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Cablegate: Scenesetter for Presidential Delegation to Poland

VZCZCXRO3394
OO RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA
RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHNP RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSK RUEHSL RUEHSR RUEHVK
RUEHYG
DE RUEHWR #0875/01 2401137
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 281137Z AUG 09
FM AMEMBASSY WARSAW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8791
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 WARSAW 000875

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

FOR EUR/CE AND S/CPR; NSC PASS TO HOVENIER

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV RS UP GM PL
SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR PRESIDENTIAL DELEGATION TO POLAND

1. (SBU) Mission Poland warmly welcomes your upcoming visit
to Poland to commemorate the outbreak of World War II 70
years ago. Your trip comes at a key moment as Poland,
Germany, Russia, and their neighbors work to put behind them
controversial historical memories that have mired their
relations for decades. The participation of leaders such as
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and President Lech
Kaczynski, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian Prime
Minister Vladimir Putin, and Ukrainian Prime Minister Yuliya
Tymoshenko demonstrates a willingness to work through
sometimes politically explosive historical issues that have
frequently hindered cooperation on other fronts. Poland
itself is a time-tested ally of America and has fought with
our soldiers in World War II campaigns in Italy (Monte
Cassino), Normandy (Falaise), and Operation Market Garden in
the Netherlands. More recently, Polish soldiers joined the
coalition in Iraq for five years and maintain the 7th largest
troop contingent in Afghanistan. Poland has also supported
our efforts to extend the zone of security and stability to
the former Soviet space, and shares our faith in freedom and
democracy. As the event in Gdansk demonstrates, PM Tusk
shares President Obama's vision of exercising soft power and
reaching out to rivals, despite political risks at home.

POLISH U.S.-RELATIONS STRONG, BUT IN A ROUGH PATCH
--------------------------------------------- -----

2. (SBU) The U.S. has a strong, productive relationship with
Poland, but bilateral ties are not keeping pace with Poland's
deepening relationships with its European Union partners.
Poland's continued exclusion from the U.S. visa waiver
program and uncertainty about the level of U.S. engagement in
the bilateral strategic partnership have affected the U.S.
image. Our late response (no official announcement as of the
morning of Friday, August 28) in confirming U.S.
participation in the September 1 commemoration ceremony in
Gdansk reinforced concerns about U.S. commitment among the
Poles, who count on the United States as Poland's key
guarantor of security in the region and closely analyze every
move we make. As they waited for word on the presidential
delegation, the major Polish dailies and television stations
over the past few weeks have criticized the United States for
"ignoring Poland," despite Poland's significant contributions
to advancing Washington's global interests. The Poles also
cite the lack of high-level U.S. visitors, frequently
pointing out that these officials have visited neighboring
countries. Three Polish statesmen were among the signatories
of the July letter of Central European leaders to President
Obama, which warned that the region's stability and
Atlanticism should not be taken for granted in the face of
allegedly waning U.S. interest.

3. (SBU) The fate of Missile Defense remains first and
foremost on the minds of Poland's government and public. In
August 2008, Prime Minister Tusk agreed to locate U.S.
missile interceptors in Poland under the auspices of a
Ballistic Missile Defense Agreement (BMDA). He did so
largely to accommodate a direct request from the United
States, Poland's longtime ally. Poles are now waiting
patiently for our decision on the future of European Missile
Defense. Polish media report almost daily that the U.S. will
likely withdraw from its prior decisions. Most Poles are not
wedded to Missile Defense, but they strongly wish to avoid
any perception that the U.S. is giving up on the program in
order to reset relations with Russia.

4. (SBU) You will hear that, regardless of the fate of MD,
there is an expectation that we will move forward with the
U.S. Patriot rotation. We have been reassuring on this
point--the President has confirmed that the U.S. will
implement the bilateral Declaration on Strategic Cooperation
that calls for the Patriot rotation. The form that Patriot
rotation will take continues to receive much attention.
Earlier this year, headlines heralding the arrival of unarmed
"Naked Patriots" reflected fears that the rotation of a
Patriot battery from Germany may not meet their expectations
of a combat-ready, fully operational system capable of
integration with the Polish air defense system, at least in
the initial rotation. The USG interagency continues to work
these issues, and is expected to inform the Poles of our
decisions shortly after your visit. The MD decision in
particular is extremely sensitive, and current U.S. thinking
is closely held.

