News / Europe

Medvedev's Visit Signals Warming Relations with Poland

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (L) and Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski during a meeting with public in Warsaw, Poland, 06 Dec 2010
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (L) and Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski during a meeting with public in Warsaw, Poland, 06 Dec 2010

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was in Poland this week for a two-day visit. The event has been heralded as a sign of improving relations on both sides.

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev arrived in Warsaw, Poland earlier this week in an atmosphere of warming relations between the two countries. He was the first Russian president to visit Poland in eight years.

Medvedev signed a series of economic agreements with Poland, but he also met with Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski and Prime Minister Donald Tusk to discuss some more sensitive issues. One of them was the investigation into the plane crash last April that killed Polish president Lech Kaczynski and 95 others, which happened just outside the Russian town of Smolensk.

Medvedev's entourage was met by several dozen protesters holding placards that read "Smolensk: We Want the Truth." There is still a right-wing faction in Poland that believes the plane crash was a Russian conspiracy. But Wojciech Borodzicz-Smolinski of the Warsaw-based Center for International Relations explains that for the most part, the Smolensk crash actually improved relations between the two countries.

"This significant change took place just after the Smolensk tragedy. We as Poles saw on TV the feelings that were shown by the Russian politicians and the Russians themselves, and that significantly changed the climate between our two countries," he said. "We still have problems, but it is easier to talk about them if you know that your partner is a real human being."

Relations between Poland and Russia have been frosty since the Soviet empire collapsed in 1989, and Poland's previous president, Lech Kaczynski, was openly hostile toward Russia. But Polish politics have changed in recent years, and the current administration has taken a more conciliatory stance.

Candles, flowers and Polish flags mark gravestones of Polish officers killed 70 years ago by Soviet secret police in the Katyn massacre, during commemorating events in Kharkiv, Ukraine (File)
Candles, flowers and Polish flags mark gravestones of Polish officers killed 70 years ago by Soviet secret police in the Katyn massacre, during commemorating events in Kharkiv, Ukraine (File)

Last month, Poland welcomed a declaration by the lower house of the Russian parliament, the Duma, regarding the 1940 massacre of over 20,000 Polish officers in the forest of Katyn. For the first time, the Duma officially admitted that the killings were carried out under the direct orders of Josef Stalin. For years Russia had claimed that the Nazis were responsible for the massacre, which has long been a sensitive issue for Poland.

At a press conference on Monday, Mr Komorowski said that the Duma's declaration was very important. This is not only a new chapter in Polish-Russian relations, but a good chapter, he said.

But while Poland may have been concerned about history, Russia made no attempt to hide its economic interests.

At the same press conference, Medvedev emphasized that Russian companies were interested in investing in Poland. Russia wants to develop open, friendly relations with Europe, he said, especially with those countries connected to Russia's gas pipeline.

Borodzicz-Smolinski says that although Russian companies are already active in Europe, smoothing ruffled feathers in Poland could be crucial if Russia wants to take the economic relationship to the next level.

"For Russians, it is important for their international policy to have good relations with Poland, because they understand that Poland is an important actor in the European Union," said Borodzicz-Smolinski. "Russians know that if they do not solve problems with Poland, it will be hard to have some achievements on the EU market. Russia needs political recognition as a real partner. Having unsolved problems, even historical problems, Russia cannot act as a partner of the whole EU."

In this respect, he adds, Medvedev could be a more effective ambassador for his country than was his predecessor, Vladimir Putin.

"He does not have any KGB past, and he is a well-educated lawyer. This is why Mr. Medvedev has more of a chance to become a kind of partner or colleague of the EU. He is somehow representing the new face of Russia," he said.

Medvedev's visit also happened to coincide with WikiLeaks' revelation that NATO had been drawing up plans to defend Poland and the Baltic states from a possible Russian attack. Russia responded that NATO was wrong to think of it as an enemy. Medvedev, at least, hopes that his visit to Poland will help build a little more trust between his country and Europe.

You May Like

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid