Former U.S. Ambassador to Poland Victor Ashe spoke about developments in relations between the United States and Poland in a discussion on Wednesday in the Intercultural Center Auditorium.

Professor Angela Stent, director of the Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies, began the discussion by addressing the open letter various politicians and scholars from Central Europe sent to President Obama in July. The letter expressed concerns about changing U.S. policy toward Central Europe.

“As your administration sets its foreign-policy priorities, our region is one part of the world that Americans have largely stopped worrying about,” the letter said. “Indeed, at times we have the impression that U.S. policy was so successful that many American officials have now concluded that our region is fixed once and for all – and that they could `check the box’ and move on to other more pressing strategic issues.”

Ashe said that in order to understand relations between the United States and Poland, one must understand the current mindset in Poland.

“World War II is still alive in the minds of Polish people,” Ashe said.

Ashe elaborated on the context of strained relations between Poland and Russia and how this tension has affected relations between the United States and Poland.

Current tension between the United States and Poland concerns Polish missile policy. During the Bush administration, the United States and Poland signed a missile defense pact that outlined a plan that would place 10 interceptor rockets in Poland and a radar system in the Czech Republic to shoot down ballistic missiles from various “rogue” states or militant groups, such as al-Qaeda.

The Obama administration decided to revise the ballistic missile defense system after reviewing the plan for about seven months. This decision has faced criticism from the media and Poland.

With the exception of this recent friction, the relationship between Poland and the United States has been good throughout 90 years of relations, Ashe said. Former President Woodrow Wilson was the first to call for the establishment of an independent Poland in his 14 Points.

“I’m not sure if not for advocacy of Woodrow Wilson that Poland would be put back together,” Ashe said.

Ashe concluded the discussion by expressing his optimism for Polish-American relations. “I am personally optimistic that an agreement [on the missile shield proposition] will be achieved. [The United States and Poland] will reach a conclusion that serves both parties.”

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