- The Washington Times - Monday, July 15, 2002

WARSAW President Aleksander Kwasniewski of Poland, who has emerged as the staunchest European supporter of President Bush's foreign policy, in an interview ahead of his state visit to Washington dismissed European complaints that the Bush administration is conducting unilateral policies.
Multilateralism, he said, is a "conviction" of both Mr. Bush and his advisers, and "not a tactical move related to the building of the anti-terrorist coalition."
In his actions since September 11, "Mr. Bush showed that he understood very well that he had partners in Europe and the rest of the world, and that they were to be treated with seriousness," said Mr. Kwasniewski, a Social Democrat and communist-era government official who succeeded Lech Walesa at his country's helm six years ago.
He arrives in Washington tomorrow for what will be just the second state visit of the Bush presidency after Mexican President Vicente Fox's.
Speaking in his Warsaw office last week, Mr. Kwasniewski noted NATO's embrace of Russia in May as a de facto ally, as well as the strong U.S. support for the alliance's enlargement later this year.
Both actions, he said, showed "that the Americans have a sense of their strength, because they have unquestionable power, but they don't neglect their policy of cooperating with their partners."
While grateful at being honored with a state visit, Mr. Kwasniewski said he would not shy in his talks with Mr. Bush from less pleasant topics, such as the fading enthusiasm of American investors for putting their money in Poland.
"As for the bilateral U.S.-Polish relationship, it needs to be reinforced in the economic sphere," he said. "The United States is one of the leading investors in our country, but the American investment interest has weakened."
Although for most of the 1990s the United States was the largest investor in Poland, government figures show that by the end of last year France had taken the lead with $10.2 billion in investment, compared with $7.8 billion from the United States.
Foreign investors were further disappointed 10 days ago when Finance Minister Marek Belka resigned, putting the Polish currency, the zloty, under pressure and prompting talk of a rift between Mr. Kwasniewski and Prime Minister Leszek Miller, also a Social Democrat.
Mr. Kwasniewski said the resignation is "part of democracy" and will not deter Poland from restoring economic growth now languishing at 1 percent or from joining the European Union in 2004.
Poland, which became a NATO member in 1999, strongly supports the alliance's further expansion, particularly the applications of the three Baltic states, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
Mr. Kwasniewski rejected criticism in the West that his country, along with the other two newest members, Hungary and the Czech Republic, had not done enough to prove that it deserved acceptance.
"Everybody expected that the new members will meet all the standards immediately, especially as far as the quality of the equipment was concerned," he said.
"It was not realistic from the very beginning, because there was huge money involved, none of our countries had it, and we didn't receive any help to buy new aircraft, tanks or other equipment."
Mr. Kwasniewski's visit with Mr. Bush is expected to be a three-day romance, which will include a state dinner Wednesday and a trip to Troy, Mich., aboard Air Force One on Thursday.
The highly ceremonial, full-protocol visit is the highest honor that can be bestowed on a foreign leader by the U.S. president, and only a handful of them take place during a presidential term. The choice of such guests is often determined by a country's relations with the United States, but personal relationships play no lesser role.
There is no obvious reason for picking Mr. Kwasniewski. Mr. Bush gets on very well with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Russian President Vladimir Putin, among others.
But none of these leaders, who have indeed been supportive of Mr. Bush in one way or another, can afford to praise him as lavishly as Mr. Kwasniewski does Mr. Blair and Mr. Berlusconi because of their closer daily cooperation with their EU partners, and Mr. Putin for reasons related to the anti-reformist parts of the Russian electorate.
A White House official said Mr. Kwasniewski's visit will spotlight the achievements of a country that, since abandoning communism just more than 12 years ago, has become a functioning democracy with a market economy, a NATO member and a prospective member of the EU.
Aides to both presidents noted that Mr. Kwasniewski made a good impression when he hosted Mr. Bush during his first European trip in June last year.
Mr. Bush's speech in Warsaw, in which he tried to dispel fears he was ignoring Europe's views, is frequently cited by many of the continent's diplomats.
Mr. Kwasniewski, who speaks English but preferred the services of an official interpreter during the interview, said his ideological differences with Mr. Bush are irrelevant when it comes to state matters. He also appears to have adopted some of Mr. Bush's language, notably the use of the word "evil."
"I don't think ideology plays such an important role, because Mr. Bush and I are members of the generation of politicians that first of all try to act in a pragmatic manner and not burden politics with excessive ideology," he said.
"We fight together against evil in the world, organized crime, social injustice, and it has to be a joint fight. It's not an American Republican with a Polish Social Democrat. It's two politicians who are convinced that they can do a lot together and have understanding, sympathy and trust toward each other," he said.

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