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Donald Tusk on Russia

In his interview with the Financial Times, Poland’s soft spoken Prime Minister Donald Tusk discusses the difficulties he has faced in improving ties with Russia, and the nature of the challenge posed by Moscow, insisting that he holds no anti-Russia obsession – something he says is well received in Brussels.

FT: What have been your biggest failures?

DT:I don’t feel a sense of failure in any area, because we are only aquarter way through our term … For me a personal disappointment hasbeen the flagrant presidential vetoes in key areas of reform for thiscoalition. We have not been able to work out a good formula forcooperating with the opposition and the president. Those political,rather than substantive vetoes in large measure limit the possibilitythe chance for fast reforms. A second area is the constant negotiationsover the climate change proposal … My predecessors were not careful andaccepted a framework which does not recognise the specifics of thePolish economy. Repairing the mistakes of the previous coalition willstill take some time. I am also disheartened by problems in the processof improving Polish-Russian ties, mainly because of the conflict in theCaucasus. We showed a lot of good will and Russia also appearedinterested in improving ties with Poland, which means with the wholeUnion. My meetings with Putin and Medvedev showed a good direction.However, the crisis in the Caucasus definitively showed that thisprocess will not be easy.

FT: Does Russia pose a danger to Poland?

DT:I try to think of Russia as a potentially positive partner for Polandand the EU. However, is Russia ready for such a positive symbiosis?Sometimes I think there is an improvement and sometimes we see a worseside of Russia.

FT: How are Poland’s ideas for Russia received in Brussels?

DT:I get the impression from European capitals that there is a clearexpectation that Poland play the role of a leader in the positivechange of European-Russian relations, and that is the policy we aretrying to follow. We don’t have any particular illusions about Russiaand I think we see her rationally. I am one of the politicians who doesnot have an anti-Russian obsession. In Brussels and in many Europeancapitals this change in Warsaw’s approach was treated very well, evenwith relief.