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Berlin, Warsaw, and Washington: Getting the Band Back Together


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James Jay Carafano and Matt Boyse

May19 2023

The European Union is an important player in the transatlantic community, but what holds the alliance together is security and foreign policy. These are not core EU competencies. Bilateral relations are the sinews of the alliance.  

In Europe, few relationships are more important than that between Germany and Poland. Yet this relationship is troubled. Fixing it would be a boon to the whole community. Right now, the prospects for that are dim. Something must change. 

An Alliance of Anxiety 

Germany and Poland are important bridges between new and old Europe. The U.S, works well with both of them, but political divisions between Berlin and Warsaw are deep and serious. To meet serious challenges like China and Russia, all three nations must work well together. 

German leaders acknowledge that their Russia policy was a mistake and ended in failure. Some even admit that it contributed to bringing war to Europe. That error greatly reduced Warsaw’s trust in Berlin. Trust was further undercut by how slowly Germany moved to aid Ukraine. Germany has now increased its support for Ukraine, but it can and should do more.  

For its part, Berlin opposes Warsaw’s sovereigntist approach to the EU, criticizes the current government for backsliding on democracy, particularly over its judiciary, and is seriously annoyed by Warsaw’s 1.3 trillion euros reparations claim for damages incurred during the Nazi occupation. The mutual distrust is not just between capitals; it is spilling over into disputes at the EU level in Brussels as well.  


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