WBJ: Poland’s governing right-wing nationalist and populist PiS party and its loyal ally President Andrzej Duda were faithful, especially ideologically, to Donald Trump. Joe Biden’s victory makes them allegedly anxious. Are you surprised?
Professor Longin Pastusiak: No, because I know that PiS will now make efforts to paper over their adulation of Trump and work to make the relations between Poland and Biden amicable. PiS understands that it is in Poland’s best interests to have good relations with the US in political and military aspects. But Duda hasn’t offered to name the proposed base “Fort Biden.” I will stress that after his victory Biden called all heads of state in the EU who congratulated him and were happy that he won. But he had no reason to phone Duda. So I think that the Poland-US relations will not be as warm as when Trump was in the White House. [While much of the world hailed Joe Biden’s win on November 7, Duda composed a carefully-worded tweet that congratulated the president-elect “for a successful presidential campaign,” but stopped short of acknowledging that Biden would be the next US president. He added that Poland would instead wait for the results of the Electoral College. In 2016, he had rushed to send his “warmest congratulations” to Trump very soon after the candidate’s victory was confirmed.
What are your thoughts on Biden as a president?
I was watching the inauguration of Biden’s presidency. I evaluate highly his personality, his work and his program of building democratic unity in the US. His critics are pointing at his age (78), but he is strong and in excellent form physically and mentally. He is a man with significant political experience. Let’s remember that he was a senator for several years and vice president for two terms. I can say that during those years I had the honor of working with him in the parliamentary association of NATO and I highly regard his knowledge about international affairs. He has appointed Kamala Harris as vice president and she will be the first woman in that position in American history. She was well established in the political role in California. She is a very talented woman of Black and South Asian descent. I want to stress that Biden is a man and president with an innovative approach to democratic development in the US and other countries. So he will open a new chapter in the domestic and foreign policy of the United States. He wants to provide everybody with an opportunity to live the “American Dream,” irrespective of sexual orientation, skin color, economic position, national background and cultural orientation and attitude toward LGBT+, religion and abortion. He wants to build unity among all Americans.
But the American society is divided?
In my opinion, the divisions now are the deepest ever and are based on many issues. Also, important to note is the fact that the position of the US in the world now is much weaker than in the period right after WWII. The world has changed and so has the US. It isn’t as wealthy. There are many groups of people who are in much difficult situation in every way of life.
So how can Biden help?
The first priority of Biden is to fight the pandemic, unlike his arrogant predecessor. He wants to organize the vaccination drive for over 300 million, reform the situation of immigrants and offer a path to citizenship to undocumented immigrants living in the US. He promised a huge Covid relief package running into trillions of dollars and benefits to people who lost work. His American rescue plan is to solve the biggest needs of people. His general attitude is to treat those needs in a moral and human way. This is a signal to allies abroad that the Biden administration will support all forms of democracy and it will be changing the foreign policy of America and strengthen its role in the world.
But it won’t be easy …
Yes, it will be difficult but it will be performed by a democratic leader while taking many new steps in foreign policy and making the moves predictable. He wants to build peace ties based on consultations with China, Russia and countries in the Middle East. But first of all, he will strengthen close and friendly relations with members of the EU, based on common ideals and new needs. The proof of Biden’s new elements in foreign policy is that the US extended by five years a key nuclear arms treaty with Russia just days before it was set to expire. However, that doesn’t stop Biden from being critical of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s arrest.
And how will the relations between Warsaw and Washington develop?
The mutual relations will be good, but not so warm on the personal level. During his presidential campaign, Biden roiled Poland and Hungary with his “totalitarian regimes” remark. The basic mutual Polish-American interests will be realized, but populist autocratic acts of PiS will be condemned by Biden.
Professor Longin Pastusiak is a Polish historian and politician, and scholar of American affairs. As a historian, much of his works are related to Polish-American relations. He has taught in the US and authored several books.