92 63 LINKEDIN 8 COMMENTMORE

WARSAW — Poland wants a 1997 deal on NATO-Russia ties to be scrapped to let the alliance install permanent military bases in Polish soil, something that Moscow insists the agreement rules out.

Poland's new right-wing Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski insisted in an interview published Wednesday that the deal must go because it causes "inequality" between new and older NATO members.

The 1997 document stipulates that older NATO members "have no intention, no plan and no reason to deploy nuclear weapons on the territory of new members" like ex-communist Poland.

Russia has long insisted this provision also rules out permanent bases and troop deployments.

Asked whether he wants the 1997 agreement annulled, Waszczykowski told the liberal Gazeta Wyborcza daily: "Yes. This agreement was political in character, it was not legally binding, and was concluded in a different international context.

"We demand an equal level of security" between older and new NATO members, he added.

"NATO cannot have two levels of security, namely one for Western Europe with US troops, with military bases and defense installations and another for Poland, without these elements.

"Poland is Russia's neighbor and this is why we're speaking up."

In 1999, Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary became the first ex-communist states to join NATO as the Western defense alliance expanded into Warsaw Pact territory controlled by Moscow during the Soviet era.

Subsequent waves of expansion saw 12 formerly communist states join NATO. Russia has long opposed the expansion in the area it still considers a backyard.

Waszczykowski is a key member of Poland's new euroskeptic Law and Justice (PiS) government. Led by former prime minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the PiS is also well known for its hardline stance on Russia.

He said Poland was prepared to take Russia to court if it fails to promptly return the wreckage of the jet that crashed in Smolensk, western Russia, in 2010 killing then-president Lech Kaczynski — Jaroslaw's identical twin.

Waszczykowski however underscored Poland's strong economic ties with top EU trading partner Germany and vowed that "Warsaw won't do anything that could damage this relationship."

But he said there were "certain issues on which we differ", namely security issues.

"The Germans think this (scrapping the 1997 deal) will cause tension with Russia. We ask: whose comfort are you more concerned about? A state that is your NATO and EU ally or a non-member that is engaged in its third war: with Georgia, Ukraine and now, Syria," Waszczykowski said.

92 63 LINKEDIN 8 COMMENTMORE
Read or Share this story: http://defnews.ly/1Ho7YfA