WARSAW, Poland, AP
U.S. President George W. Bush crossed Europe’s old Iron Curtain divide Friday to spotlight Poland’s successful transition from communism to democracy. “Poland serves as an example of what’s possible,” he said.
With a nod to Russia, Bush said he envisions Russia as an ally, and said the former Soviet empire “should not fear the expansion of freedom-loving people to her borders.”
Bush began his Warsaw visit — the fourth stop on an inaugural five-nation European tour — by meeting with President Aleksander Kwasniewski at the 17th century Presidential Palace, a Baroque-style mansion where his father attended a state dinner in 1989.
He announced that the United States had begun the process of transferring a second frigate to the Polish navy, and expressed support for Poland to gain membership in the European Union. The two leaders also discussed NATO expansion, which Bush said is inevitable and should be not be based on the politics of exclusion.
“And we don’t believe any nation should have a veto over who is accepted,” Bush said.
Of his first face-to-face meeting with Vladimir Putin, Bush said he would seek to assure the Russian president that he wants to help elevate Russia’s role “in the world and Europe” while raising concerns about possible Russian shipments of weapons material to Iran. The two leaders meet Saturday in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia.
His primary goal, Bush said, is to build trust with Putin so that when their meeting is over, “I am confident I’ll be able to say I got a pretty good feel for the man, and he’s got a good feel for me.”
Bush met later Friday with Polish Prime Minister Jerzy Karol Buzek, and laid wreaths at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Warsaw Ghetto Memorial.
Bush was making the only public address of his trip Friday afternoon at the Warsaw University Library, whose facade of giant copper plates with fragments of great scholarly writings is a Warsaw landmark. He said he would use the address to stress that NATO nations have to be more receptive of countries aspiring for membership.
Bush flew to Poland from Goteborg, Sweden, where he and European Union leaders parted ways Thursday on a key environmental issue. At a news conference in Goteborg, Bush offered a preview of Friday’s speech.
“I believe we have an opportunity to form an alliance of peace, that Europe ought to include nations beyond the current scope of the European Union and NATO,” Bush said. He said the time has come to further expand the boundaries of both institutions _ a prospect that deeply troubles Russia.
“My vision of Europe is a larger vision: more countries, more free trade, and one which welcomes Russia and the Ukraine, welcomes Russia and encourages Russia to make the right choices,” he added.
But Europeans seem uncertain about the Bush administration’s approach to their continent.
For example, the president has created concern by declaring his intention to deploy a missile defense that would violate the basic tenets of the 1972 Anti Ballistic Missile treaty. Many European leaders consider the pact a pillar of global stability; Bush has called it a relic of the Cold War.
In Goteborg, Bush was at odds with the European Union on the 1997 Kyoto treaty on reducing environmentally harmful emissions. Europeans favor the treaty, which Bush has abandoned as scientifically unrealistic.
The Warsaw speech appeared aimed at burying any doubts about Bush’s commitment to Europe’s future, as well as his interest in persuading Russia it has nothing to fear from a more united Europe.
Bush sees Poland as a shining example of a formerly communist nation that wisely managed its transition to a free-market democracy. That transformation was sparked by the Solidarity union movement in the early 1980s, clinched by the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 and capped by Poland’s entry into NATO in 1999.