Reuters Edge

NATO dispute hangs over EU-Russia talks: Poland

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland will hesitate to lift its veto on European Union’s partnership talks with Russia until big EU powers agree to put Georgia and Ukraine on a clear path to join NATO, Polish President Lech Kaczynski said on Wednesday.

A NATO summit last week agreed a hard-fought compromise under which it declared the two ex-Soviet nations could join the alliance one day but refused their plea for a plan for entry, the so-called Membership Action Plan (MAP).

Kaczynski hailed the compromise but said it showed some EU nations allowed Russia, which warned the West against admitting the two, to wield a de facto veto power over who joins NATO.

“Only not fully politically informed people would think that what happened with the MAP (for Ukraine and Georgia) had nothing to do with Russia’s opposition,” Kaczynski told Reuters in an interview.

At the summit, the United States and ex-Soviet satellites in central Europe backed the MAP for Ukraine and Georgia, while Germany and France led the opponents.

Kaczynski said the issue of NATO membership for countries that once were part of the Soviet Union was linked with a wider debate about the EU’s strategic partnership with Russia. Most EU nations are also members of the military alliance.

“I must tie these two issues together even though I would prefer not to,” he said.

Asked if Poland, which blocked EU-Russia talks in 2006 due to a now resolved trade dispute, would lift the veto to reassure Moscow and its next president, Dmitry Medvedev, Kaczynski said:

“We certainly should talk, we certainly should build atmosphere in which mistrust is reduced. But whether the strategic (EU-Russia) talks can be unblocked in the near future is another matter.

“I would first like to know how the issue of MAP for Ukraine and Georgia is going to be resolved.”

He said Poland would press Ukraine’s and Georgia’s case with Germany and France. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who will lead the EU from June, visits Warsaw for talks with Kaczynski and Prime Minister Donald Tusk on April 23.


Kaczynski said the summit’s outcome made him optimistic NATO would grant Ukraine and Georgia the roadmap to membership when the issue is reviewed by the alliance in December.

“I hope that Germany can be persuaded,” he said, adding Chancellor Angela Merkel played a pivotal role in forging the compromise at the summit.

He said when both camps seemed entrenched in their positions, Merkel walked over to a group of mostly central European leaders as they huddled up in a corner for an informal chat on how to press on their side of the argument.

The group was then joined by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, he said, for what proved to be a breakthrough.

“We relatively quickly managed to significantly improve the original communique,” Kaczynski said.

Asked to comment on suggestions by some Western analysts that Russia was the only victor of the summit because it delayed Ukraine’s and Georgia’s entry indefinitely, Kaczynski said:

“We achieved a clear opening of NATO perspective for Georgia and Ukraine -- if this is what Russia was aiming for, then it is her victory indeed.”

Writing by Adam Jasser, editing by Mary Gabriel