Biden categorises Poland alongside Belarus and totalitarian regimes

Speaking during a town hall event televised by US network ABC on Thursday the Democratic Party presidential nominee Joe Biden criticised Donald Trump’s foreign policy for siding with thugs and placed Poland alongside Belarus and totalitarian regimes.

Mr Biden asked about Donald Trump’s foreign policy said that it was a failure as Iran was now closer to having atomic weapons, North Korea was expanding its nuclear arsenal and NATO allies felt insecure over whether they could depend on the USA. According to Mr Biden President Trump’s foreign policy was making the US less secure and had only been successful in relation to supporting Israel in the Middle East.

He asserted that NATO was threatened with a split as allies had doubts about the US commitment to the organisation. Mr Biden went on saying “you see what is happening from Belarus through Poland and Hungary and the rise of totalitarian regimes in the world. Our current president supports all thugs in the world. He sends love letters to the Korean dictator and is incapable of chastising Putin”.

In a statement on Wednesday issued by the Biden-Harris campaign the Democrats pledged support for Poland in NATO and opposition to the Nord-Stream 2 pipeline. However, the statement also included emphasis on the rule of law, the issue that has caused tensions between Poland and EU institutions in recent years as a result of judicial reforms introduced by the present Polish government.

Unpleasant surprise

Polish and Hungarian decision makers will be surprised to be mentioned in the same sentence as Belarus and totalitarian regimes. Mr Biden did not call them totalitarian or ‘thugs’ but seemed to signal that his administration would view their present governments as problematic. He made no mention in this context of either Turkey or Saudi Arabia.

Poland has actually been at the forefront of the EU’s efforts to persuade the Lukashenko regime in Belarus to stop the violence and repression against the opposition and to allow free and fair elections to take place.There is no censorship in Poland, nor any political prisoners and brutality against peaceful demonstrations. There is a dispute over judicial reform but courts are operating normally and issuing rulings against the government. The second chamber of Parliament, the Senate, and many urban and regional authorities are in the hands of the opposition.

Mentioning Poland and Hungary, both NATO and EU states, alongside Belarus, which is a country allied to Russia, is reminiscent of Gerald Ford’s faux pas during a presidential debate with Jimmy Carter in 1976. The then US President asserted that the countries of Central Europe were not under Soviet domination and were independent states.

The current Polish authorities have established a close relationship with the US administration over military assistance, energy issues and the Three Seas initiative. Poland strongly supports the present Trump administration’s threat of sanctions against European companies engaged in the Nord Stream 2 project. Poland has also been praised by the current US administration for meeting the two percent of GDP spend on defence that all NATO members pledged themselves to several years ago.

The Trump administration has been far more accommodating to Poland then was the Obama administration. The previous Democratic Party administration did not find the time to prioritise getting rid of the visa requirements on Polish visitors to the US. It chose 17 September, the anniversary date of the Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939, to announce that it was withdrawing from the missile shield project. The Obama administration also pressured Poland into attempting to warm relations with Russia as part of the US administrations ‘reset’ effort.

Mr Biden’s grouping of Poland alongside Belarus and Hungary may signal significant changes in the way Poland is viewed in Washington should Mr Biden win the election. There have been rumours of irritation in the US State Department at the fact that Mr Trump has given Poland so much prominence in US policies towards Europe. A Biden presidency is expected to return US foreign policy to being centred more on Western Europe.