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Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters in Kennebunkport, Maine

August 28, 1989

The President. Well, let me just say that we've had a very interesting debrief from Secretary Dole and Senator Dole and Congressman McEwen on a fascinating trip that they have just completed, taking them to Morocco and then into Armenia and then into Poland, ending up in the Netherlands. And they filled me in on the changes that are taking place up to date, right to the minute -- changes taking place in Poland, and also the update on the human tragedy that faced that part of the corner of the Soviet Union, and also brought back greetings from King Hassan, the King of Morocco. So, it was a very interesting debrief. And I know you might have some questions for them, and they have agreed to answer any that's on your mind.

But maybe, Senator, you'd like to start off, or Secretary, just to comment on what we were talking about.

Secretary Dole. Well, it was incredible, and it was really awesome to be there at this particular time in the history of Poland. In fact, we attended the Solidarity caucus in the very room where you made your speech to the Parliament, I believe, Mr. President. And that was just a few hours after the new Prime Minister [Tadeusz Mazowiecki] had -- the ratification had occurred by the legislature of his nomination. And the spirit of democracy in that caucus was really almost palpable. It was really quite an experience. They were having a debate about various economic plans and moving forward with great excitement.

And we had the opportunity to meet with the new Prime Minister. We talked with him about a number of matters. We met, of course, with [Solidarity leader] Mr. Walesa in Gdansk just the day before yesterday, and with many of the leaders of Solidarity in the Parliament. And they appreciate very much what the President, the administration, has done for Poland. And they indicated, Mr. Walesa indicated, that they're seeking more foreign investment. And they hope that our banks will establish branches in Poland, that there will be more foreign investment. They're very much interested in privatization of assets, and they're concerned about food. And they feel that some change there within the short term is important because the shelves are empty and they need more food.

So we had an opportunity to learn a great deal, and it was a very meaningful, very emotional, very inspiring experience.

Senator Dole. We've set out in a letter some of our observations -- a letter to the President. We've also delivered a letter from Lech Walesa to the President, and those contents, of course, the President will examine. But it was a very meaningful trip. As you know, the King in Morocco has been helpful -- trying to be helpful in Lebanon, and he had a lot of information on that. I think he's going to be contacting you, Mr. President.

In Armenia, it's still heartrending and almost makes you cry to visit some of the cities and some of the sites. We stopped at a site of a school where 400 children died within seconds -- the day of the earthquake. And there's still much to be done in Armenia. I think people tend to forget that it's only been last December that tragic earthquake took 35,000 to 50,000 lives -- hundreds of thousands injured. In that small country of 3.3 million people, there are 700,000 homeless. So, there's much to be done in Armenia.

Poland, as Elizabeth said, is really -- you just feel it. You sort of think of what it might have been like when the Founding Fathers -- and we sat there in the caucus, and only three of the Solidarity members have had any previous legislative experience. So, it's really -- it's fascinating. But they've got some tough choices ahead, and they're very appreciative of the President's efforts in Hamtramck and in his visit to Poland. They know of the strong support they have from this administration and the President personally and the Congress. So, we felt it important to come back and give the President our views as early as possible, and we're very pleased that he was able to do that today.

Polish Economic Reforms

Q. Senator, did you come away with the feeling that more needs to be done sooner?

Senator Dole. Not necessarily that -- I think we came away with the feeling that maybe the time is not great. Maybe it's 60 days, maybe it's 3 months. Walesa said yesterday -- 6 months to a year -- that people need to see a change. And, of course, the Poles recognize that it's their primary responsibility, that not every other country, including ours, will be able to do enough. And they don't want to be a welfare client; they want investments, they want banks, they want opportunities. And it's going to take a while to change that system after 45 years from the economy they have now to a market economy.

But I think it's fair to say -- they told us, they told the media there that they would hope there might be something we could do in the very near future.

Q. Well, did you tell the President that?

Senator Dole. Yes.

Q. And do you have anything to add?

The President. No, I have nothing to add, but he certainly did. And both the Secretary and Senator filled me in on the right-up-to-the-minute concerns of the new Polish Government officials. They also met with [President] General Jaruzelski, had a fascinating conversation, just as I did, upon several occasions, and this is helpful to us.

I've already -- prior to the Doles' visit -- been on the phone to [French] President Mitterrand, and this was one of the subjects we talked about -- what more can be done, how better to coordinate what is being done. And so, it's an extremely timely visit.

U.S. Assistance for Poland

Q. Do you think it will take more than $119 million?

The President. Well, I think to satisfy all the requirements of Poland, it could take a lot more money than that. But it's also got to take political reform, it's got to take economic reform, so that when they talk about investment and privatization something really happens. And once those reforms are in place and on forward, then you will find that their multilateral financial institutions will be in a much better place to help.

One other thing I hope will come out of all of this is more support in the Congress for these multilateral institutions, upon whom emerging countries like Poland depend so much.

