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‘Putin is no Gorbachev, and Biden certainly no Reagan’: Poland’s top diplomat hits Biden for ‘cascade of errors’

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Poland’s leading diplomat panned President Joe Biden for committing “a cascade of errors” ahead of a scheduled meeting with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, this week, adding that his country only found out about the U.S. leader’s decision to waive sanctions on a Moscow-backed energy pipeline to Germany through media reports.

“Our American allies did not find time to consult with the region most exposed to the consequences of that decision,” said Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau on Friday.

Rau appeared critical overall of the Biden administration’s relationship with U.S. allies in Central and Eastern Europe, even as the White House attempts to portray a unified front in transatlantic relations after a number of European allies bristled at former President Donald Trump’s ‘America First’ policy approach.

And while the bulk of Biden’s outreach is focused more on Western European allies, those countries who were forced to endure the harsh tenure of the Soviet Union — Poland being one of them — are concerned that the U.S. president is making too many concessions to Russia.

“American-Russian-German dialogue is no substitute for consultations between America and its allies on NATO’s eastern flank, who will be particularly affected by these decisions,” Rau said in an interview with Polish media outlet Rzeczpospolita.

“It is easier for the Americans to talk to the Germans and the French, who won’t ask awkward questions and are willing to give the Americans the nod on Russia,” he added.

Though attempts by Trump to improve relations with Moscow were viewed by Democrats as sinister and part of a ‘Manchurian’ plot, Biden’s efforts to bolster ties with Russia are being described by his team as a means of creating a more “stable and predictable” foundation.

Rau, for his part, viewed the meeting through the lens of low expectations.

“Putin is no Gorbachev, and Biden is certainly no Reagan,” he said in reference to the generally good relationship the then-Soviet and American leaders had shortly before the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the USSR.

“Diplomacy strives to nurture even the very remote possibility that one day Russia will become a member of the international community seeking to preserve peace and pursuing peaceful policies to this end,” said Rau in his Rzeczpospolita interview. “We should always look for ways of encouraging Russia, even under Vladimir Putin’s rule, to adopt such policies.”

Poland’s government had a much better relationship with Trump. In October 2017, Trump struck a multi-billion-dollar Patriot missile defense deal with Polish President Andrzej Duda, who said a few months earlier that he felt the U.S. president “is serious about Poland’s security.” Duda signed the deal the following summer.

After Biden was declared the winner in the 2020 election, Duda was at first hesitant to offer his congratulations, preferring instead to wait out Trump’s legal challenges. And Rau has hinted that Biden is punishing his country for its close ties to the former administration, the Washington Examiner reported.

“What mistakes were made by other American allies on NATO’s eastern flank that would justify Washington’s prioritizing communication with its adversaries over talks with its allies?” the top diplomat said.

“We are facing policymaking based on false premises that stem from a condemnation and rejection of policies conducted by the previous administration,” he added.

Biden caused raised eyebrows in Poland and other Eastern European nations when he waived sanctions on Russia over the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in recent weeks, which bypasses Ukraine en route to Germany.

Trump imposed them as a means of sanctioning Moscow while attempting to prevent NATO allies from becoming energy-dependent on the one country — Russia — they are aligned to oppose.

On Monday, during a joint interview with Reuters, the Associated Press and Agence France-Press, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he wants a clear “yes” or “no” from Biden on giving his country a plan to join NATO.

Zelenskiy also said he was reassured that Biden would not use Ukraine as leverage in his meeting this week with Putin.

Jon Dougherty

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