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Obama Statement on Visit of Polish President Lech Kaczynski

Monday, July 16, 2007


WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) today released the following statement on the visit of Polish President Lech Kaczynski to the United States:

“I welcome Polish President Lech Kaczynski to Washington. Recognizing the rich history of cooperation between our two countries, I am happy to say, Witam Serdecznie w Washingtonie [Welcome to Washington].”

“The Polish President's visit reminds us that for the last 200 years America and Poland have been linked in the struggle for freedom. Today there is a strong legacy of sacrifice between the two nations – sacrifice for the cause of American and Polish freedom alike.”

“As early as the Revolutionary War, Polish patriots like Casimir Pulaski and Tadeusz Kosciuszko fought alongside American patriots – from Germantown to Saratoga – to help win our country’s independence.”

“During World War I, Ignacy Paderewski, an unparalleled musician, helped lead the fight for a free and independent Poland. He became Prime Minister after the war, only to be forced into exile by the Nazi Occupation. After he died in exile in the United States, America gave this great friend of freedom a place alongside our honored dead in Arlington National Cemetery. There he would rest, in the words of President Franklin Roosevelt, ‘until Poland would be free.’”

“It was a moving sight when, in 1992, President George H. W. Bush escorted Paderewski's ashes home to Poland. No one will forget seeing thousands of Poles lining the streets over the miles from the airport to the city center, waiting to see the horse drawn carriage.”

“It was the world’s good fortune that a Pole infused with this same dedication to freedom and the dignity of all people was elected Pope at such a critical time. Polish-Americans were thrilled at the election of Karol Wojtyla as Pope, a man who kept the faith when faith was forbidden.”

“At the same time, American Polonia’s dedication to freedom in their native Poland was vital in ensuring that Soviet totalitarianism would not succeed. Millions of personal packages were sent to friends and family back home, and each package was a message of hope in dark days – like the imposition of Martial Law in 1981 – of the Soviet Union.”

“The razing of the Iron Curtain provided opportunities to renew the linkage between Poland and America. Two centuries after the deaths of Pulaski and Kosciuszko, Poland and America became formal allies in NATO, institutionalizing the faith in freedom our countries have shared for centuries.”

“Since joining NATO in 1997, Poland has become one of America’s most important strategic partners, dedicating troops and resources to our operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

“We now have an opportunity to build on this long and deep relationship. Here is how we can.”

1. Renew the unity of purpose of the Transatlantic Relationship. “The Bush Administration's policy of splitting Europe into “old” and “new” was not just wrong, it was counterproductive. Poland should not have to choose between its vital interest in closer integration with Europe and its alliance with the United States. America must repair its relationship with Europe as a whole, so that Poland and our other Central European allies are never put in that position again.”

2. Finish building a Europe whole and free. “Poland has been a steadfast champion of liberty in the countries to its east. America and Poland should stand together to help Ukraine build a strong and stable democracy, and to help the people of Belarus regain their human rights. We also share an interest in working with Russia to meet common security threats and to encourage Russia’s integration into Western institutions. But we should also embrace, not abandon, those in Russia working to preserve their hard won liberty, and draw clear lines against Russia’s intimidation of its neighbors. 21st Century Europe cannot be divided into 19th Century spheres of influence.”

3. Meet global challenges together. “Not long ago, we looked to Poland as a country that needed American help in its own efforts to be free and secure; now we look to Poland as a critical partner in building a safer, freer world. We should work with Poland to secure more European troops, with stronger rules of engagement, to stabilize Afghanistan. And we should work together to send an unmistakable signal to Iran that its insistence in pursuing a nuclear weapons program is a profound mistake.”

4. Energize the alliance to confront new challenges. “From Poland to the United States, we are facing a new kind of threat – in the form of energy insecurity and climate change. The North Atlantic community has always joined forces to confront and defeat new challenges, and we should be doing the same now by, among other things, sharing best practices on energy conservation, inviting India and China to join the International Energy Agency, and dedicating our significant resources to establishing a global cap and trade on greenhouse gas pollution.”

5. Prudently but decisively prepare for emerging threats. “The Bush Administration has been developing plans to deploy interceptors and radar systems in Poland and the Czech Republic as part of a missile defense system designed to protect against the potential threat of Iranian nuclear armed missiles. If we can responsibly deploy missile defenses that would protect us and our allies we should – but only when the system works. We need to make sure any missile defense system would be effective before deployment. The Bush Administration has in the past exaggerated missile defense capabilities and rushed deployments for political purposes. The Bush Administration has also done a poor job of consulting its NATO allies about the deployment of a missile defense system that has major implications for all of them. We must not allow this issue to divide “new Europe” and “old Europe,” as the Bush Administration tried to do over Iraq.”

6. Invite Poland to join the Visa Waiver Program. “We should work to include countries like Poland that are members of both the EU and NATO into the Visa Waiver Program. Today’s visa regime reflects neither the current strategic relationship nor the close historic bonds between our peoples, and is out of date.”

“These are important steps, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to implement them.”

“It is wonderful to welcome the Polish President at a time in which America and Poland share the same freedom. Our two nations share a common legacy and destiny, and I am honored to welcome President Kaczynski to Washington.”