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Poland Table of Contents


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From the outset, Foreign Minister Skubiszewski pursued a dual-track policy toward Poland's eastern neighbors, Russia, Belarus, Lithuania, and Ukraine. This approach enabled Warsaw to negotiate for Polish interests with the central political authority that remained in Moscow as the Soviet Union dissolved, while simultaneously developing bilateral ties with the individual republics that would emerge from that process as independent neighbors. The failure of the August coup signaled to Warsaw the end of the highly centralized Soviet state and the feasibility of officially recognizing independence-minded republics. Accordingly, immediately after the coup Poland became the first East European country to extend diplomatic recognition to the Baltic republics of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. On the day following the formal dissolution of the Soviet Union, Poland announced that it was prepared to open normal diplomatic relations with all the members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS--see Glossary).

Although it supported national self-determination, Warsaw feared that the breakup of the Soviet Union might bring regional instability, armed conflict fueled by rival territorial claims, and perhaps millions of displaced persons crossing into Poland. Still struggling with its own economic and political transition, Poland could not have borne the burden of resettling huge numbers of refugees. These concerns moved President Walesa to declare his support for Gorbachev's last-ditch effort in December 1991 to reconstitute the Soviet Union as a loose confederation. Then, after the formal demise of the Soviet Union, Walesa called for massive Western aid for the newly created CIS to avoid what he called a "mass exodus of hungry refugees."

Data as of October 1992