Roosevelt, Reagan, Obama and Poland

Poland has much to celebrate these days. Twenty-five years ago today elections were held; Solidarity candidates (think Lech Walesa if you have any memory of history) won; decades of communism effectively came to an end on June 4, 1989.
The United States has come a long way in its support of Poland. As I mention in the preface to my book, it’s important to remember that President Roosevelt and Churchill practically gave Poland to Stalin at a  secret 1943 conference in Tehran; in February 1945 the pact was solidified at the Yalta conference that Poland would be part of ‘Eastern’ Europe. Poles didn’t know about the Tehran agreement, and waited two years for help from the United States. Instead Poles felt and effectively were betrayed by the United States. When the United States moved into the McCarthy era of communist witch hunts, it was conveniently forgotten that Roosevelt negotiated with (the murderous) Stalin; many historians think Stalin got the better deal.
I contrast the WWII attitude of the US towards Poland with today’s attitude. A free Poland has now lasted 25 years; the last ‘free’ Poland between 1918 and 1939 only lasted 21 years. US troops are stationed in Poland; the country is recognized as an ally. President Obama is in Warsaw today to help celebrate (and no doubt to discuss that little issue with Ukraine.) The mere presence of a US President pays honor to the country he visits. The latest word is that he is asking for more funds for Polish defense. 
In June 1987, President Ronald Reagan stood behind bullet-proof glass outside the Brandenburg gate near the Berlin Wall and uttered perhaps the most famous words of his presidency:  “Mr. Gorbachev, Tear down this wall!” The wall didn’t fall until November 1989, but Poles honor his memory and strong stance against communism. There is a statue of Ronald Reagan in the Warsaw park across from the US Embassy. In Nowa Huta, the ‘ideal’ communist city built outside Krakow, the Central Square was renamed after Ronald Reagan.

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