Russia-Poland rapprochement against a backdrop of contradictions

Discussion in 'Europe' started by Casper, Apr 20, 2011.

  1. Casper

    Casper Member

    Sep 6, 2010
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    Valdai Club expert Alexei Fenenko talks about complicated relations between Russia and Poland

    It is now a year since the Smolensk crash. This anniversary was marked by ongoing conflicts in Russian-Polish relations. The Polish Foreign Ministry has expressed discontent with the report by the Interstate Aviation Committee on the causes of the disaster. The opposition party Law and Justice, headed by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, sharply criticized both President Bronislaw Komorowski and Prime Minister Donald Tusk being too soft on Russia. Warsaw protested against the Smolensk authorities replacing the memory plaque, since the new one makes no mention of the fact that the events of 1940 at Katyn should be considered an act of “genocide”. It was reported that, due to this, President Komorowski might even refuse to lay flowers on the grave.

    The Polish President went ahead and laid the flowers, though. But the controversy surrounding the Smolensk crash still remains. The Polish authorities are demonstrating growing displeasure with the Russian version of what caused the crash. In Russia, by contrast, there is growing dissatisfaction with the stance Warsaw has taken. Russians view it as simply looking for any excuse to stoke international conflict. Bluntly: there is, as yet no sign of the Russian-Polish rapprochement anticipated a year ago.

    In general, last year was quite positive for Russian-Polish relations. Over the past six months discussions have been held about energy issues, the “Katyn affair”, the opportunity for increased contact between the two countries’ military chiefs, transportation projects and the “European missile defense system” to name but a few. At their meeting in Warsaw, December 6, 2010, Presidents Dmitry Medvedev and Bronislaw Komorowski signed a package of documents: from the Declaration on Cooperation for economic modernization to the Memorandum of Understanding on the establishment of the Center for Russian-Polish dialogue. The government of Donald Tusk declared its intention to build “a new format of relations” with Russia.

    However, these changes in rhetoric have not caused any change in the two states’ strategic priorities. On the eve of the NATO summit in Lisbon (19-20 November 2010) President Komorowski confirmed the inviolability of the basic principles of Polish foreign policy, namely: the perception of Russia as a potential threat; assistance in preserving U.S. military presence in Europe, and assistance in integrating former Soviet republics into “Transatlantic institutions.” During the Warsaw meeting Komorowski also added that Poland would only countenance cooperation with Russia in the broader context of relations with the EU and NATO. Besides, Warsaw did not withdraw from the plan to allow U.S. TMD systems to be based on its territory or “the promotion of democracy” in Ukraine and Belarus. Such moves prompted hesitant but harsh criticism from Russia.

    Full version of the article was originally published on

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