Senator Dole. I think one of the Polish leaders indicated this -- you don't measure by dollars, by money. They want support for their reforms. They're hoping that when they initiate reforms, the Congress, the President, will be able to support what they're doing. And I think there is a misconception that everything is measured in dollars. Certainly they need help, but they need a lot of support. And they recognize they have the responsibility first.

Lech Walesa's Visit to the United States

Q. Mr. President, we understand Lech Walesa will be visiting the United States later this year. Have you had any communication with him on that, and will you be meeting him when he comes?

The President. Well, I talked to him about it when I was in Poland.

Q. Will you meet with him during his visit to the United States?

The President. If he comes to the United States, I certainly will.

Poland's New Government

Q. Senator, how much pull do you think the new Prime Minister actually is going to have over the Government? The Communists, of course, are going to retain control over the army and the internal security apparatus. Do they actually seem to have the authority they're going to need to make these reforms, or are they sort of being set up?

Senator Dole. Well, he has a day-to-day responsibility for the functioning of the Government. I mean, he's going to have a great responsibility. And I think it's fair to say that both he and the President, Jaruzelski, recognize they need each other. They're going to cooperate. And I was impressed with Jaruzelski's comments. I think he wants to dedicate the rest of his life to the Polish people and the betterment of Poland. So my view is that they have a good Prime Minister and they've got some outstanding leaders in the Parliament, and they'll be able to govern.

U.S. Assistance for Poland

Q. Secretary Dole, did they convey to you that they wanted you to bring home a message to send more U.S. aid?

Secretary Dole. Well, we talked generally about what their needs are, and I think we've already expressed exactly what they said. Walesa basically was talking about investment, how important this is -- banks, branches of banks located in Poland, and privatization, and more foreign investment. We talked about the food situation.

I think they're very grateful for what is already being done. And there's a commitment -- you mentioned $119 million, but there's also a commitment for $50 million in food this next fiscal year. We are also going to be working with them on the labor issues, to provide a safety net for workers because, obviously, there's going to be some pain before the benefits come as you move from a central state-controlled economy to a market economy. And we had discussions with a number of leaders about providing a safety net -- talked about unemployment insurance, and job training and retraining, and reform of their labor code, collective bargaining -- issues of that sort. And we're going to be sending a team to Poland to get that underway as soon as the labor ministry is settled in terms of who will be the minister of labor. So, there are a number of things that are underway simultaneously.

Eastern-Bloc Reforms

Q. Mr. President, are you concerned that the Central Committee warning to the Baltic States could be a prelude to a crackdown?

The President. That the what?

Q. Baltic States -- the warning to the Baltic States. Could that be a prelude to some crackdown there?

The President. Well, I hope not. I hope not. I think that Mr. Gorbachev's reaction to the changes in Poland were extraordinarily understanding and certainly not militant in any way. And I hope that would be the tone as the rapid change that's taking place in Eastern Europe goes forward -- not just in Poland, but in other countries as well. And I must say that the way that Mr. Gorbachev has handled this and reacted to it has been very positive. I don't know how the Poles -- --

Senator Dole. The same thing. No doubt about it. No doubt about it.

The President. So let's hope that it continues -- the change continues to take place peacefully -- and not only outside the Soviet Union, but in it. And we respect the kind of change that's taken place there. Said it over and over again -- we want to see perestroika succeed.

Polish Reforms

Q. I understand you don't want to put a distinct timetable on, but how much of a sense of urgency do you have? How long do you think the new leaders have in Poland before it's some kind of a crisis?

Senator Dole. Well, I think it's fair to say we've conveyed to the President what we heard from the leaders, and in each case, they indicated some urgency, even used the word "emergency" at one time. But again, we've given the President a report, which he'd like to analyze, and also the letter from Lech Walesa. And I know that there are a number of things already happening in the administration. There are all kinds of studies and surveys and consultations taking place in different departments. So I think we're making some progress.

Mr. Popadiuk. One last question, please.

Q. Mr. President, would you advise -- what would you advise the Justice Minister of Colombia if she does decide to seek asylum here? What would your advice be?

The President. I'm not going to get into that, it's too hypothetical.

Q. Too hypothetical, or has she offered her resignation -- --

The President. Too hypothetical for me to answer that question -- too hypothetical.

Q. So she has not offered her resignation?

The President. Can't help you on it. Can't help you.

Q. Any fishing tips for the President, Senator?

Q. Did he invite you out fishing?

Q. Any fishing tips for the President?

Senator Dole. What is it -- 11 p.m. at night our time? We're ready to -- -- [laughter]

Q. He needs help.

The President. Thank you all very much.

Secretary Dole. Bye.

Note: The President spoke at 4 p.m. at Walker's Point following a meeting with Senator Robert Dole of Kansas, Secretary of Labor Elizabeth H. Dole, and Representative Bob McEwen of Ohio. Roman Popadiuk was Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Press Secretary for Foreign Affairs. A tape was not available for verification of the contents of the remarks.

George Bush, Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters in Kennebunkport, Maine Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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