The Obama administration has managed to open a wide gap between itself and some of America’s most reliable allies, those of Central Europe. In the recent Open Letter to the Obama Administration from Central and Eastern Europe, some of the most magnificent freedom fighters of the region, including former presidents Vaclav Havel of the Czech Republic and Lech Walesa of Poland, have warned that the U.S. should not take their countries and peoples for granted.
The authors of the Open Letter, who are among Europe’s most pro-American politicians and intellectuals, warn that NATO is perceived as becoming weaker, while the European Union is spreading its bureaucratic umbrella over the continent.
Being a pro-Atlantic voice in Europe is getting more difficult, they say, while Russia’s clout, corruption, and military ambition are on the rise. And these distinguished figures know — they stood up to Soviet domination and risked their lives, so they understand that freedom isn’t free.
While the authors hope that the West’s relationship with Moscow will improve, they believe that Russia is a revisionist power pursuing a 19th-century agenda with 21st-century tactics and methods. Moscow is challenging Eastern Europeans’ claims for their own historic experiences. It asserts a privileged position in determining their security choices.
A strong commitment to common liberal democratic values is vital to pursuing a transatlantic relationship, the authors say.
The Obama administration, therefore, needs to strengthen its ties with our European allies, including a revitalized NATO. The Atlantic alliance needs to provide a strategic reassurance to all its members, including those in Central Europe and the Baltic States.
The allies need to elaborate a unified position in the face of a resurgent Russia.
Finally, the U.S. and Europe need to agree on and deploy missile defenses in Poland and the Czech Republic, as this has become a real test of U.S. reliability as an ally.
The administration must heed this warning. True American allies are speaking. The future and the credibility of the United States in this vital defense theater — Europe — and vis-à-vis Russia are at stake.
– Ariel Cohen, Ph.D., is senior research fellow for Russian and Eurasian studies and international energy security at the Davis Institute for International Studies at the Heritage Foundation (www.heritage.org).