Russian President Vladimir Putin embarks on his first official visit to a former eastern bloc state this week, traveling to Poland which escaped the Soviet orbit and is now a member of NATO. Putin will address parliament in Warsaw and visit a trade fair in the western city of Poznan, aiming to consolidate improvements to ties that were testy in the early post-Cold War days, and settle long-running questions over gas pipelines. "This trip should be a symbol of closer economic cooperation and the role of Russian companies in eastern Europe. As Putin always has a pragmatic approach, he will stress economic ties," said Alexander Pikayev of the Carnegie Endowment think-tank in Moscow. Marek Siwiec, national security adviser to Polish President Alexander Kwasniewski, predicted a "new opening in relations". "Poland and Russia are becoming more stable and behaving as countries which know each other increasingly well," the Russia Journal quoted him as saying.
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