Cablegate: Poland: A Natural U.S. Ally On Eastern Policy

DE RUEHWR #1409/01 3470645
O 120645Z DEC 08

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 WARSAW 001409



E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/06/2018

REF: A. STATE 111058
B. WARSAW 1010

Classified By: DCM Quanrud for reasons 1.4 (B) AND (D)

1. (S) SUMMARY: Like us, Poland seeks to draw key countries
on the eastern boundary of Europe, like Ukraine and Georgia,
towards Western institutions. An increasingly active regional
player, Poland has evolved since 1989 from aid-recipient to
donor, helping us to spur reforms in the region. Warsaw has
lead EU engagement with its eastern neighbors through the
joint Polish-Swedish Eastern Partnership proposal, which was
accelerated in the shadow of the Georgia crisis and is now
embedded in European Commission strategy. Yet growing
self-confidence and an historical distrust of Russia can
sometimes lead Poland to get too far out in front -- like
when the Poles transferred sensitive armaments to Georgia and
took a gamble by pushing through the sudden removal of most
EU sanctions against Belarus. Despite the occasional
overstepping, Poland's Eastern Policy is an excellent
complement to our own, and projects like the Eastern
Partnership merit our support. END SUMMARY.


2. (C) The Eastern Partnership -- a proposal championed by
Poland and Sweden to deepen EU relations with Ukraine,
Georgia, Moldova, Belarus, Armenia, and Azerbaijan --
embraces the central goals of Poland's increasingly active
regional policy:

-- Counter Russia's influence in Eastern Europe (although
Russia is officially welcome to take part in the Partnership);
-- Energize EU engagement with eastern neighbors in the
face of enlargement fatigue; and
-- Entice former Soviet states to embrace Western
democratic and free-market principles by offering tangible
benefits -- particularly a free trade area and eventual
visa-free travel.

3. (C) The Eastern Partnership and other Polish policies in
the region aim to counter a resurgent Russia. Foreign
Minister Sikorski told U.S. officials the GoP used to think
Russia would be a danger in 10-15 years, but after the
Georgia crisis, it could be as little as 10-15 months.
Polish analysts tell us having a pro-Western buffer zone in
Ukraine and Belarus would keep Poland off the front line with
an increasingly assertive Russia. By offering former Soviet
republics the prospect of free trade and visa-free travel to
the EU, the Eastern Partnership can spur the reforms needed
for eventual EU membership and stem growing Russian
influence. MFA officials note that the holder of a Russian
passport in Georgia currently faces fewer travel restrictions
in Europe than a holder of a Georgian passport. On the
economic front, Polish officials believe a larger western
business presence in countries like Belarus and Ukraine will
provide an alternative to Russian state-controlled companies,
and EU good governance programs can fight the corruption that
facilitates Russian political and economic influence.

4. (C) Convinced that the EU has greater leverage with Moscow
than do individual Member States, the Tusk Government has
shed the confrontational rhetoric of its predecessor and
sought to build coalitions among EU members. Foreign
Minister Sikorski developed the Eastern Partnership with
Swedish FM Bildt, and Polish and Swedish embassies in EU
capitals jointly lobbied other Member States to support the
package. EU colleagues in Warsaw praise the undertaking as a
real coming of age for Poland in the EU. Tusk has also
striven to improve relations with Germany, which the Polish
MFA hopes will bring more financial backing for the Eastern
Partnership. The Prime Minister struck a deal with Paris in
March 2008 to support French proposals on the EU's southern
dimension initiative in exchange for France's support for the

5. (C) Poland itself has evolved from aid recipient to
assistance provider, bilaterally allocating PLN 26 million
(USD 8.7 million) to Belarus and PLN 16 million (USD 5.3
million) to Ukraine in 2008. The aid will enhance
independent broadcasting media, border cooperation, public
administration, and people-to-people contacts. Poland has
also committed 6 million euro (USD 7.8 million) to Georgia
for the period 2008-2010. Robert Tyszkiewicz, the Deputy
Chair of the Sejm's Foreign Relations Committee, described
Poland's assistance as "modest, but useful and credible,
because we struggled with many of the same post-Communist
challenges." MFA officials have called for a high-level
strategic dialogue between Washington and Brussels -- with

WARSAW 00001409 002 OF 003

Polish participation -- on targeting assistance to eastern


6. (S) To complement increased EU engagement, Warsaw seeks to
bolster the U.S. and NATO security stance in Eastern Europe.
Polish officials perceive Russia's invasion of Georgia in
August as a vindication of their warnings about Moscow,s
aggressive behavior. According to the "Sikorski Doctrine,"
any further attempt by Russia to redraw borders by force or
subversion should be regarded by Europe as a threat to its
security, entailing a proportional response by the entire
Euro-Atlantic community. Poland has pushed hard for Ukraine
and Georgia's NATO accession, and called on NATO to make sure
it can make good on Article V guarantees. Sikorski has
complained that NATO has evolved into a political club with
no teeth and warned that Poland would not be able to ignore a
repetition of the Georgia scenario in Ukraine. He has also
told U.S. officials that, in light of Russian excesses in
Georgia, Poland's risky policy of arming the Georgians with
MANPADS proved the right thing to do despite USG objections
(Ref B).

