After only four days on the job, the new U.S. ambassador to Poland — a former top adviser to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton during her presidential campaign — created what appeared to be a diplomatic gaffe so big that even the Polish defense minister publicly called it a “blunder.”
State Department spokesman Ian Kelly on Tuesday night attributed the controversy to an incorrect translation Saturday made on Polish television station TVN24.
Ambassador Lee A. Feinstein, speaking in English, actually said that Polish officials planned to “enhance their presence” in Afghanistan and not send additional troops, Mr. Kelly said.
The station had erroneously reported that Mr. Feinstein said that the Obama administration deeply appreciates Poland’s decision to increase its troops in Afghanistan.
The television station has since corrected its translation.
Neither President Lech Kaczynski nor Prime Minister Donald Tusk made a decision to increase troops, according to news reports in Warsaw.
Because of the faulty translation, Poland’s Defense Minister Bogdan Klich said, “The ambassador committed a blunder, since neither the prime minister, nor the minister of foreign affairs, nor the minister of national defense made any declarations to the American side about an increase in the contingent.” Mr. Klich nevertheless said Monday that he excused the young diplomat, that “these are the ambassador’s first days at a new post.”
The Krakow Post newspaper reported that Mr. Kaczynski’s office issued a statement, saying the president had received no “concrete” plans to increase Poland’s 2,000 soldiers in Afghanistan’s Ghazni province beyond the 200 announced as a strategic reserve contingent for emergencies.
Mr. Feinstein, who also held senior positions at the State and Defense departments before joining Mrs. Clinton’s campaign last year, presented his diplomatic credentials to Mr. Kaczynski on Oct. 20.
In another development in Poland, the U.S. Embassy’s Web site is carrying a critical item about President Obama‘s decision to scrap the missile-defense shield in Poland and the Czech Republic.
A report at https://poland.usembassy.gov under “Embassy Events” noted that the author of a new book on a Polish prince who fought in the American Revolution faulted Mr. Obama for announcing his decision on the missile shield on Sept. 17 on the 70th anniversary of the Russian invasion of Poland in World War II.
“Poles believe that the insensitive timing of this announcement shows that Obama does not understand Poland,” Alex Storozynski was quoted as saying on the embassy site.
Polish President Lech Kaczynski presented Mr. Obama with a copy of Mr. Storozynski’s book, “The Peasant Prince: Thaddeus Kosciuszko and the Age of Revolution,” last month when the two presidents met in New York during the opening of the U.N. General Assembly.
Mr. Storozynski signed the book and wrote a brief note: “To President Obama, May Kosciuszko inspire you to learn more about Poland, whose motto is ‘For Your Freedom and Ours.’ ”
Mr. Kaczynski had supported President George W. Bush‘s decision to place 10 interceptor rockets in Poland and a radar installation in the Czech Republic to protect Europe from missile strikes from Iran.
DEATH OF A DIPLOMAT
Teel Bivins, a former U.S. ambassador to Sweden and political supporter of President George W. Bush, died Monday at his home in Amarillo, Texas. He was 61.
Mr. Bivins served 15 years in the Texas Senate, where he chaired the powerful Finance Committee, before Mr. Bush nominated him to the diplomatic post in 2004. He stepped down for health reasons in 2006. Mr. Bivins was a key fundraiser for Mr. Bush’s presidential campaigns.
Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@ washingtontimes.com.