Polish foreign minister visits Chicago

September 9, 2008 3:43:45 PM PDT
The foreign minister of Poland was in Chicago Tuesday. And his visit comes as tensions are increasing between Poland and Russia. The issue is an American missile system that Poland has agreed to place on its soil.

One of the reasons for the minister's visit was to mark the reopening of the Polish Consulate on North Lake Shore Drive. The landmark building has been renovated and expanded to serve Chicago's large Polish community.

Radoslaw Sikorski has a lot on his mind. When he returns to Poland, he'll be meeting with his Russian counterpart.

Russia is angry that Poland is allowing the United States to place a missile defense system in Poland. One Russian defense official said Poland was making itself a target.

"Russian generals have been threatening us with nuclear holocaust about once a quarter, and we hope the Russian government controls its generals," said Sikorski. "We control our generals in democracies. That kind of rhetoric is unhelpful, but we'll make our own decisions."

In Iraq, as the U.S. begins to reduce its troop strength. Poland is preparing to leave. Poland now has less than 1,000 troops in Iraq. And they'll be returning home next month.

"We've been in Iraq longer than U.S. was involved in the second world war. Iraq, I agree with you, seems to be on mend, whereas we need to change course in Afghanistan because there've been some worrying developments," Sikorski said.

And like the U.S., Poland is sending more of its troops to Afghanistan for a total of 1,600. The foreign minister says the key to success is removing insurgents from southern Afghanistan but leaving them no safe harbor in neighboring Pakistan.

"Pakistan should control its territory. And it's very difficult, and it would be a tough operation, but would certainly help our work in Afghanistan if it was done," Sikorski said.

On another trouble spot, Poland was especially concerned about Russia's military operation in Georgia because of Poland's own history of being invaded.

"We don't want to become a frontline state, we want, we'd prefer Russia to be a member of the broadly defined West. But it's really up to Russia to define its role in international relations.


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