Polish Pipeline Plea Ignored

ria-novostiMedvedev greeting Tusk during their meeting in the Kremlin on Friday.
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said Friday that he had failed to talk Russia out of its plan to build a gas pipeline to Germany bypassing his nation.

Tusk, seeking to thaw ties, also said Russia -- albeit without enthusiasm -- had accepted Poland's right to host a U.S. missile shield.

"The most important thing for me was a very tough declaration by all of my Russian partners that Nord Stream will not negatively affect gas supplies for Poland, and that the Amber [pipeline] might in the future be interesting for Russia," Tusk told Polish journalists before leaving Moscow.

"But when you ask me if I managed to talk Russians out of the Nord Stream project, then the answer is 'no.'"

Apart from environmental concerns about the pipeline, which will run along the Baltic seabed, Warsaw fears Nord Stream bypassing its territory would enable Russia to cut off crucial gas supplies while continuing to deliver to Western Europe.

Critical of Nord Stream also for its estimated high transportation costs, Poland backs the proposed Amber land pipeline stretching across the Baltic countries.

But meeting Tusk on Friday morning, First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov said Nord Stream was "a project on a European scale and it is aimed at energy security for the entire continent.

"We have to see this project through to its logical conclusion," Zubkov said.

Tusk later met with President Vladimir Putin and his likely successor, Dmitry Medvedev, in the highest-level contacts between the countries since 2004. Ties have been rocky for years, but under the previous Polish government they hit a new low.

Disputes over the missile shield, the Nord Stream gas pipeline project and a Polish veto on the start of talks on a strategic partnership pact between Russia and the European Union have all helped sour relations.

"I would not over dramatize problems in our relations," Putin said during a meeting with Tusk. "By restoring cooperation and dialogue, we will be able to find a way out of any problem."

Poland is in talks with the U.S. government over stationing elements of a planned missile defense shield on Polish soil. Russia says the shield is a threat to its national security.

"President Putin is not an enthusiast of this project but he obviously accepted Poland's right to decide about what and whose installations we will host on our soil," Tusk told Polish media. "He expressed expectations to monitor to what extent the shield installations are turned against Russia.

"We know that the United States and the Czech Republic do not exclude some kind of Russian presence. There is a feeling of negotiations on this. The Polish government, however, will not agree to a permanent presence of third-country military at the base."

Tusk said Warsaw was ready for a "long conversation" with Moscow on lifting Poland's veto on the EU-Russia talks.

"Our outlook is that we will quickly reach an agreement that would enable us to lift the veto."

Tusk said he was deeply impressed during his visit to Moscow -- his first ever. "All difficult Polish-Russian relations stood in front of my eyes by the Kremlin gates."