- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy
One dissonant note in the president’s otherwise smooth European tour:
Walesa said in televised remarks that President Bronislaw Komorowski and the U.S. ambassador to Poland had called him hoping to persuade him to meet Obama. Walesa insisted, however, that he had no interest in a meeting that would amount to little more than a photo-op.
"This time a meeting does not suit me," the 67-year-old former president said in comments on news station TVN24. His office said he planned instead to attend a biblical festival in Italy.
Walesa refused to divulge more, but it seemed possible he was offended at not being offered a one-on-one meeting with Obama early on. Walesa had been invited to meet with Obama along with other former leaders of the anti-communist movement and current party leaders.
In past visits to Poland, U.S. presidents often scheduled private meetings with him and Walesa is accustomed to having visiting leaders travel to his home in the northern port city of Gdansk to see him.
Though Walesa’s snub got significant media attention in Poland, some said it wasn’t a surprise given his reputation for public complaining if he feels he hasn’t been given enough respect.
Walesa’s Rodney Dangerfield routine aside, the 1989 generation of Central European leaders has not always been overly fond of Obama. Walesa, along with several other former heads of state and prominent intellectuals, signed a public letter to Obama in 2009 urging him not to forget Central and Eastern Europe in the "reset" with Russia. Former Czech President Vaclav Havel has been openly critical of Obama on human rights issues, particularly his 2009 decision to postpone a meeting with the Dalai Lama.