Georgian-Russian conflict: Poland’s concerns with Russia

The Geor­gian-Russ­ian con­flict was care­ful­ly observed in Poland and arouse keen inter­est among politi­cians, polit­i­cal com­men­ta­tors, the pub­lic opin­ion and media, who in turn were fol­low­ing with deep inter­est the EU reac­tion and in par­tic­u­lar the posi­tion of the French Presidency.

In the opin­ion of both the soci­ety and the politi­cians, one can observe the con­vic­tion that Russia’s actions towards Geor­gia not only con­sti­tutes threat for Geor­gian sov­er­eign­ty, but also marks the begin­ning of the wider-scale Russ­ian offen­sive meant to sub­or­di­nate for­mer Sovi­et republics and the entire area of the for­mer Sovi­et Block. This con­flict has been seen as an impor­tant fac­tor for the future devel­op­ment of EU-Russ­ian rela­tions, the Euro­pean Neigh­bour­hood Pol­i­cy, as well as EU and NATO enlarge­ment to the East.

One can observe a cer­tain cor­re­spon­dence between these opin­ions – regard­less of polit­i­cal option – as well as some, yet minor dif­fer­ences – regard­ing more or less dras­tic sanc­tions against Rus­sia. We can observe a com­mon under­stand­ing about the neces­si­ty of Geor­gia being accept­ed as a mem­ber of the EU and NATO, but also there is an agree­ment about the fact that the per­spec­tive of mem­ber­ship in both orga­ni­za­tions may be delayed due to the Russ­ian-Geor­gian con­flict in the sit­u­a­tion of lack of will on the side of the West­ern mem­bers of both organizations.

Government position

After the inci­dent on the Geor­gian bor­der with par­tic­i­pa­tion of the Pol­ish Pres­i­dent Lech Kaczyn­s­ki, the Min­is­ter of For­eign Affairs, Radosław Siko­rs­ki – con­clud­ed that “this fact should not how­ev­er mean that the EU-Rus­sia talks regard­ing new coop­er­a­tion agree­ment should be blocked. This is not in Poland’s interest”.[1]

On 13 Sep­tem­ber 2008, dur­ing the Con­fer­ence What Europe for Chris­tian­i­ty? What Chris­tian­i­ty for Europe?, Władys­law Bar­toszews­ki, Prime Min­is­ter plenipo­ten­tiary for inter­na­tion­al dia­logue, stat­ed that in his view, the main chal­lenges fac­ing the EU are: striv­ing for increase of wel­fare and secu­ri­ty for the cit­i­zens as well as the com­mu­ni­ty enlarge­ment strategy.[2]

In the opin­ion of the Pol­ish gov­ern­ment, Europe should try to bring the East­ern neigh­bours clos­er to the EU (among oth­ers via “Orga­ni­za­tion for Democ­ra­cy and Eco­nom­ic Devel­op­ment” (GUAM)), which could con­sti­tute an “alter­na­tive for Russ­ian pro­pos­als […] Poland would like to see time­ly imple­men­ta­tion of the East­ern Part­ner­ship con­cept”. Poland stands on the posi­tion that the Coun­cil should insti­gate the Euro­pean Com­mit­tee to work out the con­crete projects with­in the Part­ner­ship. Prime Min­is­ter Tusk sup­port­ed the idea of con­clud­ing an asso­ci­a­tion agree­ment with Georgia.[3]

Experts opinions

Accord­ing to the Pol­ish Press Agency on 4 Decem­ber 2008, an inde­pen­dent Pol­ish mem­ber of the par­lia­ment, for­mer Pres­i­dent of the Sejm[4] For­eign Affairs Com­mit­tee, Pawel Zalews­ki, stressed that the key to solv­ing the polit­i­cal Russ­ian-Geor­gian con­flict lies in Europe and that “cur­rent EU pol­i­cy vis-à-vis Rus­sia will cer­tain­ly not be shape as before the conflict”.[5]

Media

The Pol­ish press not­ed that dur­ing the NATO Sum­mit in Brus­sels on 19 August 2008, the min­is­ters lim­it­ed their activ­i­ties only to the pre­sen­ta­tion of sol­i­dar­i­ty ges­tures towards Geor­gia in rela­tion with the Russ­ian-Geor­gian con­flict. There was no dec­la­ra­tion on future mem­ber­ship of Geor­gia and Ukraine in the NATO[6]. The same tone of skep­ti­cism with some under­tones of com­plaint could be heard regard­ing the posi­tion of the EU vis-à-vis Geor­gia. The pub­li­cist of “Tygod­nik Powszech­ny” week­ly expressed the opin­ion that “the Union does not have today a pol­i­cy vis-à-vis Rus­sia”, while one of the goals – suc­cess­ful­ly attained — of the Russ­ian aggres­sion against Geor­gia was to block Geor­gian aspi­ra­tions to become a mem­ber of NATO and EU.[7]

After the sum­mit, a com­men­ta­tor from “Gaze­ta Wybor­cza”, dai­ly stat­ed that Poland should be “a guardian” of NATO’s pledge of entry to the alliance “one day” and the “East­ern conscience”.

 

 

 

[1] Euro­pean Ser­vice by Pol­ish Press Agency PAP, 14 Novem­ber 2008, avail­able at: www.europap.com.pl (last access: 25 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[2] Euro­pean Ser­vice by Pol­ish Press Agency PAP, 13 Sep­tem­ber 2008, avail­able at: www.europap.com.pl (last access: 25 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[3] Brus­sels, Sum­mit on Geor­gia, 1 Sep­tem­ber 2008, avail­able at: www.europap.com.pl (last access: 25 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[4] low­er house of the Pol­ish Parliament
[5] Euro­pean Ser­vice by Pol­ish Press Agency PAP, 14 Decem­ber 2008, avail­able at: www.europap.com.pl (last access: 25 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[6] “Dzi­en­nik” Dai­ly on 20 August 2008.
[7] Woj­ciech Pieci­ak “Unia nie ma planu” [Union does not have a plan], “Tygod­nik Powszech­ny” Week­ly 20 August 2008.