Polish Foreign Minister on Ukraine, Georgia and Russia

Voice of America’s Ukrainian service spoke with Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykovsky about the Ukraine crisis and its impact on the Eastern Partnership countries.

Does the US and the world understand the crisis in Ukraine correctly? What did you discuss in your recent meeting with the US administration?

Of major concern is security in our part of Europe because of the crisis in Ukraine and the Russian aggression there. We hope the answer from NATO will be an increase in the security status of its Eastern flank, by which I mean the countries of Poland, the Baltics, Romania, and Slovakia through security provided by the deployment of NATO troops as well as through defense facilities. These were the issues under discussion, alongside the question of how to implement the decisions reached at the defense ministers’ meeting in Brussels a few days prior and of NATO’s increased presence in the East.

There is widespread thinking in the expert community that NATO is not ready to “fight” Russia, and that Russia has been building military capabilities for a long time. Do you think NATO is ready to go against Russia?

It’s not necessary to fight Russia- no one wants to fight Russia, nobody is building a defense. This is a security measure and a precaution that will discourage Russia from further aggression, this military presence and forward deployment is a deterrence measure to avoid military conflict with Russia.

Georgia and Ukraine say they want membership of NATO. What’s the Polish view on NATO expansion?

It’s another main topic for the Warsaw Summit- not just troop deployment but keeping its doors open. I hope the message will be clear and sound in Warsaw that those who want to join will be able to join in the future. There is no veto power of third countries to NATO membership and to the ambitions of Ukraine and Georgia to join.

Georgia wants to get assurances in Warsaw. Do you think Georgia is ready for NATO?

I hope the NATO Summit in Warsaw will provide additional mechanisms. The doors to NATO are supposed to be open. Eastern and Central Europeans are working hard to issue a strong message to Georgia during the Summit.

How serious is the threat of the Russian-Ukraine crisis to Polish security?

Our message is very straightforward in our view: we see clear aggression in Ukraine, annexation in Crimea, and open intervention in Donbas, where Russia sends troops, weapons, and rebels. We are supporting countries in the West that keep pressure on Russia to stop and to solve the conflict in a peaceful way. We hope that the Minsk 2 Agreement will be implemented in the next few months and that Russia’s deteriorating economy and falling oil prices will push Russia to better cooperate.

From VoA Ukraine Bureau

22 February 2016 20:17