In less than a week, Poland will commemorate the 70th anniversary of the beginning of World War II. On September 1st, 1939, Germany launched a war that killed tens of millions of people after concocting a false provocation on the Polish border, with the Soviet Union invading from the other direction. The Polish nation all but disappeared for several years, and for decades after the end of the war, Poland had to live with the war’s Iron Curtain legacy. For many reasons, September 1st will be a day of somber reflection for Poland and eastern Europe.
Poland plans a remembrance ceremony in Gdansk, and the list of attendees makes this a high-profile diplomatic event, according to Polish broadcaster TVN News:
Poland will celebrate 70th Anniversary of the Outbreak of the WW2. Russian PM Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Lithuanian PM Andrius Kubilius, Finish PM Matti Vanhanen, Latvian PM Valdis Dombrovskis, Dutch PM Jan Peter Balkenende, Czech PM Jan Fischer, Estonian PM Andrus Ansip, Serbian PM Mirko Cvetkovic, Hungarian PM Gordon Bajnaj and Albanian PM Sali Berisha and also President of the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek and President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso confirmed his participation in the celebrations that shall take place on September 1st in Gdansk.
Events will start the day before with the special train the Solidarnosć Express visiting WW2 city battlegrounds. The ceremony proper begins at 4.45 in the morning, 70 years to the minute after the battleship Schleswig-Holstein opened fire on the Westerplatte base. The most important people will attending in this commemoration ceremony, also veterans who will pay tribute to the defenders of Polish coast. At 15.00 Putin, Merkel and other bigwigs will pay their respects to the victims of war. Then the musicians of the Baltic Philharmonic will perform Britten’s “War Requiem”.
A few nations appear to have been left off of the list – including France and the UK, which had guaranteed Poland’s security but failed to initiate military action against the Germans until the invasion of France. Also missing is any mention of a representative from the US, despite American efforts to build a robust alliance and friendship with the Poles since their liberation from Soviet domination. Polonia News, a blog out of Poland with both English and Polish language versions, claims that the “snub” has Poles angry:
It is five days before the commemoration ceremony of the 70th anniversary, September 1st, of the outbreak of World War II in Poland and Washington has not yet announced who is going to represent the US administration.
Polish officials had been led to believe the US would be represented by Vice-President Joe Biden or Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. But Prime Minister Donald Tusk seems to have lost all hope that the Obama administration will be sending a high-level official to the ceremony. The ceremony will be attended by Chancellor Merkel, Prime Minister Putin and heads of 12 other states.
Many Polish officials are astonished and see it as a snub but don’t say it out loud. Here are some of comments voiced recently: “I would not attach a great importance to the fact that one country will not be represented by a member of the current administration.” “There is a very long way from Washington to Poland.”
In a later post, the authors claim that the snub will endanger US-Polish relations:
The commentators think that this may be Obama’s reaction to recent open letter from Eastern Europe, signed by former officials from that region, as well as critique of runaway spending in the face of huge budget deficit. Europe, specifically Eastern Europe, took different route and decided to cut spending. And it worked.
Polish politicians and commentators noticed that Hillary Clinton has spent 11 days in Africa, while Polish soldiers die or get wounded in Afghanistan, but can’t spare a day to show a face for this important day for Poles. Just last week Polish government decided to spend nearly 300 million dollars on equipment for troops in that country. In Poland it is a lot of money.
Major Polish newspapers ask what else Poland can do for America? How many more officers should die in Afghanistan? How many more F-16s should they buy? Do they, Obama and Clinton, understand that US is about to commit another blunder?
There is no mention at all in the US media about the anniversary ceremonies in Gdansk, and not much in the European media, either. Any event that has that kind of guest list has to be a significant diplomatic event. Yet, the website for US embassy in Warsaw doesn’t mention it. It does have an entry noting the Congressional recognition of the invasion’s anniversary, but doesn’t mention any involvement in the anniversary’s remembrance in Gdansk, or that Poland will commemorate it at all.
It’s possible that the US, France, and UK simply weren’t invited, and that Poland wanted to make it an eastern European event, and that Polonia News has its information wrong. It does seem odd that the Western allies are not sending any high-ranking representatives, though, especially since we have worked hard to keep Poland politically oriented Westward rather than Eastward.
I have sent several requests to the White House and one to the State Department asking for clarification. The State Department refused to answer the question, leaving me a message that the White House would have to address this. I called the White House twice and e-mailed three people in the administration over the last two days, and got nowhere; everyone seems to be on vacation. When I hear from someone, I will update the post.
Update: According to Hot Air commenter Year of the Dingo, who’s living and posting in Poland (I checked the IP address), the US does have a representative … from the Clinton administration:
I happen to be living in Poland right now. One of the leading newspapers, Rzeczpospolita, is saying that William Perry will appear at Westerplatte at Gdansk. Polish commentators are saying, WTF?, he’s not even in any office.
I still remember watching the 60 anniversary of the Warsaw uprising back in 2004. The Polish people very much appreciated the appearance of Colin Powell at the ceremony.
Perry was last an official of the US in January 1997, more than twelve years ago. If that’s the best effort that the Obama administration can make, small wonder the State Department refused to comment.