Vladimir Putin started his official visit to Poland on January 16. This is a very significant event for both countries; the last time when a Russian president visited Poland was in 1993 (it was Boris Yeltsin).
The relations between Russia and Poland have worsened since that time. It was connected with Poland’s aspiration to join the World Trade Organization, with the economic disagreements. However, the countries are intended to normalize the cooperation, in the economic sphere first and foremost.
The subject for the negotiations between Russia and Poland is the commercial relations. The main issue is the considerable disbalance in the trade between Russia and Poland. The Financial Times reported, the deficit in the trade with Russia made up $3.7 billion for Poland last year. Besides, the leaders plan to discuss the subject of the construction of the gas pipeline via Poland to Slovakia. This question was discussed before at the session of the Russian-Polish workgroup, which took place on January 9-10 of the current year. As it seems, the parties will be able to achieve an agreement. The issue pertaining to the construction of the gas pipeline was an apple of discord for really a long time. The Polish government did not agree for the construction of the new gas branch avoiding the territory of Ukraine, for political reasons basically: “We do not want the transit of the Russian gas to cause damage to Ukraine,” – Poland’s minister for economy claimed a couple of years ago. Furthermore, the pipeline was supposed to go on the territory of Belarus, the relations with which were not the best, to put it mildly. So why did Warsaw change its mind all of a sudden? There can be several factors singled out in this respect. First of all, it is the rapprochement between Russia and the EU. Needless to mention that the European economy is in need of the Russian gas, and this need is constantly growing. As long as Poland wishes to join the EU as soon as possible, it would be weird, if Warsaw did not take account of the interests of its partners. There is also a domestic issue. The new premier of the polish government Leszek Miller has the reputation of a pragmatic politician, willing to set up the partnership relations with Russia.
There are some unsolved questions left, pertaining to the construction of the pipeline. For example, the Poland is not happy about the transit duties for the transportation of the Russian gas. They assert, those duties are much less, than those, which Russia pays to the countries of the Western Europe.
Russia is interested in the issue about the status of the Kaliningrad region. After Poland and Lithuania join the EU, this Russian territory may become isolated, which is surely not good to Russia.
The visit of the Russian president is supposed to open the new page in the history of relations between the two countries. Russia and Poland are willing to do that. The Polish president has recently stressed out that he did not wish his country to become the wall between Russia and Europe.
Oleg Artyukov PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Dmitry Sudakov
AP photo: Russian President Vladimir Putin, left and his Polish counterpart Aleksander Kwasniewski