news anchors and reporters in Poland, have either been fired or quit state broadcasting, according to the Journalists’ Association, one of the two main organizations representing Polish journalists.
“They did not want to participate in political pacification of the media,” the group says on its website.
The New York Times today:
Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of Poland’s governing party, is urging NATO to show Russia that the alliance is strong and united when it holds its summit meeting in Poland this week. Yet he shows no interest in heeding the allies’ warnings about his own government’s authoritarian drift.
To be fair, the Polish government does still have friends across the Atlantic:
Instead of directing its energies to resolving the refugee crisis, calming the turmoil surrounding the Brexit referendum or revitalizing its moribund economy, the EU is flexing its muscle to dictate its preferred result for Poland’s internal dispute. This would be cause for concern were the EU’s actions within the scope of its governing treaties. But in this case, the EU is inserting itself into Polish affairs because it sees an opportunity to institute its Framework, an authority that it simply conjured out of thin air. [...]
Although perhaps it's more accurate to say that the EU has haters everywhere.