US Secretary of Defense in Poland
On 30-31 January US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel paid a visit to Poland.
During the stay in Poland a meeting of the US Secretary of Defense with Minister Tomasz Siemoniak was held. Among the discussed topics there was biletaral military cooperation and partner relations in the field of security.
Statement of Minister of National Defence Tomasz Siemoniak
Ladies and gentlemen, today we are hosting the Secretary of Defense of the United States, Mr. Chuck Hagel. It is beginning of the year of the celebration of the 25th anniversary of Poland's regaining its independence and the 10th anniversary of Poland's membership in NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization].
And it is with the satisfaction that I would like to remind you that back in 1998, Mr. Chuck Hagel, as the United States senator, voted for Poland's accession to NATO. And it was really very nice to hear today that he said that he was very proud of the way he voted.
And in talking about our anniversaries, it is important to remember that in the historic events for our country, the United States played a decisive role. It bases our alliance on strong foundation of history, friendship, and common values.
The sign of that friendship, exactly 32 years ago, was the day of the 30th of January, 1982, during the martial law. The president of the United States made that day the day of solidarity with Poland. Today, we meet that solidarity as allies who believe that the active presence of the United States in Europe guarantees our continent security, development, and democracy.
This solidarity is manifested in the strong North Atlantic Treaty Organization that is based on strong United States and Europe -- Europe that must do more for its own security. It is so, because of the events in Europe and close to the European borders in North Africa and in Syria make it necessary to take seriously the threats and the necessity to strengthen NATO.
Poland is ready to take up real and very specific actions in this area by means of the modernization of the Polish armed forces by great financial effort that is taken by its citizens and organizing the regional security policy.
The efficiency of these actions, and the efficiency of our air force depends on the support and the presence of the United States. One cannot think about the security of Poland and the security of this part of Europe in the 21st century without the United States.
We have very positively evaluated that so far, military cooperation – first of all, the Brotherhood in Arms in Afghanistan that is based on very close cooperation of our troops. But this is also about other common air forces’ exercises with the use of the permanent presence of the American troops from the aviation detachment.
We also noted that the works on the implementation of the third phase of the American missile defense system in Europe that covers the installation in Redzikowo in 2018 goes according to the schedule.
We also talked about the situation in Ukraine. I informed the secretary of defense about the activities that are taken up by Poland also in the context of the meetings he's going to have tomorrow with the president of Poland and with the prime minister of Poland. After those meetings, we are going to visit together Polish and American troops in the base in Powidz.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel:
It is a pleasure to see you again and be with you here in Poland, for the very reasons you noted, as well as my own personal interest in this country.
I want to wish you, Minister, and the people of Poland the best today. As has been noted -- you mentioned that it was 1982 that President Reagan proclaimed this day as the national Polish Solidarity Day. And we honor that. We recognize that. And I congratulate the people of Poland, and I congratulate the people of the United States.
It's a privilege for me to be back in Poland after a number of years, though it's my first trip as the secretary of defense, I have visited before. And I very much appreciate this opportunity to be back in Poland and visit with some old friends.
As the minister noted, I will, later today, meet with the foreign minister, Sikorski, who I have known for many years. And I look forward to my meetings tomorrow with the Polish prime minister and president.
One point that I am going to continue to emphasize in all of my meetings, as I did with the minister, is the acknowledgement that Poland continues to be a strategic ally for the United States, a strong partner, and an old and good friend.
And as the minister noted, my vote back in 1999 to approve the ascension to NATO of Poland was a vote that I am very proud of. And I am proud of that vote not because only it was the right vote, but because what Poland has done over the 15 years it's been a member of NATO: the strong leadership participation contributions Poland has made to NATO.
I want to particularly acknowledge and thank Poland for its contributions in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is -- as Poland has partnered with the United States in both of those wars at great sacrifice, we are very much aware that you have lost members of your armed forces, and we acknowledge those sacrifices and we appreciate that partnership.
Over the last few years, we have opened up a new chapter in our partnership, a friendship, a partnership that dates back to America's independence, when Poland's great general, Casimir Pulaski, volunteered to serve under George Washington. There are, as many of you know, many monuments to General Pulaski; the many monuments to the Polish general in the United States.
And many of you know that the general was such a deft leader using cavalry, that he is considered by our Army to be the father of American cavalry.
And as the minister noted, in a reference in his comments, the U.S.-Poland relationship is a personal one to me, and I will see evidence of that tomorrow.
My grandmother's maiden name was Konkolewski and her parents were married in a little village here in Poland, which I will have occasion to visit tomorrow and visit the location of the rebuilt church where they were married as well, as the minister gave me copies of the marriage license.
The name of the village is Kiszkow. I understand it's a small village. I told the minister today that I hope my great-grandparents didn't leave the village owing a lot of people money.
The United States and Poland are not only bound by a culture in history and personal relationships, but we're also bound by shared interests in peace and security.
In support of these interests, U.S.-Polish defense cooperation is strong, enduring and it continues to enhance in many areas of cooperation.
One example of this is missile defense, where our nations continue to work closely together, both bilaterally and through NATO in response to ballistic missile threats. And the United States is firmly committed to deploying a U.S. missile defense system to Poland. We look forward to this system coming online in 2018 as part of phase III of the European Phase Adaptive Approach.
Another example of our cooperation, one that I will see tomorrow and one the minister has noted, is at Powidz Air Base, where our groundbreaking joint aviation detachment is located. Where our American and Polish airmen are training and working side by side every day.
Not only does this detachment send an important defense capability message to our allies and partners ... That message is that the United States remained committed -- remains committed to the European and Polish defense.
But it also shows that we are open to new and innovative ways of thinking about how our militaries can collaborate and bring more value added to our single and joint capabilities. And the United States greatly appreciates Poland inviting us and hosting that detachment.
Our two nations are working to expand training exercises and operational exercises occurring through that aviation detachment. And these include other regional partners, such as Romania, which is the latest member to acquire -- NATO member to acquire F-16s.
And because Poland has demonstrated its leadership, its willingness, its commitment to play a significant leadership role here in Central Europe, this partnership and this joint exercise is particularly important and well suited to future exercises and training opportunities.
Now these are but a couple of the very clear, concrete, tangible expressions of America's strong security relationship with Poland. And they also very clearly reaffirm the U.S. commitment to Central and Eastern Europe and they form a foundation to support an enduring partnership with these countries in this region well into the future.
As Poland explores its options for its own missile defense capabilities, there is an unmistakable opportunity for us, both of us, to forge even closer cooperation in this area, leveraging cutting-edge technology and enhanced NATO capability. This will benefit Poland and the United States and the entire Trans-Atlantic Alliance.
The minister and I also discussed today our continuing commitment to supporting Poland's defense modernization efforts. In an area of fiscal pressures that reside on both sides of the Atlantic, this investment is particularly required to move our alliance further, deeper, closer into the 21st century, ultimately allowing both of our militaries to collaborate much closer on more projects in the future.
As the U.S. begins to place an even greater strategic emphasis on working with our allies and our partners around the world, particularly here in Central and Eastern Europe and with our NATO allies, we are very confident that our partnership and alliance with Poland will continue to be close, enhanced, strong, and effective for many years.
The program of the visit included meetings of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel with President Bronisław Komorowski, Prime Minister Donald Tusk and Minister of Foreign Affairs Radosław Sikorski.
During the stay in Poland US Secretary of Defense also visited 33rd Transport Air Base in Powidz where C-130 Hercules aircraft are stationing.
Chuck Hagel also made a brief visit to Kiszkow Village in central Poland, where his mother’s grandparents were married before immigrating to the United States.