Tag Archives: Donald Tusk

Poland’s presidential election — Swinging right

A young challenger’s win kindles worries that Poland could return to its erratic days under the Law and Justice party

MANY dismissed it as a fluke when, in the first round of Poland’s presidential electionstwo weeks ago, the heavily favoured incumbent, Bronisław Komorowski, finished second to Andrzej Duda of the conservative Law and Justice party (PiS).

On Sunday Mr Duda (pictured) showed that the prior result was no accident, defeating Mr Komorowski in the runoff election by a margin that late-night exit polls put at 52% to 48%.

Some of the credit goes to Mr Duda, an energetic young candidate who started the race as a relatively unknown member of the European Parliament. Yet Mr Duda’s win also reflects widespread disillusionment with Mr Komorowski and the ruling centre-right Civic Platform party (PO) that backed him.

It could presage a PiS win in parliamentary elections this autumn. After eight years of centrist government, Poland appears to be swinging back to the right.

At Mr Duda’s election event in Warsaw, supporters impatient for the results after a two-week interval found themselves waiting an extra 90 minutes when a death at a polling station delayed the presentation of the exit polls.

By the time they were announced, the temperature was tropical, and the sweaty crowd jeered at a projection screen showing Mr Komorowski conceding defeat. Mr Duda was more circumspect, thanking his rival politely and promising an “open presidency” that would welcome a wide range of initiatives.

Mr Komorowki’s backers put much of the blame for defeat on his lacklustre campaign. After Paweł Kukiz, a former rock star, won 20% of the vote in the first round with a campaign demanding that Poland switch its electoral system from party lists to single-member districts, Mr Komorowski tried to court his supporters by promising a referendum on the issue.

The hurried move only dented Mr Komorowski’s credibility. (Meanwhile, the referendum has been approved by the Senate and will take place in September.) Mr Komorowski’s efforts to portray Mr Duda as a dangerous radical proved ineffective, as the PiS candidate kept his rhetoric carefully moderate.

“Each of us is a bit rational and a bit radical, but we need to look for shared values,” Mr Duda said on the campaign trail last week.

The danger is that Mr Duda’s election could herald the return of the erratic and confrontational Poland of PiS’s previous term in power from 2005-2007, which was characterised by domestic and international paranoia, particularly towards Germany.

The cover of one news magazine showed Mr Duda peeling off a rubber mask to reveal the face of Jarosław Kaczyński, the veteran leader of PiS, who is a more divisive right-wing figure. PiS is trying to avoid that association; at Mr Duda’s election event, Mr Kaczyński was nowhere to be seen.

One area where many fear a PiS president could cause damage is Poland’s reputation in the European Union. That has risen dramatically over the past decade, as evidenced bythe appointment of Donald Tusk, the former prime minister, as president of the European Council last autumn.

Last week five former Polish foreign ministers, including Radosław Sikorski, who held the position under Mr Tusk, published an open letter in support of Mr Komorowski.

“Rowdiness, complexes and conflicts lead to alienation,” they wrote, referring to the PiS’s term in power. (Anna Fotyga, who was foreign minister under the PiS in 2006-2007, did not sign.)

Mr Duda has tried to defray such anxieties, but he must also play to the more nationalist voices in the PiS. In a televised debate last week, Mr Duda said it was important to build good neighbourly relations, but added that

“we cannot assume that we are a category B [second-rate] country.”

Mr Duda may in fact be a new breed of PiS politician. His relatively moderate language and efforts to cultivate cross-party support are very different from the xenophobic nationalism practised by the previous PiS-backed president, the late Lech Kaczyński (Jarosław’s twin brother).

He certainly has political talent: at 7am on the morning after his victory, while most victors might have been resting on their laurels, Mr Duda was at Warsaw’s central metro station handing out cups of coffee to passersby.

In any case, the Polish presidency is non-partisan, meaning Mr Duda will have no official links to PiS. And while the president has veto powers, he is mainly a ceremonial head of state.

The greater risks lie with the PiS in parliament. The party is strongly sceptical of the EU, and many of its voters are fond of religious nationalism and conspiracy theories. Mr Duda’s victory is a painful reminder to the PO-led government that its time is running out.

Ewa Kopacz, the prime minister, will try to secure a third term for her party in parliamentary elections this autumn, but she has not built the kind of support Mr Tusk enjoyed. Polls already give PiS a narrow lead, and Mr Duda’s success is expected to widen it.

“We could feel the juices draining out of us after so many years of electoral losses,” said one jubilant PiS politician after it became clear Mr Duda was ahead.

Poland’s liberals dread the possibility that the PiS may be getting its old juices back.


Tusk’s Successor Signals Softer Polish Stance on Ukraine

Polish Prime Minister-designate Ewa Kopacz promoted rival Grzegorz Schetyna to run foreign policy and signaled her government will moderate the country’s stance toward Russia in the crisis ravaging neighboring Ukraine.

The new cabinet should approach the conflict between Russia and Ukraine like “a reasonable Polish woman,” making security at home its top priority, Kopacz said at a news conference in Warsaw today.

Schetyna, head of parliament’s foreign affairs committee, will replace Radoslaw Sikorski, who spearheaded Poland’s policy on Ukraine under former Premier Donald Tusk.

“We shouldn’t rush to become part of this military conflict,” Kopacz said as she presented her cabinet. “When the big European family decides that we want to help” Ukraine, “then we should take part in providing help, but together with other countries.”

That marks a change in tone from Poland, which has been a vocal supporter of Ukraine’s European aspirations and tried to help broker a deal early in the crisis.

In February, Sikorski joined his French and German counterparts in Kiev to negotiate an agreement between anti-government protesters and Ukraine’s then-President Viktor Yanukovych.

Following Yanukovych’s ouster the same month, Tusk has sought to keep the European Union united in support of a Ukrainian government that struggled to turn the tide against a pro-Russian insurrection.

‘Closest Collaborator’

Kopacz also promoted Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak to the post of deputy prime minister and called him her “closest collaborator” as the country strengthens its armed forces. Sikorski will become parliamentary speaker.

The new government will focus on Poland’s national security and continuity in foreign policy while sticking to a “tested economic team” including Finance Minister Mateusz Szczurek, Kopacz said. She and her cabinet will be sworn in by President Bronislaw Komorowski on Sept. 25 before facing a confidence vote in parliament on Oct. 1.

“We face elections in a year and in such situations, when you have competent people available, it’s all hands on deck,” Kopacz said. “From the beginning I wanted a strong cabinet that guarantees support from all of Civic Platform.”

The chain-smoking doctor and parliament speaker takes over from Tusk, who will become EU president and was Poland’s longest-serving prime minister since 1989. The ruling Civic Platform party surged in the polls after the announcement, overtaking Law & Justice, the biggest opposition party, which had led for most of this year amid sputtering economic growth and the deepening armed conflict in neighboring Ukraine.

Party Divisions

Tusk’s exit has also exposed divisions within the party he helped build as he came to dominate Poland’s political landscape in the last seven years. Schetyna, his former ally and later chief internal opponent, has called for a vote on a new party leader after next year’s general elections and said Civic Platform needs to present a “new offer for Poles.”

“The prime minister has a balancing act to do,” Anna Materska-Sosnowska, professor of political science at Warsaw University, said by phone yesterday. “It’s only reasonable that she’d try to paper over the divisions by bringing in different factions so she can focus on winning elections next year instead of dealing with constant feuding.”

Schetyna, 51, was dismissed as interior minister and deputy prime minister in 2009 following a lobbying scandal that also cost several senior Civic Platform politicians their jobs.

Tusk has led the government since 2007, becoming Poland’s first two-term prime minister since the fall of communism as the economy became the only one in the 28-nation EU to avoid recession.

His popularity has suffered after leaked tapes of conversations between leading Polish policy makers rocked the country this year, threatening to capsize the ruling coalition and unseat central bank Governor Marek Belka.

Nato allies at odds over response to Russian aggression

Paratroopers from the U.S. Army's 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team participate in training exercises with the Polish 6 Airborne Brigade soldiers at the Land Forces Training Centre in Oleszno near Drawsko Pomorskie, north west Poland, May 1, 2014. American ground troops who arrived in Poland last week took part in military exercises with Polish parachuters as a part of NATO cooperation. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel (POLAND - Tags: MILITARY POLITICS) - RTR3NFCA
Paratroopers from the US 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team participate in training exercises with the Polish 6th Airborne Brigade in north west Poland in May

In late March, Donald Tusk, the Polish prime minister, made a plea to Nato: put 10,000 troops in Poland, permanently, he asked.

