- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 20, 2000

Polish partners

The new Polish ambassador is urging the incoming Bush administration to make NATO enlargement a priority and beware of Russian moves to exert its influence in Europe.

Russia wants to block the further eastward expansion of NATO and create a buffer zone from Estonia to Ukraine, Ambassador Przemyslaw Grudzinski told editors and reporters at The Washington Times yesterday.

Mr. Grudzinski also said his country, which joined NATO two years ago, supports the European Union's proposal for a European security force that would respond to regional conflicts that NATO wants to avoid.

However, that force must be linked to the Atlantic alliance in order to keep the United States engaged in Europe, he added.

"It is only natural that Europe develop a political and security identity. It is quite a modest effort, but my government is concerned about the execution of the idea," Mr. Grudzinski said.

"It makes sense only if we work with the American government."

Poland, unlike other European countries, has no problem with a U.S. national missile-defense system, as proposed by President-elect George W. Bush, the ambassador said.

"The United States has the full right to develop what it thinks it needs for its own defense," he said.

On NATO expansion, Mr. Grudzinski hopes Mr. Bush realizes how little time he has to endorse new candidates. With a NATO summit planned for the spring of 2002, decisions need to be made in time for preliminary NATO ministerial meetings in December 2001, he said.

"We don't have much time, and this will not happen without American leadership," Mr. Grudzinski said.

Poland has endorsed membership for the three Baltic nations, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, but fears Russia will exert pressure on the West to block them from joining, he said.

"I don't think we should allow a buffer zone to be accepted by NATO," the ambassador said.

Mr. Grudzinski supports a compromise that would include at least one Baltic nation along with a country in the Balkans, possibly Slovenia, and one in Central Europe, possible Slovakia.

The ambassador, who presented his diplomatic credentials in September, said Poland was confident that the United States would resolve the contested presidential election.

"Nobody was too much troubled by it," he said. "We knew you'd work it out."

Mr. Grudzinski, 50, finds it a pleasant irony that he is serving as Poland's ambassador to the United States. The former communist regime tried to prevent him from accepting a visiting professor's position in California because of his political activism.

A member of Solidarity, he helped undermine the communists with an underground publishing effort that printed outlawed books, newspapers and periodicals.

After the fall of communism, he visited Washington in 1992 as deputy defense minister in a democratic Polish government. His delegation was invited by Richard B. Cheney, then defense secretary under President Bush and now vice president-elect under the younger Mr. Bush.

Mr. Cheney "started forging a partnership with Poland," Mr. Grudzinski said.

New Mexican envoy

Mexican President Vicente Fox has selected Juan Jose Bremer as Mexico's new ambassador to the United States, the Mexican Embassy said yesterday.

Mr. Bremer, who has held several diplomatic posts over the past 20 years, was most recently ambassador to Spain. He has also served as ambassador to Sweden, Germany and the Soviet Union.

The ambassador has held several high-level domestic positions. As a member of the Mexican Congress, he was chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of the legislature.

His nomination must be approved by the Mexican Senate.

Embassy Row first reported Dec. 6 that Mr. Bremer was the leading candidate to replace Ambassador Jesus Reyes-Heroles.

Mr. Fox also named Salvador Beltran del Rio as consul-general in New York. He is currently secretary of the national executive committee of Mr. Fox's National Action Party.

He appointed Martha Lara Alatorre, a member of Mexico's Foreign Service for 29 years, as consul-general In Los Angeles.

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