RUSSIA IN THE EAST . . .
------------------------

5. (SBU) For historical reasons, Russia casts a long shadow
in Poland, but the Tusk government has tamped down the

WARSAW 00000875 002 OF 002


rhetoric directed against Russia, instead choosing to engage
in a pragmatic bilateral dialogue. The government also has
endeavored to keep thorny historical issues such as the
massacre of Polish soldiers at Katyn from impeding progress
in other areas like bilateral trade. While Polish officials
repeatedly have declared they do not expect major
breakthroughs in relations with Russia in the near future,
their pragmatic policy has already paid dividends. A year
ago, Warsaw won the lifting of the Russian embargo on Polish
meat exports, and on September 1, Poland is expected to sign
an agreement on navigation in the Vistula Bay, reopening
commercial shipping between the Polish port of Elblag and the
Russian enclave of Kaliningrad for the first time since the
break-up of the Soviet Union. The GoP views Putin's
participation in the Gdansk ceremony as an important step in
Warsaw's own "reset" process with Russia. Despite these
modest successes, the opposition Law and Justice (PiS) party
has frequently criticized the Tusk government for failing
rigorously to defend Poland's interests in the wake of a
resurgent Russia, and for relegating Poland to a subordinate
role in EU-Russia relations. At the commemoration, Prime
Minister Tusk is expected to express tactfully the Polish
view of the origins of World War II, countering suggestions
in a recent Russian documentary that Poland collaborated with
Germany in the 1930s. President Kaczynski will say something
similar, likely in blunter terms.

6. (SBU) Warsaw's efforts to develop a pragmatic approach
towards Moscow are balanced by its anxiety about Russia's
role as a regional power, particularly after the August 2008
conflict in Georgia. Poles sometimes feel hostage to the
whims of larger powers, and they monitor closely the revived
U.S.-Russia dialogue. They do not object to improved
U.S.-Russian relations, as long as key decisions are not made
over Poland's head.

. . . AND GERMANY IN THE WEST
-----------------------------

7. (SBU) The Tusk government has also pursued pragmatic
relations with Germany, resulting in a significantly warmer
tone in the bilateral relationship. Today, there is less
acrimony surrounding the proposed German-Russian Nordstream
gas pipeline that would bypass Poland--a project that some
Polish politicians previously likened to the
Molotov-Ribbenthrop pact. Merkel's appearance at the Gdansk
commemoration can be attributed in part to her constructive
interactions with Tusk, a stark contrast to her rocky
relationship with Tusk's predecessor, Jaroslaw Kaczysnki.
However, issues such as the historical interpretation of the
plight of German expellees from Poland and German media
comments about the extent of Polish collaboration with the
Nazis during the Holocaust continue to complicate the
relationship.

8. (SBU) Poland and Germany are gradually increasing
coordination on issues related to Poland's Eastern neighbors,
particularly Ukraine. Germany supported the $600 million
Polish-Swedish Eastern Partnership initiative, which the EU
launched in May in an effort to bring countries, such as
Ukraine, Belarus, and Georgia, closer to European
institutions. Polish FM Sikorski and German FM Steinmeier
also traveled together to Ukraine in June to encourage the
government to pursue reforms necessary for Euro-Atlantic
integration.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION LEGISLATION STALLED
----------------------------------------

9. (SBU) Poland is one of the last countries in Central
Europe that have not made legislative provisions for an
expedited, administrative (rather than judicial) mechanism
for resolving private property restitution claims, an issue
closely tracked by the American Jewish community. Private
property compensation to owners and heirs -- including
Holocaust survivors -- remains politically unpopular in
Poland, even though the great majority of those compensated
would be Poles living in Poland. The Polish government
recently claimed that Polish compensation legislation would
risk bolstering pending legal claims by German nationals,
even though the German government has called the claims
invalid. Polish officials also argue that the economic crisis
is complicating a multi-billion dollar payment program.

ASHE

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