But to the consternation of many in Poland and the Baltics, Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, last week slapped down any notion of Nato boots in a long-term positioning on eastern European soil during a visit to Latvia.

In the wake of Russia’s land-grab in Ukraine, the debate over how Nato should respond has been an impassioned one that threatens to divide the alliance.

“What Ukraine has done is put in perspective Russia’s policy, which is threatening to overturn the basic principles of European security,” says Michael Clarke, director-general of the Royal United Services Institute in London. “There’s almost a view for some that we are walking into a new Cold War or a new 1930s.”

At its biennial summit this week, Nato will hope to bridge the member states’ divisions with the unveiling of its new “readiness action plan”, the result of weeks of detailed negotiation among alliance ambassadors in Brussels.

The plan is not yet set in stone and, hawkish critics warn, is at risk of degenerating into a feat of linguistic acrobatics with little substance.

The key sticking point has been whether Nato should discard – or bend – rules laid out in the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty and subsequent documents, which proscribe “new” permanent deployments of troops, effectively ruling out bases in eastern Europe and the Baltics.

Though Russia itself declared a moratorium on the CFE Treaty in 2007, Nato members such as Germany believe the alliance should still abide by the spirit of the document.

In crafting its new policy, Nato has therefore walked a careful line on troop deployments.

“We are not going to use any reference, not even in colloquial communication, on permanent basing,” says one senior Nato official. “We will talk about ‘appropriate presence’.”

What such “appropriate presence” may amount to has been left deliberately open-ended, the official added. The crucial shift in language, for the alliance, is on how the readiness plan will focus on Nato’s “frontier” – a reference to the Baltics and eastern Europe.

The plan calls for it to be strengthened with improved swift deployment capabilities and increased military exercises and deployments in frontier states.

“The deal with the Russians that there wouldn’t be any forward Nato positions in these ‘no mans’ states’ cannot be sustained,” says Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the chair of Britain’s parliamentary intelligence and security committee. “Nato assets must be positioned in all Nato countries that require them,” he says.

Sven Mikser, Estonia’s defence minister, told the Financial Times that he wants to see “an Allied presence on our soil as a way of reassurance and deterrence.”

But, Mr Mikser added: “We don’t mean The Cold War-style of a very heavy, static presence. We are not talking of divisions.”

The alliance’s plan will feature a new high-readiness brigade, capable of being deployed in hours and significant propositioning of materiel in Poland, as well as a permanent command centre at Szczecin on the Baltic coast.

Some of this will dovetail with ongoing Nato work. The US has just begun to put in place its new “European Activity Set”, a battalion-sized arsenal first used in military exercises in June. Currently based in Grafenwoehr in Germany, it will be relatively easy to relocate the EAS to Poland, replicate it there, or augment it.

A more significant part of the plan will be the increased military exercises and deployments.

Nato allies have already ramped up their efforts in the wake of the Ukraine crisis. The US, for example, has deployed 600 paratroopers from its 173rd Airborne Brigade equally divided between basis at Swidwin in Poland, Paldiski in Estonia, Adazi in Latvia, and Rukla in Lithuania. Denmark, France and Britain have meanwhile sent fighter jets to Amari in Estonia and Malbork in Poland.

But even Nato’s biggest military exercises do not come close to matching the scale of those undertaken on its borders by Russia. Spring Storm, the largest ever Baltic war game in late May involved 6,000 troops. By comparison, Russia’s emergency war-games on the Ukrainian and Baltic state borders in February involved 150,000 troops.

“I don’t think we will go back to a full Cold War-type posture where we had millions of troops involved in exercises on both sides of the Fulda Gap,” says Admiral James Stavridis, who until last year was Nato’s supreme allied commander and is now dean of the Fletcher School at Tuft’s university. But Mr Stavridis predicted a sizeable increase from the slimmed-down exercises of the past decade.

“In two words,” he says, “the message we need to send is unity and capability.”

Nato exercises

Update: The Netherlands set to join Nato rapid reaction force in Ukraine

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte has described Russia’s latest moves in Ukraine as ‘extremely worrying’ as claims emerge the Netherlands is to join a 10,000 strong Nato mission to halt Putin’s expansionism.

