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Eastern Europe

'Should we reformulate NATO policy on Russia?'

For just the fourth time since 1949, a NATO member has invoked Article 4 for an extraordinary consultation. DW asked a Polish political expert why Poland felt events in Crimea warranted such a measure.

DW: Why did Poland call for the NATO consultation on Crimea?

Jaroslaw Cwiek: For Poland, the most important thing is the integrity of the Ukrainian state. It's a neighboring country, and we want to have very good relations with Kyiv. So that's why we support Ukraine's new government.

But the problems in Crimea are very important to other NATO member states. Russian minorities are represented in other countries such as the Baltic states, which are NATO members. That's why Poland decided to ask NATO countries to meet and discuss to what extent this conflict affects our own security - NATO security.

Your foreign minister recently compared Russia to a predator that only gets hungrier the more it eats. Then your defense minister denied rumors that Polish troops are on the move. Is there a real concern in Poland that Russia represents a direct threat to Poland specifically?

There are no special moves by Polish soldiers because of what's happening in Crimea. We do not perceive the conflict in Crimea as a direct threat for Polish security - it's a threat to NATO.

[Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw] Sikorski's position is that we should be very tough now - that if we're weak, we can expect another Russian intervention in other countries.

I think many people in the US and in the EU have realized that Russia's a very tough partner. If you want to work with Russia, you have to have a strong position. Moscow doesn't view a concession as something positive. Russian authorities still think in a Cold War reality, and they do not perceive concessions and agreements as a common interest, or a win-win situation.

What else does Poland hope to accomplish at the NATO meeting in Brussels?

We should meet and discuss to what extent NATO should react to Russia's intervention - and this response should be unified. When Polish, German and French ministers took part in negotiations with [deposed Ukrainian President Viktor] Yanukovych and opposition leaders, the EU and NATO presented the same position. That was very important. It was impossible to split Western countries and use smaller countries like those in the Baltic against each other. If we are unified and have one common position, then we are more effective.

The second issue is to support - or maybe make more effective - NATO frontier countries like Bulgaria and Romania, which are very close to Crimea, as well the Baltic states.

And the third issue is NATO-Russia relations. Shall we receive Russia as a reliable partner in the future? Or maybe, in the context of intervention, should we reformulate our NATO policy toward Russia?

Jaroslaw Cwiek formerly coordinated the Polish Institute of International Affairs program for eastern and south eastern Europe and is now an adjunct professor at the Institute of Political Science at the University of Warsaw.

Article 4 of the NATO treaty reads: "The Parties will consult together whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the Parties is threatened."

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