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Poland's leadership of NATO signals a decisive and historic turn

Released: 3-Sep-2014 2:00 PM EDT
Source Newsroom: Indiana University
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Newswise — Padraic Kenney, director of the Polish Studies Center and the Russian and East European Institute at Indiana University Bloomington, said the choice of Donald Tusk as president of the European Union signals that it may be time for the alliance to take a more "common-sense" approach to Ukraine.

"Under Polish leadership, the European Union is now going to take a more common-sense position on the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. Yes, Donald Tusk won't become EU president until November, but the decision to nominate him signals a decisive turn now," Kenney said. "The Western Europeans, after all, do not think about Tusk without thinking of his minister of foreign affairs, Radek Sikorski, whose sometimes brash talk about Putin and Ukraine -- and about the United States -- has won him a lot of respect at home and abroad. This is truly Poland’s hour.

"In what way is this a common-sense position? The Polish approach to Ukraine has been based on what is obvious: that many Ukrainian citizens -- much more than is the case in Russia -- value Europe and their ties to the West, and therefore deserve respect and support. The Poles argue, as they have for some time in a variety of situations, that Europe should follow through on its professed ideals.

"The NATO summit, meanwhile, also places Poland front and center. Colleagues in the military tell me the Polish Army enjoys wide respect for its conduct in recent international coalitions. A semi-permanent NATO operation in Poland will be further evidence of this.

"The events this week amount to Europe and NATO finally facing up to the decisions they have made in expanding over the last 15 years. But let’s look back 75 years to the start of World War II, as so many have been doing. Two weeks from now is the anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland, made possible by a secret agreement between Stalin and Hitler. History never repeats itself, but it sure does send reminders. In Brussels, Cardiff, Warsaw and elsewhere, September 2014 looks to be decisive for Europe."

Kenney can be reached at 812-855-1923 or pjkenney@indiana.edu.

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