by Bartosz T. Wielinski and Jacek Pawlicki

Gazeta Wyborcza website
Sept 1 2008
Warsaw, Poland

[Prime Minister Donald] Tusk and Chancellor [Angela] Merkel have
reached a deal: the EU is to build its footholds in the Caucasus. "It's
the best possible response to Russia's doings in the region,"
diplomats say.

The best reaction to Russia's doings in the region will be the EU's
strong entrance to the former Soviet republics considered by Russia
its exclusive zone of influence. Nothing will hurt Russia more than
being squeezed out from that field, diplomats say.

"Poland and Germany have drawn conclusions from the strife over the
war in Iraq. Those divisions must not repeat themselves," a German
diplomat says.

During the last couple of days Mr Tusk and Ms Merkel talked on
the phone several times. "Ms Merkel suggested to activate Eastern
Partnership, the Polish-proposed eastern policy strategy adopted
by the EU in June. According to the Germans, it perfectly fits the
situation," a Polish diplomat says.

Within the Eastern Partnership framework, the EU is to support the
modernisation and democratisation of Ukraine, Moldova, Azerbaijan,
Armenia, Georgia, and conditionally, Belarus. Today the programme
could be use to aid Georgia's reconstruction effort.

These arrangements mean, Gazeta's sources believe, that Germany has
changed its view on the war in Georgia - until now it seemed that,
like Paris, Berlin would confine itself to condemning the presence
of Russian troops in Georgia and categorically opposing Moscow's
recognition of the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Poland also wants for Ukraine to be granted special political
guarantees on its future NATO membership, as well as military
ones. Tusk spoke about that with his Ukrainian counterpart Yuliya
Tymoshenko Saturday [30 August].

Poland is also to propose at the EU's upcoming summit in Brussels
for the EU to tighten its cooperation with Azerbaijan - the major oil
producer can be the next target of Russia's policy of consolidating
its zone of influence.

"The idea is to use Eastern Partnership to pull Azerbaijan out of
the Russian zone," a member of the Polish delegation told Gazeta.

"This is a breakthrough. The Germans have admitted for the first
time that we are better versed in what's going on beyond the EU's
eastern border. Earlier the talk was chiefly of Warsaw's anti-Russian
phobias," Polish diplomats say. "Something has happened that we long
postulated. The two countries will permanently anchor Europe in the
east," German officials add.

"Since the outbreak of the war we've been in constant touch,
exchanging information, calling the European capitals," a Polish
diplomat says. Warsaw intervened when, following the Russian invasion
of Georgia, German Deputy Foreign Minister Gernot Erler said he
understood the Russians and blamed the Georgians. Berlin eventually
backtracked from those words.

Most recently, Chancellor Merkel asked Donald Tusk to call Italian
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to help change Rome's pro-Russian

The EU leaders are unlikely to raise sanctions against Russia at the
Brussels summit. Poland will certainly not call for them. Mr Tusk
says in his interview for Newsweek, published today, "We don't want
a situation where Poland has the worst relations with Russia of all
the EU member states."

Instead, Tusk will urge the EU to build a common energy policy and
diversify its energy supplies so that no more than 30 per cent of
the given commodity is supplied by a single country. Today the EU's
dependence on Russian oil and gas is heavier than that.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress