Leaders of Poland and Lithuania stand up for transatlantic unity: try to correct Macron’s mistakes

Emmanuel Macron, the French President-elect
Emmanuel Macron, the French President-elect AFP / Scanpix

The shadow of Emmanuel Macron loomed over Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki’s visit to the US this week. Polish and Lithuanian politicians have begun to shrug off the French leader’s controversial stance and defend transatlantic unity lrytas.lt writes in its editorial.

Unlike the French President, who, in an interview with “Politico” tried to put some distance between the US and Europe in any future confrontation with China over Taiwan and called for strengthening the continent’s “strategic autonomy”, the Polish leader stresses the decisive importance of the American-European alliance, not least because his country is one of Kyiv’s strongest allies in the war against Russia.

“Instead of strategic autonomy from the United States, I propose a strategic partnership with the United States,” he said before flying to Washington.

Mr Morawiecki continued to reproach the French President for his controversial statements in the US capital.

“I don’t see any alternative, and we are in full agreement here, than to build an even closer alliance with the Americans. If the countries to the West of Poland are less aware of this, it is probably due to historical circumstances,” he said in Washington on Tuesday.

Unlike France, which resented Europe’s dependence on the US for decades, Poland is one of the most ardent US allies on the continent. Warsaw has pushed hard for years for US troops to be stationed on its soil, and many of its recent arms contracts have been with American companies. Earlier this year, it signed a $1.4 billion contract to buy a second batch of Abrams tanks and agreed to spend $4.6 billion on advanced F-35 fighter jets.

“I am pleased that this proposal for an even deeper strategic partnership has found such fertile ground here in the United States because we know that in Europe, there are various concepts that others have formulated, concepts that raise more threats, more questions, more uncertainties,” said Morawiecki. – Poland is trying to pursue the sanest policy, based on a close alliance with the United States within the European Union, and this is the best path for Poland.”

“Leader of the New Europe”

Poland has become one of Ukraine’s most important allies, and access to its roads, railways, and airports is crucial for supplying arms, ammunition and other aid to Ukraine.

This has helped to change the perception of Poland, which before the war was seen as an increasingly irrelevant member of the Western club because of problems with the rule of law, and to become an important member of the NATO alliance.

Warsaw also believes that Russia’s attack on Ukraine justifies its long-held suspicions about its historical enemy and does not shy away from pointing the finger at Paris and Berlin for being mistaken about the Kremlin threat.

“Old Europe believed in a deal with Russia, and old Europe failed,” Morawiecki said at a joint press conference with US Vice President Kamala Harris. – But there is a new Europe – a Europe that remembers what Russian communism was. And Poland is the leader of this new Europe.”

That is why Macron’s comments have provoked a reaction in Warsaw.

“I completely disagree with President Macron. We believe that Europe needs more American… We want to cooperate more with the US based on partnership,” Marcin Przydacz, foreign policy adviser to Polish President Andrzej Duda, told Radio Zet, adding that the idea of strategic autonomy pushed by Macron “has the purpose of breaking the ties between Europe and the United States”.

While Poland wants European countries to meet NATO’s target of spending at least 2% of the gross domestic product on defence – a target only seven Alliance members, including Poland but not France and Germany, meet – and while it is not opposed to them building up their military industries, it does not want to weaken ties with the US, said Slawomir Debski, head of the government-funded Polish Institute for International Affairs.

Macron‘s talk of Europe distancing itself from the US in the event of a conflict with China “threatens to break up the EU, which is not only against the interests of Poland but also against the interests of the majority of European countries”, he warned.

Lithuania reacted

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis also responded to Macron’s controversial statements that could increase tensions between the EU and the US.

On his Twitter account, the Minister posted a series of emotional statements related to this situation.

“For years, the West has argued that economic cooperation would persuade dictators to maintain a rules-based international order. But we have only fed their economies and allowed them to break all the rules. China is betting that we will repeat this mistake. So it is time to try something else.

We have bought energy, and we have transferred technology. We have invested in totalitarian regimes. We allowed them to grow, not for any practical benefit, but because of the messianic illusion that the spread of Western influence is inevitable and can only bring about good change.

Our confusion has made us strategically blind. We have ignored the threats not only to the countries bordering Russia but also to Western society itself. Armies were abandoned, borders were left undefended, and our ability to rise up and repel invaders was reduced.

Along with a weak foreign policy, the West has also weakened internally. Corruption, armed radicalisation and interference in elections became the norm.

The defence of Ukraine is not only about defending the rules-based order against the return of 20th-century barbarism. It also means that we must defend ourselves.

Unfortunately, our geopolitical blindness is not yet curable. We chose not to see the threat of Russian aggression, and now we have chosen not to see the threat of Chinese aggression. We are on the verge of repeating the same mistake.

We asked Russia not to invade Ukraine. We asked Russia not to invade Georgia. We made phone calls. The result was a tragically predictable disaster.

Clearly, our strategy with (Vladimir) Putin has failed. So now, instead of increasing defence spending and production or strengthening transatlantic ties, we are asking another totalitarian to help us ‘make peace’ in Europe? That would be a bigger mistake than Nordstream.

We are capable of defending Europe without Chinese help. Instead of asking for help, we should project our strength and show the world that Ukraine, Europe and the US are willing and able to protect the European continent. That is the only signal we should send.

The same strong signal must be sent to Taiwan. We must declare that the island and its democracy-loving people are part of the rules-based order and that we will fight against any attempt to change the status quo by force because we are willing and able to do what is right.

The world order was born from a transatlantic victory against oppressors and invaders. Some have chosen to abandon this order and are still seeking to destroy it. In response, we will not change transatlantic unity; we must protect and defend it, not destroy it.

I propose that we recognise the benefits and the necessity of transatlantic unity and that we commit ourselves to the universal defence of the rules that we have all agreed on. I am not proposing that we beg dictators to help ensure European peace. There is a long and bloody trail of evidence against such a strategy”, Landsbergis said in separate tweets.

After French President Macron’s remarks, which caused passion in the West, President Nausėda also reacted in a somewhat more restrained manner but clearly expressing his support for the further strengthening of transatlantic relations.

According to the Head of State, the unity of the US and Europe is “unquestionable”, and the two countries should continue to strengthen their cooperation in the context of NATO and foster common values that are important for Western democracies.

“The transatlantic relationship is a very important element of European security. Together with our allies, we must defend our common values, democracy and freedom. We should strive to strengthen NATO further in all areas. Our unity is unquestionable,” Nausėda tweeted on Wednesday.

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