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Bush Praises Poland for its Support - 2002-07-17

President Bush met with Polish leader Aleksander Kwasniewski at the White House Wednesday. The two men agreed to increase military cooperation in the fight against terrorism and also concurred on expansion of the NATO alliance.

President Bush says Poland's support and solidarity in the war against terrorism has been unqualified - from sending peacekeepers to Afghanistan to helping cut-off terrorist finances.

"America and Poland see the world in similar terms," he said. "We both understand the importance of defeating the forces of global terror, and America appreciates all that Poland is contributing to this great struggle."

In a joint news conference at the White House, President Bush announced broader military cooperation between the United States and Poland to meet what he called the new threats of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

The agreement includes greater cooperation between the countries' navies and Special Forces as well as the transfer of a decommissioned U.S. frigate and four helicopters capable of detecting enemy submarines. The deal also involves joint training to defend against nuclear, biological or chemical attack.

Both leaders agreed on the need to continue expansion of the NATO alliance to guarantee European peace and security. Mr. Bush says that means a new way of thinking on a continent no longer dominated by Cold War threats.

"The new role for NATO is going to be to defend Europe against terrorist activity," he said. "And therefore NATO needs to change so it can do a more effective job of defeating the enemy. Russia is not the enemy. The idea of Russian tanks storming across Europe is no longer the problem."

Poland joined the NATO alliance in 1999 and now hopes to be accepted as a member of the European Union in 2004. President Bush says Poland's democratic and economic transformation has been a stabilizing influence in Eastern Europe, at a time of change in the relationship between the United States and Russia.

"As I was very aggressive in talking about a NATO expansion, if Russia thought the neighborhood was unsettled, it might create some issues," Mr. Bush went on to say. "But Poland has provided a great source of stability in the neighborhood and therefore Russia feels less threatened."

President Kwasniewski pointed out all of Europe benefits from improved relations between the United States and Russia. "I think it is the very vital interest of Poland and other states for Russia/United States relations to be very good, and we are very happy with the Russia/NATO partnership. This is a new quality of ensuring security in the world and especially in our region."

The president and Mrs. Bush host a state dinner for their guests Wednesday evening. The leaders then travel to the Midwest state of Michigan Thursday to meet with members of the Polish-American community where they are expected to discuss U.S. investment in Poland.

The presidents Wednesday agreed to boost economic cooperation by improving the investment climate in Poland to create more high-technology jobs for Polish workers.

The United States was the largest investor in the country for much of the last decade. Polish government figures now show that France has taken the lead with more than $10 billion in investments, compared with less than $8 billion from the United States, by the end of last year.