Address to the Polish Parliament in Warsaw
Thank you very much. Mr. President, Mr. Prime Minister, Marshal Oleksy, Mr. Speakers, and representatives of the people of Poland: I am honored to stand before you today in this chamber, at the heart of Poland's democracy. I know that you have extended your session in order to hear me today, and I am very grateful for your hospitality.
We gather today to honor a friendship that is as old as my Nation. And we honor ties that grow stronger every day. We admire the contributions that Polish-Americans, millions of them, have made and are making to our Nation's strength. And we celebrate the cultural ties that bind our peoples. But at this moment of decision in history, in this time of renewal for Poland and for the United States, Poland has come to mean something even greater, for your success is crucial to democracy's future in Central and Eastern Europe, and indeed, all across the globe.
It has been said that if it were not for the people of Poland, democracy might have perished on the continent of Europe a half-century ago. For it was the Polish mathematicians from the laboratories of Poznan who broke the secrets of the Enigma Code, what Winston Churchill called the most important weapon against Hitler and his armies. It was these code-breakers who made possible the great Allied landings at Normandy, when American, English, French, Canadian, and yes, Free Polish forces joined together to liberate this continent, to destroy one terrible tyranny that darkened our century.
Yet, alone among the great Allied armies who fought in Normandy, the Poles did not return to a liberated land. Your fathers instead returned to a nation that had been laid waste by its invaders. Then one would-be conqueror gave way to another, and an Iron Curtain fell across your borders, a second foreign tyranny gripped your people and your land.
It was here in Poland that all those who believe communism could not stand, first found their hopes fulfilled; here that you began to hammer on the Iron Curtain and force the first signs of rust to appear; here that brave men and women, workers and citizens, led by Solidarnosc, understood that neither consciousness nor economics can be ordered from above; here that you showed the peoples of Central and Eastern Europe that with hearts and hands alone, democracy could triumph.
But I come here today not simply to recall the events of 50 years past or even to rejoice at those of 5 years ago, for others have done that and done it very well. Instead, I come to the heart of a new, democratic Central Europe to look ahead, to speak of how we can reverse the legacies of stagnation and oppression, of fear and division; how we can eradicate the artificial lines through Europe's heartland imposed by half a century of division, and how we can help chart a course toward an integrated Europe of sovereign free nations.
The challenges our generation faces are different from those our parents faced. They are problems that in many cases lack pressing drama. They require quiet and careful solutions. They will not yield easily. And if we meet them well, our reward will not be stunning moments of glory but gradual and real improvement in the lives of our people.
We must find the will to unite around these opportunities of peace as previous generations have united against war's life-or-death threats and oppression's fatal grip. To the courage that enables men and women to drop behind enemy lines, face down rumbling tanks, or advance freedom's cause underground, we must add a new civil courage: the energy and optimism and patience to move forward through peaceful but hard and rapidly changing times.
Our course must be guided by three principles: supporting democracy, advancing free markets, and meeting new security challenges. Half a century after our fathers beat tyranny into submission and half a decade after the Soviet empire collapsed, the voices of violence and militant nationalism can once again be heard. Would-be dictators and fiery demagogs live among us in the East and in the West, promoting ethnic and racial hatred, promoting religious divisions and anti-Semitism and aggressive nationalism. To be sure, they are weak imitators of Hitler and Stalin, yet we dare not underestimate the danger they pose. For they feed on fear, despair, and confusion. They darken our road and challenge our achievements.
In this fight, democracy remains our indispensable ally. For democracy checks the ambitions of would-be tyrants and aggressors. It nurtures civil society and respect for human rights and the habits of simple tolerance. Its progress is slow and uneven, and as you doubtless know in this chamber, occasionally frustrating. But it cements economic reforms and security cooperation. And it offers once-captive peoples the opportunity to shape their own future.
Five years ago, your nation seized that opportunity. Discarding dictatorship and a failed command economy that was imposed upon your nation, you stepped into the unknown and started to build a free market economy. Doubters said that it couldn't be done, but the Polish people have proved those naysayers wrong. Poland's reforms are working. You are beginning to win the struggle for economic transformation. You have ended hyperinflation, stabilized your currency, privatized enterprises that drive growth, and doubled your exports. You have proved that free people need not wait for the state to tell them what to do. You have demonstrated an entrepreneurial talent that generates one of Europe's highest growth rates.
But we must be sober and honest in our judgment. When you began this process the old Communist economic system was already collapsing. You knew then your journey would be difficult at best. And although many Poles are prospering today, many others have lost their jobs through no fault of their own, and their hardships abound. In a time like this it is easy to focus on that pain, not on the promise of reform.
My message today to the people of Poland and to all the people of Central and Eastern Europe is simple and direct: Free markets and democracy remain the only proven path to prosperity and to peace. You must hold hard to those tracks. Sustain the civil courage that has brought you so far so fast, and do not give up or turn back. You will not be alone.
