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Obama: Poland A Model for New Democracies

President Barack Obama and Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk shake hands during a joint news conference at the Chancellery Building in Warsaw, Poland, May 28, 2011

President Barack Obama, in Warsaw Saturday, praised Poland as an example for aspiring democracies in the Middle East and elsewhere. The president also reassured Poles about the U.S. commitment to ensuring their security.

President Obama, at a Warsaw news conference with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, said Poland has overcome extraordinary challenges and built a successful democracy. And he said Poland can use its experience to serve as an example for new democracies in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.

“Poland can play an extraordinary role, precisely because they have traveled so far so rapidly over the last 25 years,” said the president.

Earlier in the day, Obama and Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski met with some of the activists who brought democracy to Poland to discuss their recent efforts to help Tunisia start a democracy.

President Obama reaffirmed that the United States remains committed to Poland's security, and that the so-called “reset” in ties with Russia will help calm tensions in the region.

“What we want to do is to create an environment in this region in which peace and security are a given. That is not just good for this region, it is good for the United States of America. And we will always be there for Poland,” he said.

The president reassured his Polish hosts that despite Russia's objections, the U.S. will base fighter jets in Poland, and will go ahead with its planned missile defense system.

“We believe that missile defense is something where we should be cooperating with the Russians, because we share external threats, and this would not be a threat to the strategic balance that Russia is concerned with,” he said.

Warsaw was the final stop in Obama's six-day trip to Europe. In Poland, as in Ireland, Britain and France, the president emphasized the importance of U.S.-European relations. “It is fitting that I conclude my trip here in Poland. At each stop I have affirmed the fact that America's transatlantic alliance is the cornerstone of our engagement in the world,” he said.

Obama concluded his European tour by paying respects at a memorial to the late Polish President Lech Kaczynski and 95 others, many of them top government officials, who died in a plane crash in April 2010.