Speaking ahead of a meeting of EU leaders in Brussels, Rutte said Russia is doing nothing to stabilise the situation in eastern Ukraine, where Russian troops are fighting alongside pro-Russian rebels.

Rutte also wants the European Commission to investigate the impact of European sanctions against Russia to date. He believes the economic consequences are considerable but that Russian president Vladimir Putin is ignoring them, news agency ANP reported.

Polish prime minister Donald Tusk expected to become top EU official

The Quadriga Awards, Berlin, Germany - 03 Oct 2009

EU leaders have unanimously chosen Poland’s prime minister as president of the European Council, giving a country from the ex-Communist bloc its first European leadership position since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Donald Tusk, who will now chair all EU summits and represent the bloc’s prime minsters in legislative fights, will be joined atop the union’s Brussels-based bureaucracy by Federica Mogherini, the Italian foreign minister who was chosen EU foreign policy chief.

Mr Tusk, the centre-right premier since 2007, had faced some opposition from Europe’s centre-left Socialists and other leaders concerned that his limited language skills – he speaks poor English and no French – would make it hard for him to broker deals among the EU’s 28 leaders, the Council president’s primary job.

Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk (L) talks with European Parliament President Martin Schulz at the start of a European Union summit in Brussels August 30, 2014. European Union leaders will threaten Russia with new sanctions over Ukraine on Saturday but, fearful of a new Cold War and self-inflicted harm to their own economies, should give Moscow another chance to make peace. REUTERS/Yves Herman (BELGIUM - Tags: POLITICS CONFLICT CIVIL UNREST)

David Cameron, the UK prime minister, had also resisted his candidacy last month after the two had fallen out over EU migration issues. That gave new life to Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the Danish prime minister who was originally backed by Mr Cameron and Angela Merkel, the German chancellor.

But once Mr Cameron reached a truce with Mr Tusk in a phone call last week, opposition began to fade away, and the Pole was selected quickly by leaders at a Brussels summit.

“I come from a country that deeply believes in a united Europe,” Mr Tusk said after the vote. “I am also convinced there is no intelligent alternative to the EU.”

Italy's Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini, 30 Aug 14

“I congratulate Donald Tusk. He is a very competent and experienced politician who has been important to Poland,” Ms Thorning-Schmidt said after his selection. “He will be a good and result-oriented president of the European Council who will listen to member states. I look forward to co-operating with him.”

Ms Mogherini’s selection could prove more controversial. Italy’s foreign minister for only six months with a record that some eastern European countries believe is insufficiently tough on Russia, Ms Mogherini’s nomination appeared stalled last month after the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.

But intensive lobbying by Matteo Renzi, the Italian prime minister, and the selection of Mr Tusk – who represents a country that is among the most hardline on Russia policy within the EU – placated the holdouts. In addition, Ms Merkel told colleagues she did not want to pick a fight with Mr Renzi at a time when she had more substantive disagreements with Rome on economic policy.


Poland: Russian Army Operating in Ukraine

WARSAW–Western intelligence agencies have evidence that the Russian army is directly operating in eastern Ukraine, Poland’s prime minister said on Wednesday. 

“Nobody can seriously accept talk of “separatists” in Ukraine anymore,” Donald Tusk told parliament, adding that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has over the past day gathered “very solid confirmation” that the Russia military has entered Ukraine.

“The information is from NATO and confirmed by our intelligence, and is basically unambiguous,” he said.

Ahead of the upcoming NATO summit in September, Mr. Tusk said that Poland will seek a gradual increase of NATO forces in the country because of the Russo-Ukrainian conflict.

“The more Poland is anchored in NATO structures, the safer it is, faced with the conflict in Ukraine,” he said. “Step by step, we’re managing to convince our partners to increase [NATO’s] presence.”

A former Warsaw Pact member, Poland joined NATO in 1999.

Russia reacted angrily at plans for deployment of elements of the U.S. missile shield in Poland, saying such facilities placed not far from its borders would change the strategic balance of forces between NATO and Russia.

Not Yet Buried: Polish-Russian Rapprochement

Polish Minister Marek Sawicki during the meeting with Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation to Poland Alexander Alexeev on June 18, 2014.

“Poland’s cabinet has decided to call off the Polish Year in Russia and the Russian Year in Poland, planned for 2015,” government spokesperson Małgorzata Kidawa-Błońska announced on July 23.

The decision to scrap the joint initiative celebrating bilateral cultural ties came just a few days after pro-Russian rebels shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board, the majority of whom were Dutch citizens.

“This is the decision of the government,” Kidawa-Błońska said. “Both the foreign and culture ministers, Radosław Sikorski and Małgorzata Omilanowska respectively, unequivocally came to the conclusion that in this situation, it is impossible to follow through with the organization of the Polish Year in Russia.”

It’s easy to understand why Poland made this announcement. Donald Tusk’s center-right government is under immense pressure from the conservative-nationalist Law and Justice party to cut off relations with Russia, especially in light of parliamentary elections due in Poland in 2015.

Yet surely, this would have been an important moment for Poles to reach out to Russian liberal intellectuals instead of isolating them—even though many liberals in Russia are biding their time rather than standing up to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In response to Western sanctions against Russia, Putin has imposed a battery of countermeasures on Europe that include a ban on Polish apples and other produce. But Russia and Poland need each other for trade, exchanges, and services. If and when Russia’s relations with the EU are put back on an even keel, Moscow will need Warsaw’s goodwill.

So it’s good news that behind the scenes and on a different level, Russia and Poland have been cautiously pressing ahead with reconciliation.

For several months now, Polish and Russian academics have been meeting to debate the issues that divide them. The events are organized by the Center for Polish-Russian Dialogue and Understanding.

Adam Daniel Rotfeld, a former Polish foreign minister, and Anatoly Torkunov, rector of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, chair the center. Together, they made sure to continue Russian-Polish youth exchanges and conferences for high-level academics.

Rotfeld is also co-chairman of the Polish-Russian Group for Difficult Matters (what a great name!). The group was set up in 2002 to deal with the issues that divide Russia and Poland, but it remained dormant under Poland’s previous nationalist-conservative government until Tusk’s center-right coalition was voted into power in 2007.

Thanks to Tusk’s persistent lobbying in Brussels, Moscow, and Berlin, the inhabitants of Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave that is sandwiched between EU and NATO members Lithuania and Poland, can now cross the border into Poland without visas. That’s an immense achievement, to say the least.

Such a step could not have happened if Poland had not reached out to Russia and, as a result, shown its EU partners that it wanted reconciliation with its archenemy.

“In 2007 we decided to deal with all the difficult issues in our relations,” Rotfeld explained in an interview with Carnegie Europe. “But the most difficult one is political psychology. There are two different narratives about the same facts and events.”

During our meeting, Rotfeld took a mighty tome down from his bookshelf. The recently published 1,000-page book is a fascinating set of essays on Polish-Russian relations dating back to 1918.

In the volume, Polish and Russian historians give their respective interpretation of events. There is little meeting of minds, whether about the treatment of Russians in Polish prisoner-of-war camps in 1920 or about the circumstances leading up to the murder of thousands of Polish officers by Stalin’s secret police in the woods near the Russian city of Smolensk in 1940.

It was near Smolensk that Lech Kaczyński’s plane crashed in April 2010. The then Polish president was on his way to commemorate the seventieth anniversary of those murders, known as the Katyn massacre.


The crash caused an outpouring of grief in Poland but also in Russia, particularly by Putin, who was prime minister at the time. That same week, Russian television even broadcast Katyń, a marvelous epic film by veteran Polish director Andrzej Wajda. Out of the tragedy, there were huge hopes that reconciliation would deepen.

Four years on, Poles cannot understand why Putin will not return the downed Polish plane. “We are bewildered that four years after the accident, the plane has still not been handed over,” said Katarzyna Pełczyńska-Nałęcz, Poland’s new ambassador to Moscow and an expert in Polish-Russian relations.

“There is symbolic meaning for Poland and Polish citizens in getting the wreckage back,” she said in a very revealing interview with Russian news agency RIA Novosti.

The longer the delay in sending the aircraft back to Warsaw, the more the episode plays into the hands of the Law and Justice party, led by Jarosław Kaczyński, the twin brother of Lech. With the Ukraine crisis, he opposes reconciliation with Russia more than ever.

The Tusk government has a difficult balancing act—both diplomatically and domestically. The pressure is on, all the more because of next year’s parliamentary elections in Poland.

Poland warns of Russia’s troop build-up on Ukraine border

Lengyel miniszterelnök, Donald Tusk ad közös sajtónyilatkozatot a német kancellár, a Kancellária Berlinben április 25-én 2014-ben. Tusk találkozott Angela Merkel német kancellár a tárgyalásokat az ukrán válság. AFP PHOTO / ODD ANDERSEN (Fényképek kell olvasni ODD ANDERSEN / AFP / Getty Images)

Poland’s prime minister has warned the risk of a Russian invasion of Ukraine has risen in the past few days, adding to fears Russia is preparing military action against its neighbour.

The comments by Donald Tusk come a day after Nato warned Russia has increased the number of troops positioned on its border with Ukraine to 20,000 in the past few days from 15,000 a week ago.


While the number is still well below the 40,000 Russian troops deployed near Ukraine in April, the sharp rise in just a few days has been a cause for significant concern among western military powers.

“We have reasons to suspect – we have been receiving such information in the last several hours – that the risk of a direct intervention [by Russia’s military in Ukraine] is for sure higher than it was several days ago,” Mr Tusk told a press conference.

“If [it] were to come to a direct intervention of Russian forces in Ukraine, then this would obviously be a qualitatively new situation, and in my opinion nobody has a good, unequivocal answer today how the western community should react to that,” he added.

Radoslaw Sikorski, Poland’s foreign minister, had expressed concern on Tuesday night that a renewed build-up of Russian forces near Ukraine’s border heightened the risk of an invasion.

Mr Sikorski said: “You do such things either to exert pressure or to enter.”

Poland has been a leading critic of Vladimir Putin since the annexation of Crimea this year and called for Nato to increase its presence in member states that border Russia, including the Baltic countries of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

The EU and the US accuse Russia of supplying arms and military personnel to rebels in the east of Ukraine which have been involved in a months-long conflict with government forces.

Fighting has intensified in the past couple of days in the eastern city of Donetsk as government forces have surrounded the city of 1m.

Residents in the Petrovsky district of Donetsk were urged on Tuesday to avoid the area and explosions were reported. News agency Interfax-Ukraine reported periodic gunfire and explosions from artillery in other parts of the city on Tuesday.

Russia has warned Ukraine is on the verge of a “humanitarian disaster” and has contacted international relief agencies such as the International Committee of the Red Cross to co-ordinate a response to the worsening situation.

It has also called an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the issue. But Kiev fears Moscow will invoke a humanitarian crisis in eastern Ukraine to send in its troops as peacekeepers.

The EU and US have expanded sanctions against Russia in recent weeks following the shooting down of a Malaysian airliner over east Ukraine, which the rebels are accused by the west of carrying out using a Russian-supplied Buk missile system.

The sanctions targeted broad areas of the Russian economy including financial services, energy and defence, but Mr Putin on Tuesday said he would respond to the escalation of sanctions with measures of his own.

He said he had instructed his government to prepare retaliatory moves in his first comments on the trade measures since the expansion of US and EU sanctions two weeks ago.

“Of course, it should be done very carefully to support domestic producers but not hurt consumers,” he said in remarks carried by Russian news agencies.

Tusk also said sanctions imposed by the EU on Russia would be costly for Europe’s economy, but a lack of reaction to Russia’s actions during the Ukraine crisis would have the most “catastrophic” consequences.

Russian shares touched three-month lows on Wednesday following Mr Putin’s comments.

Both the dollar-denominated RTS index and rouble-based MICEX hit their lowest since early May before recovering to trade 1.2 per cent lower at 1,177 points and 0.4 per cent weaker at 1,352 points, respectively. Russia’s 10-year borrowing costs reached a five-year high of 9.82 per cent.

The pan-European FTSE Eurofirst 300 fell 1.3 per cent, following falls on Wall Street on Tuesday after Mr Sikorski’s comments.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen , secretary-general of Nato, writing in the Financial Times, said relations between the west faced the biggest challenge since the end of the cold war in its relations with Russia.

He said Nato had made efforts to engage with Moscow in the past two decades by offering more co-operation on more issues than to any other non-Nato country and by striving towards a strategic partnership.

But the response by Russia he said had been to “tear up the rule book” and stir up conflict in Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine, and challenge the rules-based international order.