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Poland needs to hear RFK Jr.’s Message of Peace
A Guest Essay by Mike Krupa
To say that Poland is at the forefront of the West’s proxy war with Russia, in which Ukraine’s horrible losses from the Western perspective are seen as a “relatively low cost”, would be an understatement. One can always count on Warsaw to lead the charge in NATO and the EU for further escalation of tensions with Russia, whether through another round of useless sanctions, more deliveries of weapons to Ukraine or irresponsible and dangerous rhetoric from the highest officeholder himself. To paraphrase the late senator John McCain’s famous line about his attitude towards Iran, the view of the vast majority of the Polish political and media elites on the war in Ukraine can be summed up as “bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Moscow.”
One cannot also ignore the fact that the current reckless position of Warsaw vis-à-vis Moscow is carefully stoked by the Biden Administration. It’s no coincidence that it was in Poland where Joe Biden essentially called for regime change in Moscow.
It has been a long time since an American president or a prominent American politician visited Warsaw without the obligatory reference to the potential danger of Russia lurking just around the corner. Much of the current Polish ruling elites’ unrelenting position on the Ukrainian war stems from the support it receives from official Washington - the White House, Congress, American media, and the pro-war (most often neoconservative) think-tank complex. This is how the eminent Polish scholar of international relations, Stanisław Bieleń, assesses the spiritus movens of Warsaw’s seemingly inherent stance regarding Russia: “Poland during the period of ‘real Socialism’ never engaged as heavily in an anti-American campaign as the current Republic engages in an anti-Russian campaign. In the face of America, even the one waging ‘dirty wars’ (like the Vietnam War), Poles did not feel hostility.”
Bieleń notes that after 1989 “in addition to various objective conditions (from dramatic history to neighborly asymmetry of power) we are dealing with the dominance of subjective factors – the psychological and cultural, as well as the instructions of external forces.” One is reminded also in this context of the critical observation made by Aleksander Bocheński, one of Poland’s most prolific writers of the realist political tradition: “All characterizations of our nation mention, as one of its chief defects, the excess of feelings over reason. It would seem only right to seek balance by strenuously training reason.”
One of the few American statesmen who saw Poland in a different light than the current crop of warmongers and ideologues, who have for decades occupied the heights of power and influence in Washington D.C., were President John F. Kennedy and his brother, former attorney general Robert F. Kennedy.
Both Kennedys knew Poland well, not only through personal and familial connections, but also by having visited the country – JFK in 1939 and 1955, RFK in 1964. They both understood the vulnerable geopolitical position of Poland, a frontline state in any potential war between the capitalist West and communist East.
On October 1, 1960, then-senator John F. Kennedy addressed the Polish American Congress in Chicago. Commenting on the limitations of, as he called it, “the policy of liberation,” JFK stated: “We do not want to mislead the people of Poland or Hungary again, that the United States is prepared to liberate them. Therefore, within the general framework of present events, what policies should we carry out? What can we do to maintain the spirit of independence? What can we do to help, in Thomas Jefferson's words, the disease of liberty to spread? Poland is a satellite government, but the Poles are not a satellite people. We have no right, unless we are prepared to meet our commitments, to incite them to national suicide.” And while he did not advocate for abandoning Poland to the whims of the overlords in Moscow, the future president clearly understood how harmful a policy of building up expectations of the Americans “coming to the rescue” can be in Eastern Europe and preferred a policy of cautious realism. Something which definitely cannot be said of today’s geopolitical overlord to which Polish politicians officially report, i.e. the United States.
This strain of realism, grounded in the urgent need for an enduring peace, was also present in Robert Kennedy’s reflections on his 3-day visit to Poland in June 1964. Worth noting is that the current presidential hopeful and son of the former attorney general, Robert Kennedy, Junior, accompanied his father on this trip. In his official statement after the visit published on July 1, 1964, RFK Sr. noted that “The bond that links our two countries is a reality of great potential. It puts Poland in a special position in the world for Poland has political ties with the Soviet Union and personal ties with the United States. Poland, therefore, has a unique opportunity to contribute to European security and the easing of tension between the United States and the Soviet Union.” Despite being clearly grounded in the Soviet camp, RFK saw an opportunity for Poland to contribute to a de-escalation of tensions at the height of the Cold War (the Cuban Missile Crisis having occurred just two years before). This is a message that needs to be clearly articulated once again today, in the current context, and there is no better messenger than Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
Without a doubt an epic, groundbreaking and public speech in Warsaw would go a long way to bringing this renewed message of peace to Polish minds. When Americans speak, Poles listen. If Barack Obama could make a candidate’s speech in Berlin in 2008, why not RFK Jr. in Warsaw? Such a speech would be a strong response to the dangerous rhetoric, which was spouted twice in Poland by Joe Biden, who essentially called for escalating the proxy war with Russia, without regard for the tragic costs of this clearly provoked conflict. Coming from a Kennedy, I have no doubt it would inspire not only a shift in Polish, but also Western thinking about this war, whose potentially dangerous consequences grow ever clearer with each passing day. A shift not in the minds of the warmongers, but in the hearts and minds of millions of Europeans, who constitute the core of public opinion and don’t wish to see the Old Continent turned into a nuclear wasteland. It would be an exercise in “training reason,” as Bocheński wrote, the likes of which Warsaw has not seen coming from an eminent American figure.
In the statement quoted above, Robert F. Kennedy went on to state: “Our objective is clear. It is to facilitate the reconciliation of Eastern and Western Europe in association with the United States. This is the only sure guarantee against nuclear war whether by design or by accident. It is also the surest means of fostering our common prosperity.” These are words that in no way have lost their relevance and there is no better place to make the case for rescuing civilization from the apocalypse of nuclear war than Warsaw, which still bears the scars of total annihilation resulting from a politics of genocide, terror, subordination, hubris, and totalitarian ideology. If Robert Kennedy Jr.’s recent and groundbreaking foreign policy address is the standard to measure his commitment to seriously ending the garrison state in America and its military imperialism abroad, he should not hesitate to bring that message up close and personal to Eastern Europe, to Poland.
During his historical visit to Poland, Robert F. Kennedy would point out that, “You know, my brother would not have been elected if it weren't for the Polish vote.”
I am certain the “Polish vote” in the United States would very much appreciate a candidate who does not see Poland as an instrument of destructive and provocative anti-Russian politics, but seeks Poland’s survival and well-being as a crucial bridge in East-West relations, a country and a nation that has a unique opportunity to contribute to European security and the easing of tensions between the United States and the Russian Federation. A country that shuns the reckless policy of hubris, fake moral posturing, being a willing executioner of the policy preferences of the American military-industrial complex and one that takes to heart the words of President Kennedy: “Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.”
Mr. Kennedy, Warsaw is waiting.