Poland and US toast anti-Russia pact with Georgian wine

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The Independent Online

The Poles and Americans added insult to injury this week, as far as Russia was concerned.

After signing a controversial deal to install an American anti-missile defence shield on Polish territory, only a few days after Russia’s short war with Georgia, the US secretary of state and her Polish counterpart sat down to dinner in Warsaw and toasted the pact with Georgian wine, it emerged yesterday.

The significance of the celebration by Condoleezza Rice and her Polish counterpart, Radoslaw Sikorski, will not have been lost on the Kremlin. The US and Poland have offered Georgia, a former Soviet republic, strong political support in its bid to become a Nato member.

However Poland says the choice of Georgian 2005 Kakhetian Royal wine to wash down Polish pike-perch at a dinner hosted by Mr Sikorski was not meant as a slight to Russia. "(Rice) smiled and, if I remember correctly, said she had had a chance to deal with Georgia and its politicians, but had not tasted its wine," deputy foreign minister Ryszard Schnepf told the Polish newspaper Dziennik.

The Polish president, Lech Kaczynski, has come in for criticism in Poland for anti-Russian comments he made during a trip to Georgia with the Baltic leaders last week to show solidarity with the embattled Georgian president.

It has also been reported that the pilot of their plane defied the president by landing in Azerbaijan, fearing that Tbilisi airport was too dangerous because of the ongoing conflict. The presidents ended up travelling in a convoy to neighbouring Georgia. Mr Kaczynski reportedly warned the unfortunate pilot: “there will be consequences.”