On September 10, GMF’s Warsaw office hosted a public event launching the 2014 edition of the Transatlantic Trends. The presentation was delivered by Michał Baranowski, director of the GMF Warsaw office, and the panel discussion included interventions from: Mr. Matthew Bryza, former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state, director of the International Center for Defense Studies; Mr. Paweł Kowal, former member of the European Parliament, Polska Razem; and Dr. Olaf Osica, director of the Center for Eastern Studies.
This year’s data shows that Europeans are seeking a more independent transatlantic relationship while the U.S. is looking for more burden sharing. Poland is an exception in this regard and shows significant support for President Obama and a closer transatlantic relationship. The trends show a noteworthy increase of support for U.S. leadership in international affairs, and for approval of President Obama’s handling of international policies. Simultaneously, Poles see EU membership as beneficial, and rank among the top three supporters: Germany 76%, Poland 73%, France 71%. The data also shows that NATO is crucial for Poland with a substantial 15% increase of support for the organization compared to 2013. The majority of Poles see NATO’s mission as providing territorial defense of Europe (82%), compared to only 59% in the U.S. and an average of 73% in the EU. Poland also comes out on top with regards to various measures of support for Ukraine – among others, the majority of Poles (52%) is in favor of providing military equipment to Ukraine, compared to only 25% EU average support. Poles’ support for Russian leadership in international affairs has dropped compared to last year and is the lowest in the EU.
Matthew Bryza began the panelists’ remarks. He noted the strong citizen support on both sides of the Atlantic for military conflict with Russia, despite lack of enthusiasm from the political elites to do so. Bryza also noted a significant increase in the number of U.S. citizens who want the United States to lead in global affairs, and who think President Obama is not active enough internationally. He also pointed out that Europe has a lot more leverage over Russia than it believes, specifically when it comes to energy and natural gas imports. Second to speak was Paweł Kowal who focused on the importance of NATO to Poland, and the notion that Polish support for NATO grows in reaction to Russian policy and Russian politics. This is reflected in the trends with two specific examples: currently in light of the crisis in Ukraine, and in 2008 following Russia’s aggression on Georgia. According to Kowal, history preconditions Poles to have an acute sense for a deficit of security, and when Russia shows imperial activity, the sense of security in the Polish society changes. Olaf Osica was last to deliver his comments on this year’s data. He noted that the transatlantic relationship is driven by events instead of ideas, which may pose a threat to transatlantic ties. Osica suggested that these unique ties should be viewed through common values and ideas, instead of events. According to Osica, the transatlantic relationship needs two pillars to survive, and he suggested that the U.S. and Europe should continue to build the pillar of economic cooperation (TTIP) to accompany the already established security pillar (NATO).