Polish-Russian relations and implications for the Baltic region

  
Disclaimer: all opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EurActiv.com PLC.

In this commentary, STRATFOR analyst Marko Papic uses recent developments in Poland, Sweden and Russia to examine the evolving geopolitics of the Baltic region in 2011.

This analysis was authored by Marko Papic from global intelligence company STRATFOR.

''Only five days into 2011, events in Sweden, Poland and Russia indicate that the geopolitics of the region are evolving and that the area will be critical for European security and political issues in 2011.

Polish Ambassador to Russia Wojciech Zajaczkowski has called out the Nordstream underwater pipeline between Russia and Germany as well as the possibility of Russian tactical nukes being based in Kaliningrad as serious issues that Poland has problems with.

Zajaczkowski specifically said that Poland would look to diversify its energy supplies away from Russian natural gas, despite recently having signed a new expansive deal with Russian Gazprom for supplies of natural gas. Zajaczkowski also took issue with Nordstream, which should come online sometime this year, stating that it was unnecessary and a potential environmental catastrophe waiting to happen.

The statements from the Polish ambassador to Moscow come as news hits the wires that a senior Polish diplomat who was in charge of the Polish Embassy's political section in Moscow has resigned from the foreign ministry. Tomasz Turowski apparently lied at his hearing about his role as a spy for the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

The activities surrounding the Polish Embassy in Moscow come a time when the Polish-Russian relationship has essentially seen one of its apexes. Since the death of the former Polish President Lech Kaczynski in the Smolensk air disaster in April 2010, the Russian-Polish relationship has improved.

Kaczynski was essentially the last vestige of an anti-Russian foreign policy within the Polish government. He was replaced by Bronislaw Komorowski, and Komorowski launched a new relationship with Russia, calling Russia a potential strategic partner.

However, the basis for the Warsaw-Moscow rapprochement is essentially a set of constraints in Poland in terms of security. Poland, at this point, feels relatively isolated on the northern European plain. The US is involved in the Middle East and is not refocusing on the European continent. As such, Poland feels that it is essentially without any concrete security alliances that would allow it to be far more aggressive towards Russia.

The statements from the Polish ambassador to Moscow are therefore very telling, because they illustrate that the rapprochement could be a very temporary affair and that underneath the good relations between Warsaw and Moscow, Poland is looking for alternatives and is not simply rolling over to Russia.

This is why news from Stockholm that the Swedish parliamentary defence committee is reviewing the decision by France to sell Russia a Mistral-class warship is also very interesting in the context of the Baltic geopolitical field. The Swedish committee has forwarded Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt a written question as to whether the Swedish government intends to respond to the sale of the Mistral ship and also has suggested that a closer military alliance with Poland may be a way to go.

Thus far, Sweden and Poland have had a close diplomatic relationship in pushing on the Russian periphery but it has never moved past diplomacy. A concrete military or security arrangement between Poland and the most militarised non-NATO European state would be a significant move in the Baltic.''

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