The United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) have had great influence on the politics and the economics of Post-Communist states. This paper seeks to examine and explore US and NATO military influence in post-communist Poland and East Germany. It further analyzes the role played by the strong presence of the Soviet Republic in both Poland and East Germany in limiting as well as increasing the US and NATO military involvement in the region. Since US foreign security policy in Europe is tied to NATO, the paper will analyze the effect of the military influence of United States on post-communist Poland and East Germany in relation to broader NATO military involvement in the region.
First, the paper will give a brief background of the cold war military influence of the Soviet Union on Poland and East Germany and how it limited the US and NATO involvement in the two Warsaw Pact member states. Second, the paper will explore US and NATO military influence in post-cold war Poland in light of how the fall of communism opened up the East for NATO and the United States. Thirdly, the paper will examine the influence that both the US and NATO on East Germany in the broader policy of a unified and strong Germany. Lastly, I will analyze how the US and NATO have managed to expand their influence in East and Central Europe as reflected in their military policy towards East Germany and Poland.
Because of its strategic geographical position, its sheer size, its demographic make-up, economic potential and military position and potential, Poland existed as the Soviet Republic’s most treasured and valuable possession in the Eastern part of Europe during the Cold War period (Skoniezcka 2). These general characteristics made Poland a battle field for the Soviets and the United States. In as much as Poland was significant for the Soviets, it was more significant for the US and its Western European Allies (Sjuersen 13). It was regionally placed to make it critical in stopping Soviet influence going beyond Eastern Europe.
The doctrine was part of the Warsaw Pact forced countries under Soviet control to cut all ties with Western countries and way of governance. The strong Soviet influence affected the US military influence in East Germany like it did affect how the US dealt with Poland. Instead of fighting for a more involved military presence in East Germany, the US followed a policy of preserving those states that were already under western influence than try for more involvement in Soviet satellite states. Weinberger observes that American foreign policy towards East Germany was overshadowed by its interest in West Germany and its effort to contain Soviet influence in the German region (96). The US only had to deal with East Germany when the concerns at hand involved West Germany or the Soviet Union. As Weinberger further observes, the United States was absorbed and invested in West Germany to the point where East Germany looked non-existent.
The United States found it difficult to maintain a single military strategy on Poland and East Germany. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) however adopted some military strategies that the US shied away from. NATO had been formed out of the need to deal with the ever increasing power of the Soviet Union and its encroachment on Western Europe. There also existed the threat of nuclear annihilation posed by the nuclear arms race between the United States and the Soviets. An example of how NATO managed to succeed where the US struggled militarily alone is the Polish crisis of 1956. The Polish crisis of 1956 created problems for the United States’ military and political strategy in Eastern Europe.
The fall of the Berlin wall and the end of Communism in 1989 brought to an end Soviet influence in Poland opening East and Central Europe for US and NATO military strategy in Europe. By 1996 the United States and NATO had managed to strengthen what were once impossible relationships with Poland. During the same period Russian influence in Poland was greatly reduced. Russia trying to forcibly pressure Poland into accepting concessions that would have made it part of the Russian alliance rather than going to NATO and the United States. Russia’s diplomatic fight failed and even managed to push Poland towards NATO. With the Patnership for Peace program Poland’s road to joining NATO was opened. By 1999 Poland was a full member of NATO with full support of the United States.
Since its ascension into NATO, Poland has remained an important ally of the United States in the East and Central European region. The Expansion of NATO into Eastern which the United States fully support for strategic military reason has been argued to lie on the need of a militarily strongly backed Poland. Dunn argues that the importance of Poland to the United States can be demonstrated by the decision by the US to hold its November 2001 anti-terrorism conference in Poland (Dunn 1).
Scholars argue that over the past decades, there have been tremendous geopolitical changes across the globe (Kainos 2). One of the turning points of word history and the factor to geopolitical change is the fall of communism and the demise of the Soviet Union which created new independent states across East and Central Europe. The bipolar security struggle between the US and the Soviet Union was replaced by a new concern for security. The United States and NATO military influence in East and Central Europe is crafted with the knowledge that security concerns have changed for both the superpowers and the new democratizing states. Poland’s admission to NATO in 1999 was done with acknowledging that security concerns had changed. The focus changed from fear of nuclear war to domestic security concerns. NATO realized the concerns of its new members and had made great strides in providing enough military and strategic aid to Poland.
With the end of the Cold War, Poland was forced to seek and build new regional security alliances after discovering that the old Soviet alliances were not going to be salvaged. The new Polish state had a more Western oriented conception of security and politics than it had under communism. There were structural and governance issues that both Poland and the Western states under NATO had to address before full consideration of Poland into NATO was done. NATO emerged as an important grouping that was going to provide security and aid in reducing the Polish government’s defense expenses. Three summits were held before talks to allow Poland into NATO were held. With the Partnership for Peace the United States managed to create an avenue for Poland to finally find its way into NATO resulting into the 1999 admittance.
After reviewing Poland’s road to NATO and its complicated relationship with the United States, it is important to look at the specific way the United States and NATO insert their military influence in Poland. The United States has always relied on NATO to advance its military strategy in Europe. One way they do this is by letting NATO safeguard Polish airspace and land territories. NATO has direct influence of Polish airspace. It policies Polish airspace on rotational basis, this is done by making NATO members use their airspace equipment and resources to go on the airspace policing missions. It is argued that policing duty by NATO members is done by using four aircrafts with a number of people ranging from 50 to 100 working on the missions (NATO n.p). The policing do not cover Poland only it also affects other East European countries like Albania, Romania and the Baltic States. Scholars argue that without the presence of NATO, Poland would not be able to effectively manage and police its airspace (Kainos 49). NATO with its resources provides enough service and air protection for Poland. This proves how influential NATO is militarily to Poland. Poland has a deep reliance on NATO resources and personnel.
