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Tim's guest: Radosław Sikorski

Monika GriebelerSeptember 14, 2015

Radoslaw Sikorski served as Poland's foreign minister for seven years, recently resigning after a bugging scandal in which he was heard to make unflattering comments about the US. Many consider him controversial.

Radoslaw Sikorski
Image: DW

Radoslaw Sikorski on Conflict Zone

If there's one thing Radoslaw Sikorski doesn't seem to be afraid of, it's standing up for his convictions. He is a man of words, fluent in Polish, English and the language of diplomacy - yet at times not exactly diplomatic.

In Communist Poland during the political unrest of the early 1980s, Sikorski led student strikes, later receiving political asylum in Britain. After studying politics, economics and philosophy at the University of Oxford in the UK, he went on to work as a journalist for multiple British newspapers. He also went to Afghanistan as a war reporter covering Soviet withdrawal. In 1989, he returned to Poland and started his political career.

From 1998 to 2001,Sikorski served as deputy minister of foreign affairs. After a stint as a resident fellow in the US, he became defense minister in 2006. From 2007 until 2014, he was Poland's foreign minister. In September 2014, Sikorski was elected marshal of the Sejm, the lower house of parliament.

Sikorski is married to US journalist and Pulitzer Prize-winner Anne Applebaum. They have two children.

Speaking out against Russia

For years, Sikorski has been a leading critical voice on Russia. As foreign minister he supported efforts in Ukraine to move closer to the West - a shift that first led to the Maidan protests and eventually to the ongoing fights in eastern Ukraine. Sikorski called Russia's action on Crimea an "Anschluss," evoking Hitler's annexation of Austria in 1938. Russian President Vladimir Putin, he said, was acting on the same principles as Hitler did back then.

Expecting the rise of a menacing, neo-imperialist Russia, Sikorski supports those who advocate a more liberal development such as Zhanna Nemtsova, the daughter of slain political opposition leader and Putin-critic Boris Nemtsov.

He is rather critical of NATO, arguing that the alliance for a long time neglected its eastern flank by not establishing bases in Poland or the Baltic States. Unlike him, many member states preferred a less aggressive approach, trying to maintain positive relations with the Russians.

Shame and scandal

In private conversations Radoslaw Sikorski was even more outspoken - criticizing Poland's relationship with the US as "not worth anything" and "even harmful because it creates a false sense of security for Poland." He also said that British Prime Minister David Cameron's had "f----- up" the handling of the EU by resorting to "stupid propaganda" to appease euroskeptics.

The conversations were illegally recorded, leaked and published by Polish magazine "Wprost," causing huge international outcry. In the wake of the accusations, Sikorski officially resigned as marshal of the Sejm on June 23. Now, on Conflict Zone with Tim Sebastian, he speaks up once more.