Turkey is now the world’s 17th-largest economy and the largest Islamic economy. Its military is the most capable in the region and is also probably the strongest in Europe, apart from the British armed forces. Its influence is already felt in the Caucasus, the Balkans, central Asia and the Arab world. Most important, it is historically the leader in the Muslim world, and its bridge to the rest of the world. Over the centuries, when the Muslim world has been united, this has happened under Turkish power; the past century has been the aberration. If Russia weakens, Turkey emerges as the dominant power in the region, including the eastern Mediterranean; Turkey is an established naval power. It has also been historically pragmatic in its foreign policies.
Poland has the 18th-largest economy in the world, the largest among the former Soviet satellites and the eighth-largest in Europe. It is a vital strategic asset for the US. In the emerging competition between the US and Russia, Poland represents the geographical frontier between Europe and Russia and the geographical foundation of any attempt to defend the Baltics. Given the US strategic imperative to block Eurasian hegemons and Europe’s unease with the US, the US-Polish relationship becomes critical. In 2008 the US signed a deal with Poland to instal missiles in the Baltic Sea as part of Washington’s European missile defence shield, ostensibly to protect against “rogue states”. The shield is not about Iran, but about Poland as a US ally – from the American and the Russian points of view.