Our Shared History

Secretary Clinton and PM Sikorski

Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski began  a three-day visit to the United States today.  Sikorski is scheduled to meet with the Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, U.S. National Security Advisor James Jones, and representatives of the U.S. Congress and Washington-based think tanks.  The main topics of the visit will be international security and U.S. – Polish relations.
 Foreign Minister Sikorski’s April 29 meeting with Secretary Clinton will re-launch the Strategic Dialogue between Poland and the United States.  The Strategic Dialogue is one of three formal consultative mechanisms outlined in the August 2008 Declaration on Strategic Cooperation between the United States of America and the Republic of Poland.  The first is the High Level Defense Group, which met in Warsaw in October 2009 to discuss topics such as ballistic missile defense cooperation and Patriot missile rotations to Poland.  The second mechanism, the Strategic Cooperation Consultative Group, also met in Warsaw, in February 2010, to discuss topics such as arms control and revising NATO’s Strategic Concept.  The Strategic Dialogue is the most senior of these yearly formal consultations, and involves broader issues of security.  This year’s Strategic Dialogue will include a side session emphasizing energy and climate security cooperation led by Ambassador Richard Morningstar and Deputy Minister of Economy Marcin Korolec.  The session will also include discussion of collaboration on nuclear energy, unconventional gas, and development and deployment of clean energy technologies.

U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton is in Germany today to mark the 20th Anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, an event that symbolizes the collapse of communism throughout Europe, a process in which Poland played a leading role. To mark this historic event, the Atlantic Council hosted the “Freedom’s Challenge: A Gala Banquet and Awards Ceremony” yesterday in Berlin, which was attended by Lech Walesa on behalf of the Polish people.  Secretary Clinton attended the gala as keynote speaker.  View the Secretary’s Travel Diary Blog on visiting Berlin (in English).

Also view the Department of State’s International Information Program’s Publication: The Berlin Wall: 20 Years Later (in English), which highlights events that led to the collapse of communism in Poland and throughout Central and Eastern Europe. 

 “I Will Remember That Day All My Life” by Adam Michnik

Excerpt: “I wrote it was a great holiday: In the perennial struggle between man and barbed wire, today man triumphed and the barbed wire was defeated.”

“Those Were The Days, My Friend” by Anna Husarska

Excerpt: “November 9, 1989, is the date most potently associated with the end of the unjust oppression of half of Europe. But the Wall began to crack back in 1980 when the Polish trade union Solidarity was created at the Lenin shipyard in Gdansk…”

Legacy of 1989 Must Be Defended by Janusz Bugajski

Excerpt:  “Although Solidarity was temporarily stifled and driven underground, its mass membership and farsighted leadership demonstrated that the days of Soviet-imposed communism were numbered.”

“Stronger, smarter, swifter.”  Those are the words President Obama used last week to describe the newly unveiled U.S. missile defense plan.   Stronger, because it addresses the existing threat in ways the previous option did not.  Smarter, because it expands on important U.S. cooperation with Poland and the Czech Republic to make missile defense a truly NATO-wide activity.  Swifter, because the first phase of the plan can be in place within a year – five-six years sooner than previously would have been the case. 

Advancements in missile defense technology as well as new intelligence about the evolving missile capabilities of Iran, led President Obama to change the U.S. approach to missile defense.  Given the realities on the ground, the original plan, which was discussed in 2006, is simply no longer the best option.  And nothing but the best option – one that is proven, cost-effective, and adaptable – is an acceptable course of action for the defense of Europe. 

I know that some have seen the new approach as a rejection of the long-standing, positive U.S. relationship with Poland and the Czech Republic.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Our country remains as dedicated as ever to cooperation with, and the defense of, all of our NATO Allies, regardless of shifts in policy.  As Article 5 so clearly states, “an armed attack against one … shall be considered an attack against … all.”  We stand by that solemn pledge. The United States is proposing a change in technology, but its strong commitment to Alliance security remains unchanged.

President Obama’s new missile defense architecture will be in place and ready to react sooner than the previous option allowed.  It will be directed against the very real threat of Iranian short and medium-range ballistic missiles.  It will be able to integrate with existing systems and will facilitate the adaption of our tactics as different threats evolve.  Finally, it will be inclusive, leading to a more vigorous, expanded role for NATO and increased dialogue among the 28 members of the Alliance ensuring everyone benefits.  Now, that’s a plan we all can truly get behind. 

Ivo Daalder, U.S. Ambassador to NATO

Ivo Daalder, U.S. Ambassador to NATO


We’d love to remind our friends in Gdansk about our newly reopened American Corner, a resource center for American books, movies, and reference materials; resources for teaching English to elementary students; and events affiliate with the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw.  More photos from Michael Dobbs’ recent visit can be found here, courtesy of our American Corner staff Ania and Marta.


Air Cdre Charles Clarke, former POW in Stalag III and President of the ex-RAF POW Association with PAO Andrew Schilling, his wife, Tracy and two sons.


I traveled to Zagan in western Poland to attend services 3/28 commemorating the 65th anniversary of the famed Great Escape by Allied POWs.  Very dramatic, very moving ceremony, right by the memorial stone marking the exit of the tunnel “Harry” that the prisoners dug.  The tunnel ran 111 meters, right under the “cooler” of Steve McQueen fame, under the front gate and out to the road. 76 prisoners got out before the tunnel was discovered. 

An RAF band was on hand for the commemoration and played God Save the Queen, of course, but then stole the show with a performance of the Theme from the Great Escape.  about two dozen British survivors of the POW camp on hand, too, and that was really special to have the chance for us and the boys to meet Charles Clarke and other ex-POWs; they unveiled a new memorial stone with an inscription of the RAF motto: “Per Ardua Ad Astra” – Through Hardship to the Stars. Living history, and an incredible experience.  The museum and camp-site are a must-see that I’d recommend to any visitor who can make it.  For more photo galleries and a link to the full Great Escape story, please click here.   Andy S., PAO

A randomly found and fascinating video from the U.S. Embassy here in 1939, explains the author, “after the German invasion of Poland… securing the building and gathering around the bomb shelter.