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Poland Will Never be Alone Again, Promises Powell at Warsaw Uprising Observance - 2004-08-01


Secretary of State Colin Powell has assured Poles they will never again have to stand alone against aggressors. Mr. Powell attended observances of the 1944 Warsaw uprising that was crushed by Nazi German forces.

The Warsaw uprising, in which the underground Polish Home Army stood up to Nazi forces with little outside help, is still a raw memory for Poles, who lived through the experience, and those who have learned about it since.

The resistance fighters held out against the Germans for 63 days, before the revolt was crushed in street-to-street fighting that killed an estimated 200,000 people.

Many Poles fault the Soviet army, which had advanced to the eastern outskirts of the city, for not intervening, and also the Western allies in the war for providing only limited air-drops of supplies.

At a news conference here with his Polish counterpart, Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, Secretary of State Colin Powell, heading the U.S. delegation to the memorial events, acknowledged that insufficient help reached the Polish resistance.

But he declined to describe the episode as a betrayal, and stressed that Poland's security is now anchored by membership in NATO and the European Union and an enduring alliance with United States.

"The important thing now is that the United States and Poland are united," said Mr. Powell. "Poland will never be alone again, as long as the United States is there to stand alongside Poland. And we should be looking forward. And I think, the purpose of these events over the last couple of days, and especially today and tonight, is to celebrate Poland's freedom now, to commemorate what was done in the past in achieving that freedom, and to look forward."

Mr. Cimoszewicz, for his part, acknowledged that very little could have been done by the Western allies during the uprising, especially with the lack of agreement by the Soviets to allow transport planes to actually land in Warsaw with supplies.

But he made clear that Poland's over-riding grievance is over understandings made in the allied summits in Tehran in 1943 and at Yalta in 1945, which, historians say, left Poland and other central and east European countries in the Soviet orbit for nearly five decades of communist rule.

"We have to understand that, in Tehran, in Yalta, a great, great mistake was made, when three allies agreed to divide Europe, to divide the world, and they decided about the fate, the future of independent sovereign nations, fighting with their blood for their freedom, above their heads. And that couldn't be accepted, and it should never happen again," said Mr. Cimoszewicz.

The Polish foreign minister said it is very surprising that some six decades after the critical World War II summits, intelligence files and minutes from the meetings, especially those of Britain, are still classified as secret and off limits to historians.

Polish officials have been particularly critical of Britain for failing to transport free Polish forces in Britain back home to take part in the fighting, with Polish Prime Minister Marek Belka saying Britain should put history straight with some sort of apology.

As Mr. Powell did Sunday, the British government has said more help should have been given to the Polish resistance, but a spokesman said he is not sure an apology is appropriate.