Poland To Take Advisory Role With New NATO Members
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WARSAW, Poland, Sept. 24, 2002 Poland will play an important role in advising the military of any new nations accepted into NATO, a senior U.S. defense official said here Sept. 23.
U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld met with Polish President Alexander Kwasniewski and other senior officials Sept. 23, the official told reporters at a background briefing. The meeting included discussions on the U.S.- Polish military-to-military relationship and other issues, he said.
The United States sees Poland as a country "that takes defense matters very seriously" in an important area of the world, he noted. Poland, he pointed out, has "a strong, trans-Atlantic approach" to defense and security policy issues.
"We see them as a regional leader in the alliance," the official emphasized.
Nine Baltic and Balkan countries -- Slovenia, Slovakia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Albania, Macedonia, Romania, and Bulgaria -- have petitioned to join NATO, he remarked. The issue of new members will be discussed in greater depth in November at a NATO Summit in Prague, Czech Republic.
The United States, he continued, believes Poland is capable of playing an important role in advising and aiding potential new members based on its own experiences and contributions since joining NATO in 1999. Polish troops have proven themselves in the Balkans and in Afghanistan, providing important support in the war against global terrorism, he said.
The Polish military, like the U.S. armed forces, is undergoing major restructuring and transformation, the official noted. Close U.S.-Polish military cooperation, particularly in the area of transformation, is to the two nations' mutual advantage, he said.
That's why the United States and Poland developed a military cooperation initiative involving air, land and sea forces, he said. In addition, the two nations may also cooperate in other areas, such as missile defense and establishing military transformational training centers, he added.
After the morning meeting with the Poles, Rumsfeld attended bilateral meetings with the defense ministers of the Netherlands and Italy. Later in the day at an evening NATO reception at a Polish military installation, the secretary met with NATO officials, including Secretary-General George Robertson, other diplomats and senior military leaders.
Informal NATO defense ministerial meetings kick off Sept. 24 and will continue until early afternoon of Sept. 25. Rumsfeld is slated to return to Washington that evening.