- The Washington Times - Friday, February 1, 2008

Diplomatic dancing

The Polish foreign minister appears to have forsaken a golden rule of diplomacy: A diplomat is someone who thinks twice before saying nothing.

Radek Sikorski in Washington yesterday accused Russia of blackmailing his country, only days after visiting Moscow where he declared a new era of normality in Poland-Russia relations.

The mixed message might reflect the new Polish government’s predicament. It wants to maintain close ties with the United States, which wants to install an anti-missile defense system in Poland, while mollifying Russia, which claims to be threatened by the missile system designed to protect Europe against attacks from Iran.

“Poland has come under pressure and has even been blackmailed by some of our neighbors who fiercely oppose this project,” Mr. Sikorski told the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research yesterday.

He also compared the opposition to the missile system to a dispute among three neighbors over a television satellite dish. One homeowner wants to put a dish on his neighbor’s roof, but another homeowner argues that the dish is a threat to his health.

“You and I know that a dish does not make you sick. The question is, ‘What can we do together to address an unreasonable neighbor,” he asked.

In Moscow on Monday, Mr. Sikorski had only pleasantries for the “unreasonable neighbor.”

“We are returning to normality,” he told reporters after meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Mr. Lavrov, in turn, offered Moscow’s good will.

“We are not going to exert pressure on anyone,” Mr. Lavrov said. “We simply want our specific concerns to be heard and understood.”

Mr. Sikorski continues his Washington visit today with a meeting with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. He is also preparing for a visit here later this month by Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

‘Warmer, fuzzier’

The U.S. ambassador to Germany gets that warm and fuzzy feeling when he talks about the new U.S. Embassy in Berlin.

Ambassador William R. Timken Jr. told reporters yesterday that the embassy will open on the Fourth of July with a two-day celebration that will include a street fair and fireworks.

“We are here as a symbol of our desire to be a partner to Germany,” he said, referring to the diplomatic compound that, in its new location next to the historic Brandenburg Gate in central Berlin, will be more open to public view than other U.S. embassies.

“It’s going to be a warmer, friendlier, fuzzier America.”

Mr. Timken noted that the U.S. government could have chosen to relocate the embassy to a remote but more secure site in the Berlin suburbs. However, the State Department opted for as much symbolism as possible by building the $130 million embassy on a site the United States originally purchased in 1930, three years before the Nazis came to power.

A fire damaged the original embassy building in 1931, and U.S. diplomats were unable to move in for eight years. By 1941, the United States entered World War II and abandoned the embassy, which was heavily bombed and later demolished by communist East Germany. During the Cold War, the site sat in the deadly no-man’s land behind the Berlin Wall.

“After 69 years, we are returning to that original site,” Mr. Timken said. “We like to think of this as the closing of a cycle that extended back to the time when we were enemies of war, through the entire process of the unification and the airlift to the space where we are today as global partners.”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@ washingtontimes.com.

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