“Sikorski has caught the swine flu, and the complications of the disease have affected the minister at the weakest spot – the head”. This is how insultingly Sovetskaja Belorusija, the daily newspaper controlled by the administration of the Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, described the Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs Radosław Sikorski. It was Lukashenko’s response to Sikorski’s thoughts, which he expressed last week, that sooner or later the sitting President of Belarus will have to run away from the citizens of his own country and seek safety in much lower-ranking states, writes Evaldas Labanauskas in Vilniaus diena daily on 10 February.
Perhaps some people in Lithuania would gladly react in a similar manner to Sikorski’s statements about the situation of Lithuanian Poles and their purportedly infringed rights. However, they, just like Sovetskaja Belorusija, are mistaken: Sikorski’s head is not his weak spot, and it has certainly not suffered from the complications associated with the swine flu.
After the Smolensk tragedy that took away the lives of the Polish President Lech Kaczyński and many members of the country’s political elite, the foreign policy of Warsaw has changed direction. It is not the new and a fairly tenuous President Bronisław Komarowski, but Sikorski – a strong opponent of the late President Kaczyński – who has taken the lead, Labanauskas said.
Sikorski can be well characterised by his book The Ashes of the Saints (it now seems a paradox that the edition in Lithuanian was sponsored by the Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs). The book contains Sikorski’s recollections about the trip to Afghanistan, when at war with the Soviets. It gives an idea of the minister’s main characteristics (without mentioning his family connections in Lithuania): persistence, straightforwardness, critical approach and a delirious courage, admiration of his motherland’s past, faith in his mission, and tremendous soreness for his country, which is professedly owed something by the world.
According to Labanauskas, such disposition of the minister partly corresponds with the new Warsaw policy of foreign affairs. Sikorski’s goal is to bring Poland back to the table of the major countries, and speak to Berlin, Paris, and Moscow on equal terms. At the same time, it is more than just Sikorski’s personal notion. Poland, impelled by its own Prometheism, has been aiming at that for centuries, although it has mostly suffered disappointment (for instance, the games with Nazi Germany before World War II).
Therefore, despite the agitation that Sikorski’s critical and forthright statements incited in Lithuania, the issue of the Polish minority is not crucial to Warsaw, although it will continue to be raised with great persistence.
On the other hand, the obstinacy of Vilnius in ignoring or reacting to the remarks coming from Poland, the Polish fiasco with regard to the Belarus issue (it proved impossible to either replace Lukashenko’s regime or to make the EU impose stricter sanctions against him), and the gaping emptiness on the south-eastern front shows that the new Polish policy of foreign affairs is skidding. What also poses many questions is the closeness between Poland and Russia (evaluations of the investigation of the same Smolensk catastrophe), which would be welcome by the players at the big table because, until now, Warsaw has been the main source for demonising Moscow.
Nevertheless, things should become clearer in the middle of this year after Poland takes over the chairmanship over the EU (a “lucky hour” for Poland and Sikorski as well).
In any case, when it comes to the new foreign policy, Warsaw will remain persistent, straightforward, daring, and trusting in its mission. Thus, the times when Warsaw was – despite its wrongdoings in the past – acting towards Vilnius as a kind-hearted elder brother (a strategic partner, in diplomatic terms) have come to an end. Lithuania also needs to change its attitude: the brother has grown up and, from now on, it will only be the sentiments that will bind us, that is if we do not destroy them too with our past grievances, Labanauskas concludes.