The outspoken Polish Foreign Minister, Radoslaw Sikorski, apparently believes his nation’s alliance with America is “worthless.” Washington should not race to reassure him. Instead, Warsaw should demonstrate why it is worthy of Washington’s support.
A weekly Polish publication received a recording of Sikorski’s conversation in which he declared: “This Polish-American union is worthless. It is even harmful because it gives Poland a false sense of security. Complete [B.S.]. We get into conflicts with the Germans, with Russia, and we think everything’s great because the Americans like us. Suckers. Complete suckers.”
There are suckers in the existing relationship, but they are American rather than Polish.
The United States spends more than four percent of its GDP on the military and accounts for three-fourths of total defense outlays by NATO members. Poland has been patting itself on the back for recently hiking defense expenditures—to 1.8 percent of GDP. Overall, America’s contribution to direct NATO expenditures is nearly ten times that of Poland.
The collapse of the Soviet Union exacerbated the discrepancy among alliance members. While Washington preserved its globe-spanning military, the Europeans cut their armed forces significantly.
Worse, the alliance expanded willy-nilly to the Russian border, bringing in nations combining minimal military capabilities and serious potential disputes with Moscow. None had ever mattered to American security, but Washington handed out security guarantees like hotels place chocolates on pillows: everyone got one, including Poland.
American and European officials simply assumed that they would never have to make good on their promises. Then came the crisis in Ukraine.