Medvedev to Talk Energy in ‘Breakthrough’ Polish Visit

President Dmitry Medvedev will oversee agreements on energy and innovation in what Russia sees a “breakthrough” visit to Poland next week as the two historic enemies seek to improve ties.

Medvedev’s foreign policy aide Sergei Prikhodko went further to say that Russia expects “very positive and even breakthrough results” from the two-day visit that starts Dec. 6, he told reporters in Moscow. “The two sides are ready to solidify the current positive tendencies in bilateral relations.”

Medvedev, 45, will hold talks with his 58-year-old Polish counterpart Bronislaw Komorowski and Prime Minister Donald Tusk in Warsaw and lead a Russian delegation set to sign agreements on energy cooperation, sea transport and pollution in the Baltic Sea. Poland imports two-thirds of its gas supplies from Russia, and the two countries completed an agreement in October that will increase deliveries by as much as 38 percent.

Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko and Alexei Miller, chief executive officer of gas export monopoly OAO Gazprom, will accompany Medvedev. Vagit Alekperov, CEO of Russia’s second-largest oil producer, OAO Lukoil, and Sergei Kiriyenko, head of state-owned nuclear holding Rosatom Corp. will also join the delegation.

‘Tea or Sugar’

“The Russians and Poles need to sort out their energy issues,” said Krzysztof Bobinski, president of the Warsaw-based research foundation Unia & Polska. “Russia should just start treating gas as a product like tea or sugar and stop using it as a geopolitical weapon.”

Gazprom and Poland’s state-controlled distributor, Polskie Gornictwo Naftowe i Gazownictwo SA, or PGNiG, on Oct. 29 signed an agreement that will increase gas deliveries to Poland to 10.24 billion cubic meters by 2022 from 7.45 billion cubic meters under the previous contract.

PGNiG has repeatedly said it would seek lower prices from Gazprom after securing the long-term supply deal. Customers such as Dusseldorf-based E.ON Ruhrgas AG and Rome-based Eni SpA earlier this year obtained lower spot prices for the period through 2012.

“I don’t exclude” that gas prices will be discussed next week, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski told reporters today in Warsaw. Radoslaw Dudzinski, PGNiG’s deputy chief executive officer, said today by phone he “wouldn’t rule out that the topic will be raised during the visit.”

Arms Race

Next week’s talks, which take place one day ahead of the Russia-European Union summit in Brussels, will also cover Poland’s involvement in the U.S.-led missile defense initiative, Prikhodko said.

U.S. President Barack Obama in September 2009 canceled plans by former President George W. Bush to locate parts of a missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic in favor of a solution closer to Russian proposals for a joint system.

Medvedev, speaking in his annual state-of-the-nation address Nov. 30, said a new arms race could break out within the next decade unless Russia reaches an agreement with the U.S. and its allies on a joint missile-defense shield.

The U.S. sent a battery of Patriot missiles and their crews to northern Poland in May for the first stage of a rotating, two-year deployment. The Russian Foreign Ministry said at the time that the location of the missiles, about 70 kilometers (44 miles) from Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave, wouldn’t improve security or help build relations in the region.

After Crash

“Poland should have the best possible relations with its neighbors, so it’s good Medvedev is coming,” Bobinski said. “But a healthy sense of skepticism is necessary where Russia is concerned.”

The leaders will also discuss the release of further documents on the 1940 slaying of 22,000 Polish officers and officials by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin’s secret police in the Katyn forest and several other sites.

Relations between the two countries improved after an April 10 plane crash near Smolensk, in western Russia, that killed President Lech Kaczynski, his wife and 94 officials who were flying there to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre. Medvedev braved a cloud of volcanic ash from Iceland that closed airspace throughout Europe to attend Kaczynski’s burial in Krakow.

The State Duma, the lower chamber of Russia’s parliament, late last month approved a text declaring that Stalin personally ordered the killings in 1940. The Russian General Prosecutor’s Office has handed over more Katyn documents to Polish authorities, the Kremlin said on its website today.

Russia and Poland will also consider boosting investment projects. Russia holds $1.85 billion of investments in Poland, mostly in the energy industry, according to the Kremlin.

“For us, the 45 years of Communism imposed from the east were a deep national trauma,” Sikorski said. “Now I think that 20 years after we regained our freedom, we’re feeling more confident, and that’s why normalization is possible.”

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