Poland claims 70% victory at NATO summit
By Robert Strybel, Our Warsaw
ul. Kaniowska 24
01-529 Warsaw, Poland
WARSAW–Polish President Lech Kaczynski returned to Poland,
saying his country had scored a 70 percent victory at the latest NATO summit,
held in the Romanian capital of Bucharest.
Only two days earlier it appeared that, under pressure from Russian-fearing
“Old Europe” the North Atlantic Alliance would reject the membership bid of the
former Black Sea Soviet republics, Ukraine
and refuse to back plans for a US
anti-missile shield in Poland
and the Czech Republic.
“The important thing is that the NATO
states have agreed to Ukraine
will be in the alliance. Presidents Yushchenko (of Ukraine)
and Saakashvili (of Georgia)
say this was a major success through the significant effort of Poland,”
Kaczynski said on Polish television. The countries of the former (Soviet-led)
Warsaw Pact have displayed full loyalty and solidarity,” he added.
According to German media reports,
Kaczynski, the Lithuanian president and six other leaders of former
Soviet-bloc countries at one meeting physically surrounded a somewhat
astonished German Chancellor Angela Merkel to persuade her to drop her
opposition to NATO’s enlargement. And Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski
seemed to all but threaten his French and German counterparts. “If you obstruct
or derail the implementation of Poland’s
strategic interests in Ukraine,
there will be consequences. Poland
has a long memory,” he was reported as saying.
Ever sine it dumped the Soviet yoke in
has viewed the championing of freedom in the former Soviet bloc as its major
strategic foreign-policy objective. Warsaw was among the first countries to
recognize the independence of the Baltic states, helped Yushchenko’s “orange
revolution” succeed in Ukraine and actively supports pro-democracy forces in
autocratically ruled Belarus. Those goals are the direct opposite of what Moscow
is trying to achieve by re-asserting its power over what it regards as its
rightful “sphere of influence”.
Outgoing Russian President Vladimir
Putin, who attended the final day of the three-day summit, was unhappy that
NATO had ultimately thrown its support behind the eventual membership for
Ukraine and Georgia as well as the anti-missile shield program, but tried to
project a mood of compromise and restraint. From Russia’s
standpoint it was reassuring that NATO had stopped short of inviting the two
former Soviet dominions in Bucharest
and postponed any decision until the next summit in December 2008.
Meanwhile, behind-the-scenes talks
continue between Polish and American negotiators on details of the anti-missile
shield comprising 10 interceptor missiles installed on Polish soil and poised
to destroy ballistic missiles fired by such rogue states as Iran
or North Korea.
In exchange, Warsaw wants the US
to provide billions of dollars worth of defensive Patriot missiles and modern
military hardware to upgrade the Polish armed forces.
As in all bargaining, the American side
has indicated that the Poles are asking for too much, but Warsaw
insists it must safeguard itself against the risks it is taking by hosting the US
installations on its territory. President Bush tried to assure Putin that the
program poses no threat to the Russians who surely feel that time is in their
favor. By the end of this year, they expect a hoped-for, more pacifistically
minded Democrat in the White House–regardless whether Clinton or Obama–may well
decide not to pursue NATO-enlargement and anti-missile-shield policies of her
or his predecessor.