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Poland claims 70% victory at NATO summit
By Robert Strybel, "The Polish Answer Man" Poland claims 70% victory at NATO summit

Poland claims 70% victory at NATO summit

By Robert Strybel, Our Warsaw Correspondent

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 Georgia, 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 and Georgia 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 1989, Poland 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.

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