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Rumsfeld: U.S.-Polish Relationship Is 'Strong and Healthy'

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WARSAW, Poland, Sept. 23, 2002 – The military-to-military relationship between America and Poland is strong and getting better every day, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld noted here today.

The secretary stopped by the presidential palace this morning to meet with Polish President Alexander Kwasniewski, Prime Minister Leszek Miller, Defense Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski and other senior officials.

Rumsfeld described his discussions with the Poles as centered on the U.S.-Polish military-to-military partnership and the overall relationship between the two countries.

Poland is considered a staunch friend of the United States in central Europe. Rumsfeld described the relationship as "a strong one, a healthy one, and one which is evolving very favorably."

The secretary arrived in Warsaw last night for today's talks with Polish officials and additional bilateral discussions with other NATO members. Poland joined NATO in 1999. More bilateral meetings with NATO defense ministers are slated tomorrow, with the informal NATO ministerial meeting set for Wednesday.

Rumsfeld said he conveyed to Kwasniewski America's appreciation for Poland's significant contributions to NATO and for its assistance in the war on global terrorism. He noted six Poles died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the New York City World Trade Center. Poland has troops in Afghanistan supporting Operation Enduring Freedom, he added.

The Warsaw meetings are considered a prelude to the Prague Summit in the Czech Republic in November, at which Rumsfeld is expected to formally propose the creation of a NATO rapid response force. That military body, composed of forces from several NATO countries, could be called on to deploy outside of NATO's traditional European area of operations.

Other topics in Warsaw that will also be discussed in Prague include improving NATO military capabilities, streamlining the alliance's military command and headquarters structure, new relationships with Russia and Ukraine, and NATO expansion.

Nine countries have applied to join NATO, a U.S. State Department official noted. The alliance has 19 members, including the United States. The aspirant nations are Slovenia, Slovakia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Albania, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Romania and Bulgaria.

Rumsfeld noted he and Kwasniewski discussed Iraq and the problem it poses for the United Nations. The secretary said he and the Polish president also spoke of President Bush's U.N. speech, in which Bush asked the world body to force Iraq's Saddam Hussein to give up his weapons of mass destruction.

He noted that efforts by the United States and other friendly nations are under way within the United Nations to find the appropriate way to enforce U.N. resolutions with respect to disarmament of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

The secretary emphasized that while President Bush hasn't yet made a decision how to resolve the Iraqi WMD issue, a number of nations support Bush's U.N. speech. He also cautioned critics who have accused the United States of trying to take on Iraq alone and without input from the international community.

"I think trying to promote and perpetuate the concept of unilateralism is not on the mark," Rumsfeld pointed out.

At a press conference following Rumfeld's meeting with the Polish president, Polish National Security Adviser Marek Siwiec told reporters that Poland understands the U.S. position on Iraq. Noting that the United Nations continues to debate what to do about Iraq, Siwiec emphasized that Poland remains "a very steadfast ally" of the United States.

Prompted by a reporter's question about Germany's refusal to support America if war should erupt with Iraq, Rumsfeld noted that the way events played out in public was "notably unhelpful." He said the German government's posture "has had the effect of poisoning" Germany's relationship with the United States. He said he's planned no special meetings in Warsaw with the German minister of defense.

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Warsaw Meetings May Presage Rumsfeld's Agenda at Prague NATO Summit (Revised), Sept. 20, 2002

Click photo for screen-resolution imageU.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld (from right), Polish National Security Adviser Marek Siwiec and Polish Defense Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski meet the press Sept. 23, 2002, at the presidential palace in Warsaw. Rumsfeld had just left a meeting with Polish President Alexander Kwasniewski, Prime Minister Leszek Miller and other senior Polish government and military officials. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore.  
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