US Reassures Poland Over Crimea
March 27, 2014
U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden has assured Poland, a staunch NATO ally, that America is committed to its security amid jitters in Warsaw over Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
During a visit to Warsaw March 18, Biden addressed fears that Russia, Poland’s mighty eastern neighbor and communist-era overlord, is intent on dominating the region as it returns to a Cold War mindset.
“President Obama and I view Article 5 as a solemn commitment not only for our time, but for all time,” Biden said, referring to Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which requires NATO member states to come to each other’s aid if any of them is subject to an armed attack.
“The United States and Poland stand shoulder-to-shoulder in vital missions around the world,” Biden added. “But recent events remind us that the bedrock of our alliance remains collective self-defense, as enshrined in Article 5 of the NATO Treaty.”
As Biden was visiting Warsaw, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke about the annexation of Crimea to both houses of the Russian parliament.
After talks with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, Biden said the United States was joining Poland and the international community in condemning “the continuing assault on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and the blatant violation of international law by Mr. Putin and Russia.”
Tusk said, “The day the world faced the prospect of truly dramatic events, the vice-president of the United States came to Warsaw to confirm security guarantees for Poland and he did so firmly and explicitly.”
In a special televised address March 19, Tusk assured Poles they could feel safe.
“Poland is a strong, mature and safe country,” Tusk said. “We have not wasted the 25 years of freedom [after communism collapsed in Poland in 1989]. We matter in Europe and our mature and peaceful policy has become a significant part of European policy. Even as we watch the dramatic events beyond our eastern borders, we can still feel safe.”
Amid the crisis in Ukraine, Poland’s bitterly feuding political parties called an informal truce. Grzegorz Schetyna, a prominent member of the ruling Civic Platform (PO) party and the chairman of the parliamentary committee on foreign affairs, said that Putin’s speech to Russian deputies signaled a “return to the worst history in the worst of styles.” Schetyna added that Putin wanted the world to become polarized again. “The world will not agree to that,” Schetyna said. “I trust the EU will do as the United States has done and impose firm sanctions [on Russia]. We need to speak with one voice, because only such a voice will be heard at the Kremlin.”
Ex-prime minister Leszek Miller, the leader of the left-wing Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) opposition party, said the territorial integrity of Ukraine must be respected just like that of any other country in Europe. “This is a matter of strategic importance for Poland,” Miller said. However, he warned that some members of the radical nationalist party Svoboda, which is now in government in Kiev, were openly challenging the current border between Poland and Ukraine.
Law and Justice (PiS), Poland largest opposition party, has called for Russia and Putin to be isolated on the international arena. PiS members described Putin’s address to the Russian parliament as “a cynical challenge... to the free world and the Euro-Atlantic community.”