US official on apology visit to Eastern Europe

Joe Biden (R) lays a wreath at the Ghetto monument in Warsaw on October 21, 2009 (AFP Photo / Janek Skarzynski)
US Vice President Joe Biden started a trip to East Europe on Wednesday, intending to calm down the leaders of Poland and the Czech Republic over the recent change of plans in ballistic missile protection.

Biden’s previous visit to the post-Soviet space took place in summer and, while he possibly managed to calm down the leaders of Georgia and Ukraine, the attitude of these two nations to Russia has not improved.

Before leaving on the Eastern European trip on Tuesday, Biden gave an interview with the Polish press in which he said that his nation would not enter any deals with Russia without the consent of East European countries. He also said that the latest decision on missile shield would be more effective than the previous, now scrapped, option and also that European Security would only benefit from the improved relations between US and Russia.

While Czechs and Poles definitely long for an explanation from the US side after the September 17 announcement about the change of plans in the missile defense sphere, it is not clear whether the leaders of these nations would actually be satisfied after the visit or will have to make such an impression. There are no signs that there will be any correction in the change of plans, but on the other hand, Poland and the Czech Republic were more upset about the form in which the change was presented – through a media leak and a subsequent phone call – than the actual cancellation of plans, over which there was no unanimous opinion in these countries (especially in the Czech Republic).

If the reason for the visit is a formal apology, it will be not the first time Joe Biden has made such a trip. Only in late July, did he return from Georgia and Ukraine, where he also tried to console the local leaders, who were upset by stronger ties between Russia and the US. Biden assured Georgia and Ukraine of support, and said that the US would back these nations’ move to enter NATO in case such move were made, but he promised no concrete steps and none were made to support the Georgian and Ukrainian authorities in their struggle against the Russian influence.

On the contrary, when in September the independent commission released the report blaming Georgia for the start of the brief war with Russia in August 2008, the United States did not offer Georgia support, and about two weeks after this, the news arrived that the plans for missile defense had changed.

Clearly, with new, better relations with Russia, the United States will no longer have to support its East European allies, who were very often used only to apply pressure to the Russian side. After all, Russia has much more to offer – the support to the US cause in Afghanistan, backing the US and Israel in their standoff with Iran, help in fighting terrorism, and providing security in Europe and Asia. If US authorities maintain a practical approach, there will be no more important parts for the former socialist states in Europe. But on the other hand, that would allow the leaders of these nations to concentrate on domestic and European policies, for the benefit of their people.

Kirill Bessonov, RT