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Europe

Obama vows greater military presence on Warsaw visit

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-05-28

US President Barack Obama hailed Poland as a model of peaceful democratic transition on a visit to Warsaw Saturday and expressed support for meeting regional threats to Polish security, including a greater US military presence in the country.

AP - Polish leaders praised President Barack Obama on Saturday for pushing ahead on issues of key importance to Warsaw: establishing a U.S. military presence in this central European country and making it easier for Poles to visit the United States.

As Obama wrapped up his first visit to Poland, the White House said the U.S. plans to establish an Air Force detachment of U.S. F-16 fighter jets and C-130 Hercules aircraft in Poland in 2013.
 
“I believe a new stage is opening in Polish-U.S. relations, also in the area of the U.S. military presence in Poland,” Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski said in an interview after Obama’s visit.
 
Poland and the U.S. are NATO allies and already cooperate closely, but Poland wants a stronger U.S. military presence on its soil as a way of enhancing its security.
 
“The order of magnitude is not really large, but the gesture is very significant,” Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said at a joint news conference with Obama.
 
An analyst said having American “boots on the ground” has as symbolic aspect but that its importance goes beyond that. “It means the commitment is larger than the commitment through NATO,” said Marcin Zaborowski, director of the Polish Institute of International Affairs.
 
Obama also said he backs legislation sponsored by several members of the U.S. Congress that could ease travel restrictions for Poles – a key issue in Polish-U.S. ties.
 
Obama noted that Poland currently does not meet criteria to enter the visa waiver system, and that “I could not simply waive the law.” But he said the legislation he backs would change the criteria and should “resolve this issue in a way that is satisfactory to Poland but also meets the security concerns of the United States.”
 
To a Polish reporter who asked when Poles could expect to shop on Fifth Avenue in New York, Obama said: “We very much want you to shop on Fifth Avenue and anywhere else in the United States.”
 
President Komorowski said he felt “great satisfaction” that Obama presented “specific ideas for solving this problem that unnecessarily burdens Polish-American relations.”
 
Currently, Poles must have a visa to enter the United States, a source of much dissatisfaction for years now. Many Poles feel they should have earned the right to visa-free travel to the U.S. given the nation’s strong alliance with the U.S. and its support for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
 
“The issue of visas exemplifies that there is a lack of reciprocity in this relationship. ... If you can’t travel there (without a visa) you feel kind of humiliated,” said Zaborowski. He added that while Poles will welcome Obama’s promise to push the matter in Congress, ultimately Poles will judge him on the results.

 

Date created : 2011-05-28

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