Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney and his wife, Ann, were greeted by cheering crowds and warm official welcomes on their visit to Poland today, the final leg of their foreign tour after Britain and Israel. Former Polish leader Lech Walesa all but endorsed Romney (though his trade union, Solidarity, did not), and Romney also met with Prime Minister Donald Tusk, among others, alongside visits to monuments and memorials.
Romney's visit was meant to draw a firm contrast with President Barack Obama's foreign policy, which has often downplayed traditional American alliances, particularly in former Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe. Obama-friendly media in the U.S. attempted to minimize the trip, portraying the visit as a racially-motivated attempt to appeal to white "ethnic voters" in the old "Reagan Democrat" coalition. However, the foreign policy message was clear, and reinforced the themes of support for U.S. allies that Romney has sounded throughout his journey.
Below is a brief summary of the decline in U.S.-Polish relations under Obama, which was initiated by the Obama administration's reneging of promises on missile defense that had been negotiated by the Bush administration:
- September 2009: President Obama backs out of U.S. commitment to Poland and the Czech Republic on missile defense, ignoring pleas by Walesa and former Czech president Vaclav Havel. To add insult to injury, President Obama informs the Czech prime minister after midnight, and tells the Polish prime minister on September 17, the 70th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland.
- January 2010: Walesa, on a visit to Chicago, warns that the U.S. is "moving toward socialism."
- April 2010: President Obama plays golf instead of attending the funeral of Poland's president, Lech Kaczynski, who was killed along with many other Polish officials on a flight en route to the commemoration of the Katyn massacre, in which the Soviets killed over 20,000 Polish soldiers and civilians. An ash cloud prevents Obama from traveling to Europe, but not from paying his respects at the Polish Embassy--which he fails to do, though both Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton do so.
- May 2011: Walesa declines to meet with President Obama during the latter's visit to Poland.
- October 2011: During a visit to the United States, Walesa declines to visit Occupy Wall Street, President Obama's favored-and-approved radical social movement, after being informed of its far-left ideology.
- May 2012: President Obama declines a request by the Polish government to have Walesa travel to Washington to accept the Presidential Medal of Freedom on behalf of Polish resistance hero Jan Karski.
- May 2012: President Obama angers Poles and Polish-Americans by referring, incorrectly, to "Polish death camps" during his remarks at the White House while awarding the Medal of Freedom to Karski.
Update: Before all of the above occurred, there was the Obama administration's infamous "reset" of relations between the U.S. and Russia in March 2009--a gaffe of colossal proportions, and one that sent a signal that the U.S. valued the approval of Vladimir Putin more highly than the security of its Polish ally.