WHITE HOUSE NOTEBOOK: Obama, Poland show unity

AP News
Posted: Jun 03, 2014 12:39 PM

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — American flags, red carpets and stately rooms adorned with bling typically fill the background when President Barack Obama visits overseas with the leaders of other countries.

But that was hardly the case Tuesday when he stepped off Air Force One in Poland.

The backdrop was, in fact, a hard one: tons of aluminum alloys and steel in the form of F-16 fighter jets supplied by the U.S.

The U.S. opened a full-time aviation detachment in Poland in late 2012 and followed up this year with additional rotations of aircraft and personnel after Russia's moves in Ukraine. It was an effort by Obama to reassure the Eastern European country that the U.S. is committed to its defense.

Obama and Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski walked to a nearby hangar to see the hardware. Obama recalled his promise three years ago to boost the U.S. commitment to Poland's security.

"The United States honors our commitments," he said.


The gift, from prime minister to president, came with some unusual warnings: Blood and gore. Intense violence. Nudity. Strong language. Strong sexual content. Use of drugs.

When Obama visited in 2011, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk gave him a copy of "Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings," highly popular slash-and-splatter video game that was developed in Poland based on the novels of Polish fantasy author Andrzej Sapkowski.

Upon his return to Warsaw, the U.S. president politely acknowledged the M-rated gift, noting that it has "won fans the world over." And he subtly indicated that it had not found its way to White House TV screens.

"I confess I'm not very good at video games," Obama told Tusk during a joint appearance at Tusk's chancellery. "But I've been told that it is a great example of Poland's place in the new global economy."

No word on whether an advance copy of "Witcher 3: Wild Hunt" found its way into the gift package this time.


If Obama needed a reminder of Russia's influence in the region, Komorowski opened a meeting with the president and Central and Eastern European leaders at Koniecpolski Palace by noting the historical nature of the large chandeliered room in which they gathered. It was where representatives of the Soviet Union and seven other Eastern European states signed the Warsaw Pact in 1955, forming a military alliance that became a counterweight to NATO.

Komorowski said he was grateful that the "bad era" of the Cold War is now over, but that lessons remain, including the importance of NATO.

"Security, like freedom, is not given once and for all," he said. "It has to be strengthened."

The room also bore witness to events 25 years ago that Obama and the other leaders are celebrating.

That's where Lech Walesa and other Solidarity figures sat down with communist leaders of the time for the so-called Round Table talks. The talks resulted in the partly free elections on June 4, 1989, which helped overturn the communist system in Europe.


Poland's history was also on display earlier in the day at Komorowski's residence, the Belweder Palace.

The Polish leader showed Obama portraits of two figures of importance to the independence of Poland and of the U.S.

One of them is Casimir (or Kazimierz) Pulaski, a Polish nobleman who fought against Russian intrusions into Poland and who was killed fighting for American independence in the Revolutionary War.

The other was Tadeusz Kosciuszko, who fought in both the American Revolution and in his homeland against the occupying Russians and Prussians.

Both men are frequently cited by Polish and U.S. diplomats as symbols of the Polish-American friendship.


Associated Press writers Vanessa Gera in Warsaw, Poland, and Jim Kuhnhenn and Darlene Superville in Washington contributed to this report.