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Polish Minister Wants To See Russia In NATO

Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski (file photo)

Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski (file photo)

WARSAW (Reuters) -- Russia should be allowed to join NATO one day if it meets the conditions for membership, Poland's foreign minister has been quoted as saying.

"We need Russia for the resolution of European and global problems. That is why I think it would be good for Russia to join NATO," said Radoslaw Sikorski, a conservative who has often taken a critical stance on Russia.

"This would require not only the democratization of [Russia's] system but also the introduction of civilian control over the army and the need to calm border disputes," he was quoted by the "Gazeta Wyborcza" daily as saying.

Sikorski said his remarks should be seen in the context of NATO's "open door" policy and that Moscow had sent no signals of wanting to join. Most Russians still view NATO with deep distrust two decades after the end of the Cold War.

"We care about the democratization of Russia, about making that country fully predictable, about changing her attitude to her neighbors. [NATO membership] would mean increasing the security of Poland and of the whole world," Sikorski said.

Polish commentators say Sikorski has moderated his tone on Russia since becoming foreign minister in 2007, partly because of strong trade ties between the two countries and more recently because they say he wants to be NATO's next secretary-general.

NATO may choose a new secretary-general to replace Dutchman Jaap de Hoop Scheffer as early as this week, though diplomats say Turkey's resistance to the front-runner candidate, Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, could force some delay.

Sikorski, named months ago by Prime Minister Donald Tusk as Poland's candidate for the job, is perceived, especially by Germany and France, as too anti-Russian at a time when the alliance is keen to rebuild battered ties with Moscow.

Poland, dominated by its huge neighbor for long periods of its history, has infuriated Russia by agreeing to host elements of a U.S. global missile-defense system on its soil and also by strongly backing NATO membership for Georgia and Ukraine.