Opinia.US: Little on the White House Blog about Biden in Poland

Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the Central University Library Bucharest, in Bucharest, Romania, Thursday, October 22, 2009. Official White House photo by David Lienemann Opinia.USOpinia.US SAN FRANCISCO — The White House Blog had nothing specific about Vice President Biden’s visit to Poland. Biden’s national security advisor Tony Blinken wrote a general post in the White House Blog Thursday about Mr. Biden’s visit to Central Europe. He focused, however, on his boss’s visit to Romania and posted two photos from Bucharest.

For a visit that was presented by the White House as a very important diplomatic mission, the U.S. public diplomacy team did close to nothing, revealing perhaps that the trip was more about damage control and was not so important after all. On the other hand, the U.S. has not had an effective public diplomacy operation since the United States Information Agency, USIA, was disbanded after the end of the Cold War. State Department diplomats did not prevent the Obama White House from announcing the missile shield removal decision on the 70th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland.

Vice President Biden’s trip was designed to repair the public relations damage, but the White House has not posted any photos or videos from his visit to Poland. The Voice of America, VOA, a U.S. government-funded international broadcaster, did not send a reporter with the vice president on his trip to Central Europe. VOA has not had any radio, TV or Internet programs in Polish for many years.

VOA posted on its English-language website a short text and audio report by Hilary Heuler, a freelance reporter based in Poland who quoted an unidentified woman in Warsaw as saying that “she was happy the shield was canceled because she does not think Poland needs to be defended from anyone, even Russia.”

She also reported that Mr. Obama’s announcement last month that he was canceling the planned Bush-era missile shield ruffled a lot of feathers in Poland. Some politicians claimed the United States had abandoned the region in order to repair relations with Russia, which strongly opposed the previous missile plan. Polish newspapers ran alarming headlines about betrayal and the triumph of Moscow. But Biden assured Poland the United States and NATO are still committed to defending the region, VOA report pointed out.

VOA stringer Hilary Heuler also filed another, more analytical report, Missile Defense High on Agenda as Biden Tours Central Europe.* Listen to VOA Report

She quoted Jan Filip Stanilko, an analyst at the Warsaw-based Sobieski Institute, a political think tank, who explained why the old Bush administration plans made Poland feel more secure.

“The main advantage was having a stable American installation in Poland, something which is built, unmovable, and which may be the reason to defend this installation and country,” he said. “The Patriot missile is moveable, and it’s obviously not enough because we need 20 such missile batteries and we got only one.”

The VOA report also pointed pointed out that many Poles assumed the U.S. decision to cancel the shield was an attempt to cozy up to Russia, which was strongly opposed to the original plans. The White House denies that this was the case. But even the Voice of America stringer in Warsaw noted that “the timing of the announcement was undeniably clumsy, coming on the same day that Poland commemorated the 70th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland in World War II.”

Neither the Voice of America nor the White has released any video from Vice President Biden’s visit to Warsaw. In a televised appearance with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, Mr. Biden referred to him as “Mr. President.” He later corrected himself. A search on YouTube for videos related to Biden’s visit placed at the top a TV report from Russia Today, an English-language international TV channel funded by the Russian government.

On Friday, the White House added to its blog Central European language versions of the text of Vice President Biden’s speech in Bucharest, in which he made somewhat doubtful claim that President Obama’s missile defense proposal had nothing to do with Russia. The Polish translation was far from perfect.

Update: All translations of Vice President Biden’s speech were subsequently removed from the White House Blog, possibly because they were not totally accurate. The Polish translation posted here had been downloaded by Opinia.US before it was removed from the White House website.

The translations, however, were still available on the U.S. State Department’s America.gov website.

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