The airspace is not the only place where NATO exercise direct military influence on Poland. Article Five of NATO ensures territorial protections of Poland from aggression. NATO has a response force that makes sure that in time of attack Poland gets ground protection (Kainos 50). NATO’s response force is there to augment the polish force in the face of a more powerful aggressor. Article five guarantees the provision of more than 13000 soldiers to aid Poland (NATO n.p.).
Besides a strong presence of troops and airspace policing, NATO has made Poland the site of its missile defense system. Poland relies on NATO for missile defense. This defense system has the capability of deterring attacks by weapons of mass destruction. Poland serves as a missile interceptor along with other nations such as Turkey and Romania. By so doing the United States and NATO has provided Poland and Romania with aircraft capabilities (NATO n.p.). Poland can use some of the resources provided by NATO in its national defense missions. The above assessment has shown that NATO’s military presence in Poland is strong and deep. Poland relies on NATO on both ground and air defense.
Whereas the US and NATO military strategy and influence in post-communist Poland has been informed by creating a bulwark in East Europe against Russian aggression, their influence in East Germany is different since the fortunes of East Germany are linked with West Germany in a unified post-cold war Germany. In cold war East Germany the United States and NATO were limited by the Ulbricht Doctrine. The doctrine was part of the Warsaw Pact that the Soviets forced in countries that were under the influence of the Soviet Union. The Soviets were seeking to force the Federal republic of Germany to recognize East Germany as an independent state. The strong Soviet influence affected the US military influence in East Germany like it did affect how the US dealt with Poland. Instead of fighting for a more involved military presence in East Germany, the US followed a policy of preserving those states that were already under western influence than try for more involvement in Soviet satellite states. Weinberger observes that American foreign policy towards East Germany was overshadowed by its interest in West Germany and its effort to contain Soviet influence in the German region (96). The US only had to deal with East Germany when the concerns at hand involved West Germany or the Soviet Union. As Weinberger further observes, the United States was absorbed and invested in West Germany to the point where East Germany looked non-existent.
With the fall of the Berlin Wall, East Germany became part of a new Germany and the US and NATO had to change its military policy and engagement with the former Soviet satellite state. The Two Plus Four Treaty of 1990 created restrictions for NATO operations in East Germany. The treaty also forced the Soviet Union’s hand in accepting the prospect on a new unified Germany in NATO (Collins 132). The treat created complications for NATO’s operations in a new Germany. The treaty had a provision that NATO forces were not to be stationed in the former territory of East Germany. Parties to the treaty also agreed that nuclear weapons and weapon carriers were not to be stationed or located in East Germany. This created a problem for NATO as it expanded eastward to territories like Poland but would not station weapons in a territory that was part of NATO. (Collins 133).
With the reunification, NATO had to re-strategize when it came to East Germany. East Germany was still closed for military operations. This changed with the emergence of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council in 1992 (Haftendorn n.p.). The Council allowed consultations with former satellite states of communist Soviet Russia. This aided not only in Germany to grow its army to be strong again since the end of the Second World War but also to bring the eastern part of Germany under full NATO military influence (Hyde-Price 5). NATO provided Germany with security from any form of military aggression from any non-NATO member. It provided collected defense mostly in the form of United States military bases and military assistance in airspace and land troops.
Since the fortune of East Germany in relation to NATO lies with the bigger unified Germany, it is important to analyze NATO and US military influence in light of the broader idea of a strong and unified Germany. Reed argues that without the presence of NATO, Germany would not have been able to keep American troops and military bases open. There is also a question of American nuclear guarantee with is tied to both The United States and NATO (Reed 106). Since Bosnia and Herzegovina NATO has found it difficult to get its members to support military action or any policy changes that goes along with changes in both global warfare and threats. Poland has remained loyal to the NATO cause and to the United States because of the military benefits and strong US influence on polish military. Although Germany has US military bases on its still has to contend with the idea of a strong NATO. It stands to benefit the most in strengthening NATO in Europe but it is also concerned with the cost of maintaining the alliance.
The future of NATO hangs on the balance but its military influence in the Germany and Poland is still strong. As one observer notes, if NATO did not exist today the United States would not aid in its creation. Its concerns at the time of conception have changed and the challenges it faces have changed. East Germany is not part of an integrated stronger assertive Germany that is not entirely reliable on the United States like it did during the cold war. Even though NATO’s relations with Germany have been unstable, it has managed to make a mark in former Eastern European communist states like Poland whose whole security depends on the military support and influence of NATO. The United States’ military influence in Poland in Poland keeps on increasing evidenced by the Polish demand for a US of military bases on its soil.
In conclusion, US and NATO military influence has gone through remarkable changes since the collapse of communism in 1989. Without the threat of Soviet confrontation that was apparent during the cold war period. The United States has managed to deepen its military ties with Poland and East Germany which is now part of a unified Germany. NATO continues to play a critical role in defining the military strategy of member states. Its influence on Poland and Germany is apparent as reflected by Poland’s dependence on NATO in all spheres of security. Even though Germany has a renewed position and power in Europe, it still relies on NATO military support.
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