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The Warsaw Voice » Politics » September 17, 2008
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Lavrov in Poland
September 17, 2008   
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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said during a Sept. 11 visit to Poland that an interceptor missile base to be hosted here as part of the U.S. anti-missile shield is a threat to his country, but added Moscow did not see Warsaw itself as a threat. After talks that many observers said were conciliatory in tone, Lavrov's Polish counterpart Radosław Sikorski said "Poland and Russia are open to dialogue, even at a time of greater international tension."

Lavrov's visit was his first to an EU member state since the outbreak of the Russian-Georgian conflict Aug. 8. Poland staunchly backed Georgia, and Russian-Polish relations were further strained after Russia unilaterally recognized the independence of Georgia's breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions Aug. 25.

On the U.S. anti-missile shield, Lavrov said, "We have not changed our position." He added, "We do not see any threats from Poland but we do see an emerging risk from U.S. systems getting closer to our borders... We are waiting for the details of trust and transparency measures."

Lavrov refused to clarify recent threats from Russian generals who have been warning that accepting U.S. missiles would make Poland a target for Russian nuclear missiles, saying merely that "Our military have to take measures to safeguard the Russian Federation."

When asked about Poland's support for Georgia and Ukraine's NATO ambitions, Lavrov said that no country should be "artificially dragged into NATO" so as to avoid any risks of destabilizing security in Europe.

Sikorski responded, "We believe that being in NATO tends to have a soothing influence on relations with Russia-at least this has been the case with Poland." He added that Poland would continue to speak out in the EU and NATO on issues regarding its eastern neighbors, including Russia. "However, we want this to be balanced and grounded on reliable knowledge of the intentions and views of the Russian Federation."
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