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Bush, Polish Leader Visit Polish-American Community - 2002-07-18

President Bush and Polish leader Aleksander Kwasniewski traveled to the midwest state of Michigan Thursday where they met with Polish-American leaders to discuss the war on terrorism and expanding the NATO alliance.

It was diplomacy and politics for President Bush Thursday as he brought the Polish leader to a key electoral state where Polish-Americans are a significant voting block.

With a lively crowd waiving Polish and American flags, Mr. Bush praised President Kwasniewski as a steadfast ally in the fight against terrorism. "When America was attacked, NATO and Poland, led by this good man, immediately declared that an attack on one of us was an attack on all of us," he said.

He says both men agree on the continued expansion of the NATO alliance to protect Europe against threats from terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

Poland joined NATO in 1999 and is now backing the candidacy of the Balkan states Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia.

Looking ahead to a November meeting in the Czech Republic, President Bush says those wishing to join NATO should show that they will be "willing and active and capable partners."

He noted in his speech that "five years ago, the United States proudly supported Poland's bid to join NATO. This year, Poland and the United States will meet in Prague and support NATO membership for all of Europe's democracies ready to share in NATO's responsibilities."

Continuing his speech over protesters in the audience shouting, "No more war," President Bush said the United States, with Poland's help, is punishing those responsible for the violence of September 11.

"Poland has deployed troops to Afghanistan, has shared intelligence and cracked down on terrorist financing," he said. "You need to know that the United States of America will track the terrorists down one-by-one and bring them to justice."

Polish-Americans account for nearly ten percent of the population in Michigan. This was the president's fourth visit to the key swing state since losing Michigan to Al Gore in 2000.

He says the trip on Air Force One was a chance for the Polish leader to "get out of Washington" and see what he calls one of "countless communities" across America that has been "enormously enriched by the contributions and values of Polish-Americans."

The president added, "Poland has a leader it can trust. He is good man. He is a man I'm proud to call friend. I'm proud to bring him to the great state of Michigan."

Throughout his state visit, the Polish leader has returned the compliment, praising Mr. Bush and his father the former president, for their commitment to Poland.

"Poland is a steadfast ally of America. Whether in the Balkans or in Afghanistan, Polish and American soldiers cooperate everywhere that peace is threatened and human rights are violated," he said. "Together we have undertaken a decisive fight against global terror. We shall not allow madmen to threaten our values." Mr. Bush and his guest continued their tour with a traditional lunch of dumplings and stuffed cabbage at a Polish Cultural Center where they also discussed U.S. investment in Poland to create more high-tech jobs.