GUEST POST: Russian Foreign Minister visits Poland

(This post is a contribution from long-time Murdoc pal, KB. KB is sort of MO’s Poland correspondent and has been invited to post from time to time on the goings on in Murdoc’s favorite European nation.)

The odds just increased infinitely that next time a Polish diplomat goes to Russia, the flag on display will “accidentally” not be Polish, and the assigned translator will feign having a difficult time understanding the Polish diplomats. (Believe me, she’ll understand every word that’s said.)

Polish diplomats made an important first step towards improving recently chilly relations with Russia this week, despite a series of diplomatic gaffes during the visit of Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

The foreign ministry turned out in force to meet Lavrov at an official reception, but unfortunately mistakenly set out a Czech flag instead of Russian one to greet him. Translation of the live press conference also slipped into farce, with one translator admitting she didn’t understand what Lavrov had said and making a series of errors before being replaced. However, despite the hiccups, the verdict was generally positive.

[Russian Tensions Ease, New Warsaw Express, Steven Muller, October 6, 2006, Issue 40 (215)]

Poland is actively working on improving its foreign relations. As I commented on MO last month “there are some new diplomatic moves taking place now to improve their foreign status.” It’s good to see Russia and Poland making an effort, and hopefully relations can move beyond retaliation for past and present offenses and slights. It probably doesn’t do any good to continually track these things. Nevertheless, this will give you an idea of what current diplomats need to overcome “to improve ties, which have been unsettled ever since Poland joined NATO.”

The two countries have been at odds in recent years, bickering over oil and energy issues as well as what the Poles see as Russia’s failure to apologise appropriately for World War II atrocities and recognize Poland’s role in the war.

President Vladimir Putin deliberately snubbed (Polish President Lech) Kaczynski’s predecessor, Aleksander Kwasniewski, during a visit to Moscow two years ago.

Influenced by his anti-communist origins, Kaczynski has also said he would not travel to Russia to meet, but Krawczyk said a summit between the two leaders was now not more than a few months away.

[Russian Tensions Ease, New Warsaw Express, Steven Muller, October 6, 2006, Issue 40 (215)]

Mr. Kwaƛniewski Goes to Moscow paints a picture of the tension during the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II, held in 2005 in Russia.

Relations were also uneasy due to Poland’s intervention in last year’s presidential elections in Ukraine, won by pro-Western opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko.

Street violence against the children of Russian diplomats in Warsaw and Polish diplomats and a journalist in Moscow over the summer also strained ties between the two capitals, the AP reports.

Russia and Poland seeking to improve ties

Another source of current strain has been Russia and Germany’s plans to build a gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea, which would bypass Poland. This was brought up during Lavrov’s visit to Warsaw and apparently the Russians promised to not cut off supplies to Poland in the future, like they did in Ukraine for a period last winter.

Finally, since this is Murdoc Online, we better get to the story about missiles. Lavrov pays visit to Poland and Russia Warns US On Placing Missile Defenses In Poland reveal that one of the topics during the visit was the U.S. plans to develop a missile defense system in Poland and across Europe. I’m not up-to-date on the full extent of the plans, but apparently Russia has some apprehensions. At least this will give Poland and Russia something new to discuss during their newfound attempts to draw closer.

Here are a couple of photos of Lavrov’s Warsaw visit and their captions.


Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, right, meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, left, in Warsaw, Poland on Thursday, Oct. 5, 2006. Russia’s foreign minister insisted that Poland’s decision about whether to host a U.S. missile defense site must be “transparent and understandable,” he said after a meeting with his Polish counterpart Thursday. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)


Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks to the press after talks with his Polish counterpart Anna Fotyga in Warsaw, Poland, on Thursday, Oct. 5, 2006. Lavrov’s visit to Poland comes amid tension between the neighbors following warnings by Moscow of unspecified consequences if Warsaw decides to host a U.S. missile defense site. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)


  1. No, it’s not ‘G’, but a couple of years ago when we lived in Russia and we were having kids I was planning to give my son a middle name like Glen or something to set him up with those initials. Alas, we only had girls, and the first names we picked out didn’t start with K. Getting visas there was always fun, so I thought having a kid with those initials would have been a good way to test how thorough they go through those applications.