In 2012, when Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney visited Poland to show solidarity with the newly free democracies of Eastern Europe, the American media mocked him. “What about your gaffes?” a journalist shrieked as Romney left a war memorial in Poland, sharing the exasperation of the media at Romney’s refusal to acknowledge their view that he had lost the foreign policy debate to the president who nailed Osama bin Laden.
A year later, the media were still celebrating that moment in Poland. Romney had gone there partly to draw attention to the Obama administration’s decision in 2009 to cancel–in violation of earlier promises–a missile defense program in Poland and the Czech Republic. That program had been launched by President George W. Bush in agreements concluded in 2008, partly in response to Russia’s invasion of Georgia in August that year.
In a further insult–some would say, a “gaffe”–President Obama canceled the programs on the 70th anniversary of the Russian invasion of Poland in World War II. Romney wanted to strike a contrast–to show that he would forge closer relations with our NATO allies, and understood the threat Russia still posed. He received a warm welcome in Warsaw–ignored by the U.S. media, as Obama continued to mock Romney’s concerns about Russia.
Fast-forward to today, and Vice President Joe Biden has surfaced in Poland, following a completely ineffectual and half-hearted effort by the Obama administration to deter Russia from taking over Crimea, which officials assumed would never happen. Biden’s visit is, at least, a positive gesture–but only a gesture: he will not reverse the Obama administration’s reversal on missile defense. So the visit projects weakness. Better never, than late?