On the threshold of Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s visit to Russia (which begins on February 8) the two countries have exchanged friendly statements. Tusk told Interfax that the deployment of the US missile defense system in Poland was still open to question, though earlier reports said that Poland had given a positive response to the USA regarding the matter.
Russian officials ascertain that the relations between the two countries have been improving. Russia does not seem to need a new conflict with Poland, taking into consideration the uncertainty about the US presidential election. Russia’s high priority is to improve the European-Russian relations, which includes problems of signing a new strategic pact and developing energy projects.
The new Prime Minister of Poland Donald Tusk took the course to improve the country’s relations with Russia (at least, to start a dialogue), which distinguishes him greatly from his anti-Russian predecessor. In spite of the fact that Poland is still considering the issue of deploying elements of the US missile defense system (it is only the question of political price), Tusk has made a number of demonstrative steps that are important for Russia and are aimed to show good will. The so-called meat conflict has been resolved, and Poland promised to lift the embargo on negotiations between Russia and the EU about a new agreement on strategic partnership.
The missile defense issue remains one of the most important problems for Russia. It will not disappear despite Poland’s friendliness. In Polish-Russian relations we need to take into account Poland’s membership in the EU and NATO as well as good relations between Poland and the USA. In other words, Russia has to accept Poland’s pro-American stance which it will try not to highlight in the bilateral relations. According to Tusk, the missile defense negotiations with Russia do not imply Poland’s refusal to run its own autonomous strategy. The talks must make it clear that Poland does not threaten any neighbour country, including Russia.
Donald Tusk believes that Russia is one of the few nations in the world that does not have any reason to fear other countries. He also turned down potential compromises offered by Russia. For example, Tusk did not confirm Poland’s readiness to allow the permanent presence of Russian officers at the objects of the missile defense system for transparency reasons. “I believe there are other ways to establish political confidence, expect for the presence of Russian officers in Poland,” Tusk said. However, Russia is unlikely to understand this standpoint.
The veto imposed on Russia’s negotiations with the EU may exert another negative influence on the Russian-Polish talks in Moscow. The veto will be abolished as soon as the embargo on the Polish meat supplies is lifted, Tusk said in his interview with Interfax. To all appearances, Russia is not eager to allow Polish meat supplies.
Finally, Russia’s last concern was connected with Donald Tusk’s energy policy. On February, 8 he is expected to unveil a new project of the ground gas pipeline to the Russian administration. The project aims to provide Russian gas exports to Europe via the Baltic States and Poland. Tusk says that the project has already been approved by Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. The new Polish project called Amber should become an alternative to the Nord Stream that was not accepted by the three Baltic States.
Most likely, Russia will not see any new opportunities in Poland’s suggestion. The project will perhaps be considered politically risky due to its strong connection with US-oriented transit states. To crown it all, Amber seriously threatens the more advanced Nord Stream project.
All the above-mentioned facts mean that Russian-Polish relations have not improved greatly on the eve of the talks in Moscow. They have no prospects yet: the ABM problems, resistance to Russian energy expansion and the preserved veto on the EU talks. However, it has become clear now that the two countries tend to bring their confrontation down.
Poland ’s change of attitude is quite clear: Tusk originally took his office because he wanted to improve the Russian-Polish relations and to make Poland a more pro-Europeean state. But Russia seems to be a full-fledged player of Warsaw’s game. Mikhail Kamylin, a Russian Foreign Ministry official said that Russia seeks to establish friendly relations with Poland. “We are glad to notify that the Russian-Polish political dialogue has become livelier,” Kamylin said. The official reminded that the Russian Foreign Minister had had a meeting with his Polish counterpart in Brussels, whereas Poland’s Foreign Minister visited Moscow in late January.
Russia is mostly interested in solving the ‘Polish problem’ in terms of the EU-Russian relations. Russia needs to develop its energy projects on the European market, which was greatly hampered by the conflict with Poland. Now that Poland took a more moderated position towards Russia, the latter was relieved of one of the most outspoken critics.
Translated by Ksenia Bulygina
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