by Aleksander Kwasniewski, President of the Republic of Poland, <br />at the Welcoming Reception at the Presidential Palace
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am very pleased to be your host at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw. Please accept a warm welcome on behalf of the Polish authorities and the Polish people. I am glad that the Polish capital is the meeting place of such a distinguished group of politicians, many of whom I consider my friends.
The meeting in Warsaw is taking place shortly before the NATO summit in Prague and is aimed at hammering out decisions that will be of key importance for the allies' policy. The meeting also helps us understand the opportunities and challenges that we have come to face on the threshold of the new century. Scarred by two world wars, the Holocaust, and totalitarian systems, the 20th century was a period of especially trying experiences in the history of Europe. Today, we must draw wise conclusions from the past, but we must first of all look to the future. We must have courage and trust in our ability to build a world that is better, fairer, and safer.
Only two weeks ago, in the United States and in many other countries, including Poland, we commemorated the victims of the tragic events of September 11. For a moment, we felt New Yorkers again. We should use the memory of that ordeal as an additional encouragement to reflect on the need for solidarity and cooperation among peace-loving nations. The memory, of the events should also serve as a warning and an incentive to take necessary measures to protect ourselves against the onslaught of evil, terrorism, and crime. The wisdom of our reforms and the effective strengthening of the system of global security will determine the fate of the generations to come.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
For the first time ever, Poland has friendly relations and ties with all of its neighbors at the same time. Our democracy is permanent and stable, and the canons of the Polish raison d'etat and the priorities of our foreign policy remain unchanged regardless of the political forces in power. The Polish people are aware of our departure point and our destination. They also know which road we do not want to take.
Of fundamental importance for our engagement on the international stage is the security of Poland and the region. However, we are now learning how to think in global terms according to the rule that our security and peace are based on the security of other countries, not only our neighbors. Therefore, we advocate further NATO enlargement. The accession of Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary proved a success. The zone of security and stability was extended and skeptics' fears and reservations were found groundless. The decisions to be taken in Prague will be a token of appreciation of the efforts taken by the candidate countries to meet the Alliance's demanding requirements and standards. We will move not only the borders of the Transatlantic community of peace, but also the borders of respect for democratic principles and human rights. History is offering us an opportunity that was unthinkable in the past. We must not ignore it. In taking up this opportunity, we will increase common security for the benefit of the entire community of democracies.
However, with the benefit of hindsight, in taking fast and decisive actions, we must not draw new artificial dividing lines on the political map of Europe and the rest of the world. We know from the experience of the Visegrad Group that it is best to counter that by developing regional cooperation. We are now working on creating a wider platform for joint actions by the countries of Central, Eastern, and Southern Europe, called the Riga Initiative. One of its main objectives is to establish a forum for security consultations for all the countries of the region, regardless of their affiliation with international organizations. Tills should foster the creation of favorable conditions for the enlargement of NATO and the European Union and the continuation of the open-door policy.
Poland believes that NATO enlargement, a more effective fight against terrorism, strengthened cooperation with partner countries, opening up to Russia, and devising a new framework of cooperation with Ukraine constitute the main elements of the Alliance's evolution to enable it to maintain its key role in ensuring Euro-Atlantic and global security. It is also worth seeking new forms of cooperation in the framework of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, offering an attractive and credible platform of contacts with countries that are interested in working with the Alliance.
In Poland, we attach great importance to the transformations in Russia, especially its gradual opening up to cooperation and partnership with the West. We welcome with hope the strengthening of good relations between Russia and NATO, the development of contacts with the European Union, the breakthrough in the strategic armament field, and cooperation with the United States in fighting international terrorism. I would like to emphasize that Polish-Russian relations are also acquiring new positive dynamics. We have been able to overcome a number of difficult issues and prejudices originating in the past, as well as to solve present problems concerning economic and, political cooperation.
Poland will continue to be active in supporting the Euro-Atlantic aspirations of Ukraine. We take the view that we must help the Ukrainian transformations and strengthen Ukraine's position in its relations with the Alliance. We were one of the first countries to support the decision of Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council of May 23, 2002 "0n Ukraine's strategy toward the North Atlantic Alliance". In the decision, Ukraine emphasizes that the final objective of its Eurointegration policy it to become a member of NATO. An example of Kiev's aspirations is the participation of the Ukrainian-Polish battalion in the KFOR peace mission, in Kosovo. Ukraine's engagement in the common European area lies in our best interests. Ukraine has a vast military potential, including defense industry capacity, that can be used by NATO countries as an important element to strengthen the Alliance's defense capability.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This year may be a turning point for NATO. This will depend both on the enlargement decisions taken in Prague and the settlement of important issues concerning its organization and the strengthening of its defense capability in the face of new threats. Poland advocates an evolution, of NATO that, without compromising its traditional defense functions, will ensure flexibility in reacting to such threats. The Alliance's transformation should help strengthen its political and military effectiveness. We must also be more consistent than before in demanding that each member meets its obligations toward the Alliance.
From the perspective of Polish security interests, NATO's objectives should primarily be those of a classical defense alliance. We are aware, however, that given the present international situation, the Alliance should also be capable of conducting military operations other than the defense of allied territories. This need follows from the nature of modern threats, and especially the fight against terrorism.
The effective transformation of NATO will require the strengthening of Euro-Atlantic relations. A united Europe and the United States are natural allies. Poland supports and, as an EU member, will a support continued US presence and interest in European affairs. We believe that it is NATO that is the main guarantee of the US military presence in Europe. This is not contradictory with the European Security and Defense Policy, which is not an alternative to or the counterbalance of the Euro-Atlantic security mechanisms, but their necessary supplement. In a few years' time, we may build a common military pillar in Europe to shape a new the Transatlantic partnership. The countries of Europe must be aware that only with joint efforts by North America and a united Europe will it be possible to create a system of security capable of countering the threats of the 21st century.
The Alliance's transformation and enlargement must be accompanied by necessary reforms and modernization efforts resulting in:
- Improved interoperability within NATO;
- Closer cooperation between the armed forces of the member stales on both sides of the Atlantic;
- Faster development of defense capabilities in the face of new threats, such as terrorism, proliferation, or cyber attacks;
- Development of a suitable strategy, allowing for the European Security and Defense Policy, aimed at better coordination of efforts between NATO and the EU and between America and Europe.
The Defense Capabilities Initiative must be reassessed and revitalized. The specification of objectives planned by the Alliance should not only enable the allies to achieve the required defense capability faster, but also to accelerate modernization efforts in many European armed forces and to reduce the technological gap between Europe and the US. Neither NATO, nor Europe needs larger armed forces. All we need are modem armies capable of immediate action anywhere across the globe. Therefore, the Alliance's efforts should take the form of a detailed plan that, given our economic (capabilities, will have the effect of increasing its defense capability.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The North Atlantic Alliance has proved time and time again that it is capable of dealing with adversities, building bridges of understanding, and effectively fighting evil Difficulties make it stronger, and adversities release new energy. I am deeply convinced that the allied countries are also capable of overcoming the great challenges of our times. I strongly believe that it is possible to defeat international terrorism, diffuse many conflicts, ensure a more equitable distribution of the benefits of globalization, and secure faster global economic growth. We see promising times ahead of us. We see times of international cooperation and solidarity and the strengthening of ties between Europe and America. The meeting of NATO Defense Ministers in Warsaw is a good opportunity to ensure that our hopes for a bright future take real shape.
I wish you productive discussions.