President Bush will ask the U.S. Congress for an additional $400 million to help other countries meet the cost of deploying forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Many of the recipients will be countries like Poland, fairly new democracies with somewhat limited resources. The announcement came just hours after President Bush met at the White House with Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski.
When the two met with reporters, President Bush was asked if Poland would be receiving more aid to modernize its military. He said he planned to ask Congress for $100 million. It is a significant increase over the $67 million set aside for that purpose last year. But the president indicated he is certain the new request will win congressional support.
"I don't get to write the checks in the American system of government,” said Mr. Bush. “The Congress does that. But I get to put out requests. And I assured the president that when it is all said and done that would be the request we will put forward. I am confident the Congress will respond."
Poland currently commands a coalition security force in central Iraq comprised of about 6,000 troops, including more than 2,400 Poles. The Polish government is planning to draw down its contingent to about 1,600 by the end of the year. Mr. Bush made no mention of the withdrawal, focusing instead on Poland's overall contribution.
“Poland has been a fantastic ally because the president and the people of Poland love freedom,” added Mr. Bush. “And I know the people of your country must have been thrilled when the millions of people went to the polls and showed that people from all parts of the world want to live in a free society.”
Speaking in Polish, President Kwasniewski said he was optimistic about the future of Iraq, and is pleased with signs that U.S.-European relations are improving.
The Polish and American presidents will meet again in about two weeks in Brussels, where Mr. Bush will confer with members of NATO and the European Union, part of an effort to repair ties frayed during the lead-up to the Iraq war.