The United States has stood with you since you began to build the modern economy, and we stand with you now. America is the number one investor in Poland, with $1.2 billion already in place and much more on the way. The American people are proud to have supported Poland as you have put tens of thousands of your people to work, created thousands of new enterprises, and begun to free your economy from its inherited burden of debt.
Today we are announcing new initiatives that will pump hundreds of millions of dollars into the Polish economy. For example, our Government, along with some of our Nation's largest labor unions, has established a $65 million Polish Partners Fund to promote new investments in business. We are also working to quicken the speed of privatization, to assist people in finding new jobs and housing, to help protect your citizens from the economic pirates of organized crime.
Taken together, these goals—hopeful citizens, thriving entrepreneurs, new investments and expanded trade—are the future pillars of a prosperous, reformed Poland. Economic reform and democracy, though important, however, will only flourish if the free peoples of Central and Eastern Europe are also secure.
In moving to guarantee its own security, Poland has indeed become a model for the other nations of Central and Eastern Europe. Your decisions to establish good relations with Russia, Ukraine, Germany, and Lithuania are shining examples of the potential for peace that the new Europe provides. At this moment, in fact, Poland faces what may fairly be described as its best prospects for peace and security in 350 years. And yet, as you have taught us, we must not forget the lessons of history. There appears to be no immediate or short-term threat to Polish sovereignty, but history and geography caution us not to take this moment for granted.
When my administration began, I stressed that Poland's security and the security of all democratic nations in the region is important to the United States. In January of last year, when I visited Prague and met with the heads of the Visegrad nations, I learned a Polish phrase: Nic o nas bez nas, nothing about us without us. That phrase echoes in my mind today as we solidify and search for a new security arrangement in Europe. Because the simple fact is that Poland should never again have its fate decided for it by others. No democracy in the region should ever be consigned to a gray area or a buffer zone. And no country should have the right to veto, compromise, or threaten democratic Poland's or any other democracy's integration into Western institutions, including those that ensure security.
I know that these are ambitious goals, but history has given us a rare opportunity, the opportunity to join together and to form a new, integrated Europe of sovereign nations, a continent where democracy and free markets know no borders, but where nations can rest easy that their own borders will always be secure. This is the vision behind the Partnership For Peace.
Twenty-one nations have now jointed that Partnership since we began it, and they are already moving to fulfill the dream of a unified and peaceful Europe. They have sworn not only to pursue democracy but also to respect each other's sovereignty and borders. They are moving along a course that is both visionary and realistic, working for the best while always preparing for the worst.
Poland, as all of you know, has taken a leading role in the Partnership For Peace, and I am proud and pleased that some 2 months from now your nation will host the first Partnership exercise on the territory of a former Warsaw Pact state. For the first time since 1945 Polish and American troops, troops that once faced each other across the Iron Curtain, will train together on the plains of Europe.
The United States recognizes that full participation in the Partnership requires resources. And I am pleased to announce today that I will ask our Congress to designate $100 million, effective in the fall of next year, to help America's new democratic partners work with us to advance the Partnership For Peace's goals. In response to your nation's demonstrated commitment to security and democracy, I will ask that fully one-fourth of that money, $25 million, be directed to Poland.
But the Partnership For Peace is only a beginning. Bringing new members into NATO, as I have said many times, is no longer a question of whether, but when and how. And that expansion will not depend upon the appearance of a new threat in Europe. It will be an instrument to advance security and stability for the entire region. We are working with you in the Partnership For Peace in part because the United States believes that when NATO does expand, as it will, a democratic Poland will have placed itself among those ready and able to join. The Partnership For Peace and planning for NATO's future mean that we will not let the Iron Curtain be replaced with a veil of indifference.
I have learned another Polish phrase which, even in my tortured accent, well describes our goal for a more secure, democratic, and prosperous Poland: Rowni z rownymi, wolni z wolnymi, "Equal among equals, free with the free." It is time to bring that phrase to life.
Here in the middle of the rebuilt city of Warsaw, we are reminded that the Polish people have always fought for that right. Fifty years ago this month, the Polish home army was planning the greatest urban uprising of this century. On August 1st, Polish heroes seized much of their city preparing for liberation. The uprising ended in ruin. Some of the heroes perished; others escaped. Yet amidst the flame and the rubble, a lone radio signal could be heard in the West: "Immortal is the nation that can muster such universal heroism," came the broadcast from Warsaw, "for those who have died have conquered, and those who live on with fight on, will conquer and again bear witness that Poland lives while the Poles live."
Here in the heart of a free Poland, you can hear the echoes of that broadcast today. So now let us summon the civil courage that will keep your nation forever free.
Thank you very much.
NOTE: The President spoke at 2:35 p.m. at the Parliament Building. In his remarks, he referred to Prime Minister Waldemar Pawlak of Poland; Jozef Oleksy, Marshal of the Sejm; and Adam Strujik, Speaker of the Senate.
William J. Clinton, Address to the Polish Parliament in Warsaw Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/220138