World

Report: Polish minister calls US ties worthless

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — A Polish magazine said Sunday it has obtained recordings of a private conversation in which the foreign minister says Poland's strong alliance with the U.S. was worthless and "even harmful because it creates a false sense of security."

In a short transcript of the conversation, a person identified as Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski also allegedly criticized Poles as naive in a conversation with a former finance minister — in the latest recorded revelation from magazine Wprost to rattle Prime Minister Donald Tusk's government.

The Foreign Ministry declined comment, but did not deny that Sikorski made the remarks. Government spokeswoman Malgorzata Kidawa-Blonska said officials would only comment after the recording is published in full.

Wprost has only provided a transcript of excerpts of the conversation, which it said was recorded in the spring. The magazine has said the sound files will be published on Monday or Tuesday. Using vulgar language and expletives, Sikorski argued that the Polish-U.S. alliance could alienate two key neighbors of Poland, Russia and Germany.

"The Polish-American alliance isn't worth anything. It is even harmful because it creates a false sense of security for Poland," the person said. "(We are) suckers, total suckers. The problem in Poland is that we have shallow pride and low self-esteem."

While the alleged Sikorski comments do not reveal any illegal actions, if confirmed, they would likely put Poland's top diplomat on the defensive. The prime minister's office said Tusk was likely to address the issue Monday.

Wprost already last week set off a political storm with the release of a recording of a conversation between central bank head Marek Belka and Interior Minister Bartlomiej Sienkiewicz. In the recording, the two discussed how the bank could help the governing party win re-election in 2015, an apparent violation of the bank's independence. Critics responded by calling on Tusk's government to resign.

Sikorski has been an outspoken critic of the Kremlin and has strongly criticized Russian actions in neighboring Ukraine this year. In the past he was a strong supporter of the United States. But he has become more critical of Washington in recent years, especially after President Barack Obama's attempted "reset" of ties with Russia in 2009 and the subsequent scaling-down of the U.S. missile defense plan for Poland and other parts of eastern Europe. Amid recent violence in Ukraine, Sikorski has been calling for a substantial U.S. troop presence on Polish soil.

He has also been widely mentioned as a possible successor to Catherine Ashton as the EU's foreign policy chief. Poland officially put him forward as a candidate last month. "The publishing of the tapes poses a threat to the social and political order of the state," sociologist Henryk Domanski said on TVN24 news channel. "This will have repercussions for Sikorski and for his international career, but on the other hand, Sikorski is known in the world for his strong, extreme statements."

Wprost has not revealed the source of the recordings, other than to say that they were obtained from a businessman who did not make them. In Poland, secretly recording a conversation is a crime. Some Poles wonder whether Russia might have a hand in the revelations, on the argument that the Kremlin benefits from a destabilized Poland.

While the source of the recording remains unclear, political analyst Rafal Chwedoruk said he believed that the case was about political fighting and "internal games" — with international implications.

"But if indeed foreign intelligence was involved, that involvement would be so deeply hidden that we would not be able to track it down for years," he told The Associated Press.

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