Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 39

Despite a recent rise in tensions between the two countries, Polish president Alexander Kwasniewski has accepted an invitation from Russian president Boris Yeltsin to visit Moscow in April, Kwasniewski’s foreign office announced yesterday. (6) The visit, which is expected to be a difficult one, follows last month’s spy furor that led to the resignation of former prime minister Jozef Oleksy and precedes Russia’s presidential election. The major topic of discussion during Kwasniewski’s visit is expected to be NATO expansion, but the talks are unlikely to produce much common ground. Kwasniewski said he would try to convince Moscow that expansion poses no threat to Russia.

Poland has been among the former Warsaw Pact nations most anxious to join the western alliance, and some in Warsaw have speculated that Moscow orchestrated the Oleksy affair in order to discredit Poland in the eyes of NATO leaders. U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke assured Poland during a visit to Warsaw February 7 that its application for membership was on track. (See Monitor, February 9) A day later, Polish foreign minister Dariusz Rosati emphasized anew that membership in NATO and the European Union remained a priority for Poland, but that improving relations with neighboring states, including Russia, was also of paramount importance. (7) More recently Rosati dismissed media speculation following German chancellor Helmut Kohl’s visit to Moscow that Bonn had retreated from its previous support for enlargement. Rosati said February 21 that a presidential victory by Communist party leader Gennady Zyuganov in June would probably not fundamentally alter Moscow’s opposition to NATO expansion but that Russia, in need of western economic support, would ultimately have to accept it. (8)