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Warsaw and Washington: after illusion

Adam J Chmielewski
17 September 2009

The American administration has chosen 17 September 2009, the day of the anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939, to announce that it is giving up on the (in any case stillborn) anti-missile shield over Poland and the Czech Republic, which had been designed with the putative threat from Iran in mind.

Adam J Chmielewski is professor of philosophy in the Institute of Philosophy, University of Wrocław, Poland. His books Open Society or Community? (2001)

Also by Adam J Chmielewski in openDemocracy:

"Europe's missing link" (25 August 2005)In response to this it is worth recalling that when the United States sought it fit and noble to invade Philippines in 1898-99, President William McKinley justified this eventually homicidal step by saying that the Filipinos have to be "Christianised". When someone remarked that they are Catholics, McKinley is said to have responded: "That is why we have to Christianise them!"

In the view of the average level of historical knowledge of American presidents, I am not inclined to regard Barack Obama's abandonment of the missile-defence plans on this potent anniversary as anything more than a coincidence, nor to hold it against the US president or his administration. After all, no American government has ever paid much attention to the easily wounded feelings of people in Poland. George W Bush's leadership did not; there is no reason that anyone should expect such an attitude from Barack Obama's.

But this decision will be an excellent lesson in geopolitics for the broadly (and often blindly) pro-American Polish population. The Soviet attack on 17 September 1939 - two weeks after the invasion by Nazi Germany from the west - has long been ingrained into Polish consciousness as a "knife in the back". Perhaps the US decision of 17 September 2009 will ever after be called a "knife in the chest". Moreover, this will be for better rather than for worse; for it may only help Poles to understand that they have no other geopolitical choice but to make friends with Germans and Russians alike, and to abandon their own foolish policy of "two enemies".

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