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The Warsaw Voice » Comments » February 20, 2008
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From the news editor
February 20, 2008   
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Polish-Russian relations have been far from good these past few years and so Prime Minister Donald Tusk's recent trip to Moscow was viewed with both anticipation and trepidation. Tusk is the first Polish head of government to visit the Kremlin since the fall of 2002.

Quite a few political pundits have been saying that a resurgent, assertive Russia has Poland in its sights and that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his inner circle have been deploying the country's economic muscle to achieve their political ends. The Nordstream natural gas pipeline, which Russia and Germany want to build under the Baltic Sea, bypassing Poland and the Baltic States, is a prime example. Moscow is also vocally objecting to parts of the U.S. anti-missile shield being located in Poland and the Czech Republic, two former Soviet satellites. Russia has even resorted to military threats. Tusk discussed such issues with senior Russian politicians including Putin himself. While he didn't come away with anything concrete, most politicians concur that he has reopened the dialogue the previous government had shut down for two years.

Long-range economic forecasters are saying that natural gas will remain a strategically important energy source in Europe for decades. Gas pipelines will therefore become pivotal to Central European infrastructure. This goes some way to explaining the controversy over Nordstream, which several Central European countries, including Poland, perceive as a threat to their national interests. The use of natural gas as a primary energy source in Poland is only half the EU average and only one household in two is connected to the network. But sales have been increasing 3 percent per annum over the last 11 years and this is expected to rise to 5 percent until 2020. This explains the ongoing debate on gas technology and the political dimensions of purchasing gas.
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