Poland and Germany Show Kremlin No Wiggle Room (Gazeta Wyborcza,
"The Russians wanted the talks, as they feel the burden of
isolation that befell them after the annexation of Crimea and their stirring up
of eastern Ukraine. ... The object of this phase of the game was not to soften
or convince Lavrov. The ministers were there to keep the
channels of communication open. The most serious European crisis in years continues
to unfold in Ukraine. Russia’s behavior has resulted in condemnation and
anxiety, but NATO will not send troops to Ukraine - that much is certain."
when the chief diplomats of important countries meet, a discreetly situated,
elegant mansion is chosen as a venue. In beautiful St. Petersburg there is no
shortage of such places. Yet when Polish and German Foreign Ministers RadosławSikorski and Frank-Walter Steinmeier spoke with their Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov,
they did so in an ordinary downtown hotel.
Russians wanted the talks, as they feel the burden of isolation that befell
them after the annexation of Crimea and their stirring up of eastern Ukraine. Yet
even before their planes took off for St. Petersburg, it was clear that Sikorski and Steinmeier wouldn't
win them over to the European Union's point of view.
Lavrov regaled them with the same propaganda the
Kremlin has been pedaling for weeks. That in February, a coup took place in
Ukraine, that the Crimea annexation was in accord with international law, that Russia
has nothing to do with the situation in eastern Ukraine, that Kiev has to agree
to a federalization of the country, and that sending the Ukrainian army against
Russian mercenaries in Sloviansk or Lugansk was "a crime against the nation."
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier,
Minister Sergei Lavrov, Poland Foreign
Their meeting was no love in, but it kept the lines of
open, and Poland and Germany showed Lavrov
that from east to west,
Europe remains united in condemning Russian activity in Ukraine.
he's watching too much Russian television?" wondered one of the diplomats.
were some positive signals at the conference: Sergey Lavrov
spoke of cooperation with the new Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, when before, Russia was adamant it wouldn't
recognize his young government.
object of this phase of the game was not to soften or convince Lavrov. The ministers were there to keep the channels of
communication open. The most serious European crisis in years continues to
unfold in Ukraine. Russia’s behavior has resulted in condemnation and anxiety,
but NATO will not send troops to Ukraine - that much is certain. The crisis can
only be resolved through diplomacy, and so it is imperative to talk to Russia.
Kaliningrad Triangle [three-way
German-Polish-Russian talks] is a good formul for
negotiation, since in addition to Russia, it is comprised of old Europe's most
important country and new Europe's as well. Russians have accepted the notion
that within this group, peace in Ukraine can be discussed.
politicians went to Russia in order to send a clear signal to their European
colleagues. Sikorski showed that Poland is not a Russophobic country. Russian propaganda has been persistently
tried to depict it us as such. The fact that right now, reports are appearing about
Polish mercenaries taken prisoner in eastern Ukraine, is no accident.
Sikorski didn't use an accusatory tone. He
seemed preoccupied about the fate of Ukraine - and also Russia. He wanted to
show the world that Poles, while condemning the Kremlin for its aggression
against its neighbor, are ready for an honest dialogue with Russia. It isn't
Warsaw pouring fuel on that fire.
Steinmeier assured [his Polish colleague] that Germany
won't talk to Russia over the heads of its neighbors, as for example, during
the construction of the Nord
Stream gas pipeline. By meeting Lavrov in the company
of a Polish minister, Steinmeier is sending a message
that on the subject of Russia, Europe will continue to speak with one voice.
is also a message to the Russians that despite pro-Russia lobbying in Germany
by politicians friendly to the Kremlin, Berlin will not break with the European
choir. Moreover, it is a sign that Germany and Poland have convergent positions.
Steinmeier, architect of German-Russian rapprochement
during the reign of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, is
today as sharp a critic of the Kremlin as his Polish colleague. The difference
lies in how to punish Russia: Poland wants severe penalties, while Germany wants
more time to talk.
to Russia is politically risky for both ministers. Steinmeier
has for months been at odds with other members of his party, the Social
Democratic Party, in which the so called "those who understand Russia"
have a lot of influence. Those extremely pro-Russia activists, citing the
authority of former Chancellors Helmut Schmidt and Gerhard Schröder
- who while in office maintained warm relations with Russia, want teh European Union to give Russia a free hand.
flying to St. Petersburg, Steinmeier won't win any
points with his party. Sikorski, for his part, will
likely be called a traitor by the Polish right, since, as they all seem to know,
only traitors meet with the Russians.