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WikiLeaks overshadows Polish president's US visit

Leaked cables show Poland it is not as close to America as it thought.

During his visit to Washington, Komorowski returned to an old theme, wondering why Poland is one of the few European nations whose nationals are required to get visas to travel to the United States.

“Polish public opinion completely does not understand why all the neighbors of Poland, the neighborhood of Poland, can use that visa waiver program and we can’t,” Komorowski said during his joint news conference with Obama.

Obama promised to try to end the restrictions during the remainder of his term — but the decision lies with Congress and with the Poles who still overstay their visas, which disqualifies Poland from the visa waiver program.

As the WikiLeaks revelations have made clear, Poland's main security concern is still a possibly resurgent Russia, and that is why it wants U.S. military boots on the ground, to provide a security guarantee even more binding than the NATO common defense pact.

Polish concerns may be partially satisfied with Obama's promise to move some military aircraft to Poland, but Warsaw now sees that it ranks very far down the list of U.S. priorities and allies.

“That our comrades the Americans are not spoiling us was not and is not a secret for our side,” Radoslaw Sikorski, the formerly overtly pro-American foreign minister, said in a radio interview.

Just what the United States really thinks of Poland was also made clear in the joint news conference, when Obama spent most of his time answering a question about his recent tax deal with congressional Republicans.

That is not to say that Poland does not still deem it important to continue being a NATO member and a U.S. ally, it is just that Warsaw now sees that it does not occupy a special place in Washington's heart.

Instead, Poland is relying more on its growing importance as one of the largest members of the European Union, and an increasingly indispensable German ally, to build its position in the world. That status was in large measure why Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, showed up in Warsaw earlier this week for a rare state visit — Moscow has seen that it cannot have close ties with the EU without first ending its long hostility with Poland.

“We are not able to fully reset and delete 1,000 years of uneasy history with Russians. But we do not want to be an obstacle; we want to be a help in the process of resetting the relations between the Western world with Russia. We want to invest in relations with Russia,” Komorowski said at the White House.

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