7. (C) Poland's perennial concerns about the adequacy of its
Allies' security guarantees played a key role in the decision
to sign the Ballistic Missile Defense Agreement (BMDA) with
the U.S. The GoP wants US/NATO boots (and infrastructure) on
the ground so that the U.S. will feel obliged to defend
Poland's territorial sovereignty in the event of a conflict.
Immediately after Russia's invasion of Georgia, Tusk
emphasized Poland's sense of vulnerability when he asked
high-level U.S. officials, "Now do you see why we wanted the
Patriot missiles and further security guarantees (as
requested during the Missile Defense talks)?"


8. (C) The Polish government -- lead by Sikorski -- pushed
through the temporary repeal of almost all EU visa sanctions
against Belarusian President Lukashenka's regime, despite USG
calls for a more gradual easing of sanctions. Sikorski
publicly suggested the U.S. was engaging in double standards
because of our close relations with a "dictatorship in Saudi
Arabia, but not in Belarus." Both Sikorski and Tusk
acknowledge that the GoP risks being perceived as embracing a
dictator; but they argue that engaging Belarus is
particularly important after the Russian invasion of Georgia.
The Prime Minister and Foreign Minister told U.S. officials
in August that Poland is responding to Belarus' signals of
interest in dialogue, and, like the U.S., to the release of
political prisoners in Belarus.

9. (C) Tusk and Sikorski see engagement with Belarusian
authorities as the lesser of two evils. In the Poles' view,
an isolated Belarus could become completely ensnared by
Russia, with or without Lukashenka in power. Russian
domination would jeopardize democratic transformation and --
more importantly, in Warsaw's view -- would dash hopes that
Belarus could become a buffer state between Poland and
Russia. The GoP is betting that Lukashenka enjoys enough
power to resist the elimination of independent Belarusian
institutions and maintain his freedom of maneuver. MFA
officials tell us that in response to the lifting of EU visa
sanctions, Belarus has signaled Brussels that Minsk would
ease some media restrictions.


10. (C) MFA officials understand Poland's eastern policies
could elicit a sharp Russian reaction, but they see a greater
danger in doing nothing since they believe a resurgent,
aggressive Russia is here to stay. Poland has sought to
mitigate the risk of a backlash by maintaining a cordial
dialogue with Moscow and pursuing a united US-EU front
vis-a-vis Russia on sensitive energy and security issues.
President Lech Kaczynski, the Prime Minister's top political
rival, takes a more confrontational approach to Russia; he
often visits Georgia and makes pronouncements there without
coordinating with the government. To a certain extent,
Kaczynski's lurching east takes pressure off the Tusk
Government to be tough in public with Russia, but the two
leaders' divergent approaches could also hamper their ability
to achieve the shared goal of extending European and
trans-Atlantic institutions eastward.

11. (C) The Eastern Partnership competes for EU financing
with other projects, particularly the Union's Southern

WARSAW 00001409 003 OF 003

Initiative with Mediterranean countries. The European
Commission's Eastern Partnership proposal included a request
for 350 million euro in fresh funds for 2010-13, which was
much less than the 600 million euro sum originally proposed
by Poland and Sweden. In contrast to the Southern
Initiative, the Partnership lacks a high-level special
coordinator who can advocate on the program's behalf within
the EU bureaucracy. Polish MFA officials also point out that
the success of the program depends on identifying and
implementing credible projects.


12. (C) Poland can be a reliable ally as we looks for ways to
enhance western influence beyond NATO's eastern borders.
Russian President Medvedev's threat to deploy Iskander
missiles in Kaliningrad in response to the Missile Defense
program has redoubled Polish determination to work with the
U.S. and the EU to shore up its eastern neighbors as a
bulwark against Russian encroachment. It is also very much
in our interest to work closely with Warsaw, Brussels, and
the incoming Czech and Swedish EU presidencies to ensure the
Partnership's success in enhancing EU ties with its eastern

© Scoop Media

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