In August, the United States signed an agreement to redeploy troops from Germany to Poland. Currently the U.S. has about 4,500 troops in Poland and the new agreement will bring the total to 5,500. “This is going to be an extended guarantee – a guarantee that in case of a threat our soldiers are going to stand arm-in-arm,” Poland’s President Andrzej Duda said when the deal was signed. “It will also serve to increase the security of other countries in our part of Europe.” While the Trump administration has built up America’s relationship with Eastern Europe, a Biden administration could move in a very different direction.
The redeployment of U.S. troops brought outrage from many Obama-friendly stake holders in America’s generous, Euro-centric foreign policy. Trump detractor Mitt Romney complained “The Administration’s plan to remove thousands of U.S. troops from Germany is a grave error. It is a slap in the face at a friend and ally when we should instead be drawing closer in our mutual commitment to deter Russian and Chinese aggression.” But Germany is comfortable enough with Russia to purchase and depend on their energy, so why should the U.S. military protect them against Russian aggression?
Trump’s addition of troops to Poland is as much a military move as it is an ideological positioning, a demonstration of U.S. support and affection for the nascent free-market Eastern European economies with which Trump shares a populist vision. By comparison, the Obama-Biden administration preferred to cultivate U.S. relations with China while snubbing Eastern Europe and denying missile defense systems for Poland and their neighbor, the Czech Republic.
As Trump was making overtures to the Eastern European countries, the administration’s relationship with Western European was deteriorating. U.S expectations that member states pay their pledged support to NATO contributed to the tension along with the U.S. withdrawal from the Transpacific Partnership (TPP) and the U.S. withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) known as the Iran deal. Instead, the Trump Administration moved closer to populist countries like the Eastern European nations while turning away from Western European globalism.
Early in his administration President Trump visited Poland where he demonstrated U.S. affinity for the growing democracy with an impassioned speech in front of the Monument to the Warsaw Uprising where he stood before the Polish people and asked:
The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive. Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost? Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders? Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?
Yuri Vanetik, and American lawyer and political strategist shed some light on the powerful relationship between the Trump administration and the Eastern European countries. “Poland, Romania and Hungary like Trump because they understand him. While offending Western European sensibilities with his tweets, and his rhetorical form, he endears himself to rougher and less politically correct Eastern European democracies. It fundamentally amounts to the fact that Poland, Romania, Hungary, Czech Republic understand how horrible a socialist regime really is. For them Trump epitomizes laissez faire markets. They see him as someone who supports free enterprise and who puts the interests of his country first. He is not a globalist from their perspective. This resonates in Eastern Europe. What we as the refined and educated West find deplorable (ad hominem attacks on those who challenge or frustrate him, lack of understanding of foreign policy or political protocol, etc.), Eastern European democracies dismiss as either personality quirks or even as admirable attributes that speak to courage and leadership skills. Where we see a buffoon, Eastern Europe sees an unrefined maverick. To them Trump is John The Savage from Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. These are the cultural and economic bonds that make Trump appealing to Eastern European mindset.”
But a possible Biden Administration and a return to the status quo globalist movement would threaten the trajectory of Eastern Europe’s continued growth and fortification.
“With the possibility of advent of Biden, Poland and other former Iron Curtain European nations (Eastern Block) are concerned that U.S. will turn into a welfare state, and by virtue of that transition, will be forcing them to emulate Western European social culture. They do not want to turn into apologists, and they do not want to open their doors to migrants. It’s not in their DNA, and they (despite progress and membership in EU) are themselves transitioning from a 3rd world paradigm. In recent years, US foreign policy has not been consistent. Despite erratic positions on certain US policy issues, Trump administration has actually been more consistent in his foreign policy rhetoric,” said Vanetik.
Of the many steps that might be taken by a Biden Administration, one might condition support and building an economic relationship on the adoption of a more progressive domestic policy a la Western Europe. Vanetik thinks that would pose a problem, as social and racial justice without practical solutions are not as important in Eastern Europe.
But there would be problems between a Biden Administration and Eastern Europe on more than the domestic policy front, there could also be repercussions over the Eastern European countries’ attitude toward China. Romanian company Romaero just signed a deal with a Lockheed Martin subsidiary to make Black Hawk helicopters and Romania recently ruled out Chinese participation in their 5G technology system.
Milos Vystrcil, a senior politician in the Czech Republic offered a strong rebuke of China during a speech in Taiwan last week, proclaiming “I am Taiwanese.” China promptly respond that Vystrcil would “pay a heavy price for his short-sighted behavior and political opportunism.” Would a China-friendly Biden Administration push Romania and Czech Republic to change their attitudes toward China by threatening future and existing economic relationships with U.S.?
The growing Eastern European countries have much to fear with a Biden presidency. A return to the status quo globalism seen under the Obama-Biden administration, could pressure them to deal with China not to mention the pressure them to adopt a Western European social paradigm. The November election will be critical not only Americans but also for our Eastern European friends trying to rebuild their countries from communist occupations and socialist policies.