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Viewing cable 08WARSAW1409, POLAND: A NATURAL U.S. ALLY ON EASTERN POLICY

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08WARSAW1409 2008-12-12 06:06 2010-12-06 21:09 SECRET Embassy Warsaw
VZCZCXRO4450
OO RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV
DE RUEHWR #1409/01 3470645
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 120645Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY WARSAW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7485
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 WARSAW 001409 

SIPDIS 

EUR/CE FOR MORRIS, PIERANGELO 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/06/2018 
TAGS: PREL PHUM PGOV BO GG UP RS PL
SUBJECT: POLAND: A NATURAL U.S. ALLY ON EASTERN POLICY 

REF: A. STATE 111058 
B. WARSAW 1010 
C. STOCKHOLM 792 

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. 

STRATEGY BEHIND EASTERN PARTNERSHIP 
----------------------------------- 

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 
Partnership. 

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 
neighbors. 

STRENGTHENING THE NATIONAL SECURITY UMBRELLA 
-------------------------------------------- 

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)?" 

RUSH TO REDUCE MINSK SANCTIONS 
------------------------------ 

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. 

CHALLENGES AHEAD 
---------------- 

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. 

HELPING THE EASTERN PARTNERSHIP SUCCEED 
--------------------------------------- 

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 
neighborhood. 
ASHE