Posted July 21, 2012 by Malwina Haggard in Europe

U.S. Ambassador to Poland abruptly announces his departure

Polish Foreign Minister (left) sits with U.S. Ambassador to Poland Lee Feinstein (right).

The announcement that the American ambassador will leave Warsaw after serving three years is a surprise in Warsaw’s political circles. Usually, diplomatic representatives are nominated as career diplomats, or, are political appointments, as in the case of Ambassador Feinstein. The former typically serve three years in their posts while the latter serve four years and resign as the American administrations change.

Rumors are abound that the real reason of Feinstein’s leaving are due to an argument he had with Radek Sikorski, the Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs. Feinstein supports the efforts of Jewish heirs to receive compensation for Jewish estates that were during the Holocaust due to German policies and after the Holocaust due to communist policies. The American Jewish diaspora and some American politicians have criticized Poland failing to pass a re-privatization bill that would systematize the compensation process. Work on passing such legislation was halted due to the ongoing economic crisis. There are estimates that compensating Jewish heirs would amount to billions of dollars, which could would be a severe blow to the Polish economy. The Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs points out that there is an ordinary judicial path for cases relating to this type of compensation. The Foreign Ministry is also quick to point out the Agreement between the Government of the Polish People’s Republic and the Government of the United States of America regarding claims of nationals of the United States, which was signed in July 1960, was supposed to settle the issue. The agreement saw Poland agree to pay $40 million over twenty years to settle any and all claims arising from the nationalization and/or seizure of property in which American national had an interest. The United States seems to have adopted that the wording of the treaty is open to a more liberal reading than offered by the Poles.

These rumors seem to be baseless. It is more probable that president Obama wants to make some changes ahead of November’s presidential election. Afterall, it was no secret that Feinstein is Hillary Clinton’s man (He backed her 2008 presidential bid over that of Obama’s). Now, Obama is sending Stephen Mull to take up the reigns from Feinstein. Stephen Mull has extensive diplomatic experience and is a professional diplomat. His strengths were recognized by the Republicans as well with George W. Bush tapped Mull to serve as the U.S. Ambassador to Lithuania during his presidency. Mull is well versed in the Polish social and political environment. In the 1980s, he served at the U.S. mission in Warsaw and was photographed with leaders of the Polish democratic opposition. The photograph caused a scandal that resulted in the propaganda arm of the communist regime denouncing Mull as a “spy.” In the 1990s, he served as the Political Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Poland and facilitated Poland’s efforts to join NATO. For his work, he was honored with the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland by former President Aleksander Kwasniewski.

The United States is a strategic partner for Poland. Ever since the collapse of communism, Poland’s foreign policy has been focused on strengthening the bilateral relations with the U.S. Government. Regardless of the reasons of Feinstein’s departure, Mull’s appointment is highly anticipated in Warsaw.


This piece was written by Malwina Haggard.

Malwina Haggard