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Background Briefing by Senior Administration Official

June 26, 1995

The War Memorial Veterans Building

San Francisco, California

1:24 P.M. PDT

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The President has just finished -- just two minutes ago -- finished a meeting with President Lech Walesa. It went a half an hour. This as a -- it was a good meeting. The two men have met before. They know each other. They have spoken on the phone, so there was a certain amount of catching up to do with older issues.

And the bulk of the discussion -- but the bulk of the discussion was about the integration of Poland and the other emerging democracies of Central Europe into the West, into a growing transatlantic community. This was really the theme, the matrix -- this is, in fact, the theme and matrix for the U.S.-Polish relationship. So there was a very good discussion of this issue. And there were -- it was followed by a discussion of economic cooperation.

Now, let me back up just to say that our relations with Poland are based and have been based since 1989 on support for their economic and political transformation. This is the basis for what we do with them, for our support, for their integration into western institutions.

So, again, this was a good meeting. I don't think it -- it did not result in headlines, nor was it intended to. President Walesa was interested in hearing from the President directly as to whether our views about European security had changed as a result of the Moscow summit. And President Clinton was quite clear that we are consistent and very steady in our views, including our views about European security architecture. And President Walesa, although I find it -- I find it a safe assumption to say that he, like most Pols, would prefer that certain processes like the enlargement of NATO proceed faster, I think he also understands -- it was very clear to me -- that he understands that we are committed to our policy, including our policy on NATO enlargement.

I think that's it. I can take questions.

Q: Did the President ask Walesa why he was so slow to distance himself from the anti-semitic remarks of the priest --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The President referred to that episode of Father Jankowski's remarks, and said that it was important to fight anti-semitism and other pathologies that are appearing in a lot of parts of the world today. That is a -- that -- fighting that is something that democratic leaders need to do. And President Walesa responded that he will -- he has no -- he finds -- he has no tolerance for anti-semitism and believes it has no place either in Poland or anywhere else.

Q: When was the last time they met?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: They met in Warsaw in July 5th -- 6th, 1994.

Q: A year ago.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, a year ago, during the President's trip.

Q: Was there any discussion about the emerging power of the newly reformed old communists, as social democrats are calling them, gaining power there, possibly challenging Walesa at some point in the future?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No. The Polish internal politics didn't come up either way.

Anything else?

Q: Jankowski is a supporter of Walesa, isn't he?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, hmmmm -- Jankowski's history -- all right, in better days, Jankowski was a major participant in solidarity and really had a good record in support of democracy. He broke with Walesa in 1990. And they have not been as close since as they were in the solidarity days.

What Walesa -- what Jankowski's politics are now is hard to say. But I -- he has a reputation as someone who has fallen rather badly from his good days. So I would not -- I don't think you could characterize him as close to Walesa. I would not have characterize him as close to Walesa since 1990. And if you had asked me this a month and a half ago, before this incident occurred, I would have said the same thing.

Q: Did the President raise this issue because of the letter he got from Edgar Bronfman?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, actually, we raised this issue because it's important on its merits and quite apart from -- it is important to fight anti-semitism, which is a sign of deeper pathologies, as well as disgusting in its own right. And this is important quite apart from domestic considerations. So, no.

Q: Did President Walesa ask anything of President Clinton besides whether we had changed our position on NATO expansion?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: He wanted -- yes. He also talked about -- he talked a good deal about the relationship between economic integration and security integration. And Walesa's point, which he has made before, is that these are parts of the same issue, and that although economic integration may be in the long run even more important, it is harder to convince western firms to invest in Central Europe when Central Europe still seems to be -- when Central Europe's future is not certain. And so his point was, if NATO enlargement occurs promptly, then the other generals -- General Motors, General Electric -- and that's one of Walesa's favorite aphorisms -- will follow, because they will see that the future is secure. He said that there is a relationship.

Moreover he said that cooperation and -- cooperation in strengthening market economies can spread eastward. That is, prosperity can influence the Ukraine and it can spread to Russia. And he said we regard Russia as a good partner, but a Russia that is reforming, a Russia that is democratic, a Russia that has a market economy. And this is a Russia we need to work with and we will work with.

And so if the security is taken care of, then these countries will all be better partners for one another. And so that -- so he said, please help us economically and then it will spread to the East. It was, you know, a complicate metaphor -- rather interesting one.

Q: Did the President get any kind of time frame for when Poland might join NATO --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The President referred to NATO's agreed time frame for this year and said that we should stick with it. And this is -- NATO has agreed that by the end of this year it will have completed an initial set of briefings to all interested Partnership for Peace governments on what we call the how and the why, but especially the how of NATO's enlargement. And he said this is going to go forward. It will not slow down. This is -- let's do what we've set out to do.

But we don't have -- we have not gone beyond that process. We have not gone beyond the initial set of briefings. That's where NATO's -- that's how far NATO has taken us.

Anything else?

Q: -- did the President talk about what some perceived as a lack of a swift response by Walesa after the remarks?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: He didn't talk about the timing. He talked about the general issue of this -- of a pathology and the importance of fighting it.

Q: Did the President refer to it as a pathology?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, he didn't use the word pathology. He didn't use that word. He said it is important to fight anti-semitism and hatred and these things -- in a transition period, these things -- these things tend to grow. That's what the President said -- they're hateful and they're terrible and we all have to fight them.

THE PRESS: Thank you.

END 1:33 P.M. PDT2

William J. Clinton, Background Briefing by Senior Administration Official Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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