The Washington Times - February 25, 2009, 06:28PM

Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said Wednesday that President Obama has “restored America’s moral credibility” in the world, while also stating that Russia’s invasion of Georgia last summer sent a menacing signal to other countries in their neighborhood, and to NATO.

Obama, Sikorski said, “has restored America’s capacity to be the leader of the democratic world.”

“You can only be the leader if others are willing to follow. And he has restored that function,” Sikorski said in a speech to open a two-day conference on NATO’s 60th anniversary at the Council on Foreign Relations, in advance of next month’s NATO summit.

The foreign minister, who met with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton earlier today, reserved his most serious language for the Russian bear, which he said has proven itself to be interested only in “pursuing its own agenda without concern for our opinions.”

“We should recognize that Russia and the EuroAtlantic community may have contradictory interests in certain areas and at certain times,” he said. “At the same time, Russia is, of course, a very important partner, with a huge and only partly utilized potential to contribute stability and security.”

The Kremlin’s invasion of former Soviet bloc country Georgia in August figured most prominently in Sikorski’s case against Russia. He said that NATO’s cooperation with Russia has been “unsatisfactory,” and that the invasion has changed the equation for admitting Georgia and Ukraine into NATO’s membership process.

“After Georgia we have to acknowledge that the Russians have imposed a greater discipline on us in thinking about this,” Sikorski said. “The previous grounds of enlargement were done in the safe— the insurance policies were written in the pretty safe conviction that they would not have to be paid up. And we now have to think about it in a more disciplined way.”

Vice President Biden gave one of the first previews of U.S. foreign policy earlier this month during a speech in Munich, in which he signaled that the Obama administration may back off a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republican, which the U.S. says is designed to protect Europe from an Iranian attack but which Russia has said is aimed at them.

“Russia is not yet prepared to discard the archaic stereotypes of NATO – NATO as a threat – and she still thinks about its immediate neighborhood in terms of a struggle for a spheres of influence,” Sikorski said. “Changing the mental stereotypes of the Russian military and political leadership will require more time than we expected.”

— Jon Ward, White House reporter, The Washington Times

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