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Remarks Prior to Discussions With President Aleksander Kwasniewski of Poland and an Exchange With Reporters

July 08, 1996

President Clinton. Let me begin by saying I'm delighted to welcome President Kwasniewski to Washington and to the Oval Office, and I want to thank him for the hospitality that he extended to the First Lady a few days ago.

The United States and Poland have established a strong partnership. We've worked together in the Partnership For Peace. Our troops are serving together in Bosnia. We are the number one foreign investor in Poland. And I am very pleased with the state of our relations and the aggressive leadership that the President is giving to his nation.

We're going to discuss a lot of issues that are affecting our future relations and the future of Poland, including the question of NATO enlargement, which has been a disciplined, open process since 1994 now, since the United States initiated it. And I want to reiterate my conviction that the process will continue and will bear fruit in the way that we have done it. I think that we are doing it in the right way, and that's the way I think we should continue to do it.

But I'm looking forward to our discussion. I've wanted to meet him for some time, and I got a great report on Poland from Hillary the other night, so I'm looking forward to it.

NATO Expansion

Q. Mr. President, will you talk about the timing? As you say, this has been going on since 1994. Will you talk about the timing of NATO expansion?

President Clinton. We will. Certainly we will. We'll talk about what is planned for the December ministerial and what will happen after that.

Q. Senator Dole has talked about 1998. Are you willing to be as precise as that?

President Clinton. Well, first of all, I'm glad that he supports the expansion of NATO. And secondly, I think it's important for me as President to adhere in all my public comments to the things that we've agreed among our NATO allies to do. Keep in mind, this is a process that has to proceed by consensus, and we have to have the support of all the allies to do what we wish to do. So, I will continue to say what I have said all along. But you should make no mistake about it, NATO will expand.

Former Governor Richard Lamm of Colorado

Q. President Clinton, it looks like here in the United States, Governor Lamm is going— former Governor Lamm is going to enter the Presidential race. I wonder what your sense of that is and whether you're worried that it might erode some of your support?

President Clinton. I just don't know. I've known him a long time. I like him. And I hope if that happens—hope his wife will do what she said she was going to do. [Laughter] Did you see what she said?

Q. Which was what?

President Clinton. That she'd be for me if she thought it would undermine our position in the election. [Laughter] I like him very much, and he'll have to do whatever he wants to do. And I hope we have a good, positive debate.

Q. Are you surprised that someone who is supposed to be a friend of yours would enter the election?

President Clinton. No.

Airplane Hijacking in Cuba

Q. A Cuban plane has just been hijacked to the U.S. Navy base in Guantanamo Bay. What is your reaction to that?

President Clinton. I understand the passengers have been returned, and the pilot stayed. And as far as I know, there was no further incident.

Q. Thank you.

[At this point, one group of reporters left the room, and another group entered.]

Poland and NATO Expansion

Q. Mr. President, have you proposed any new timetable for NATO expansion?

President Clinton. Let me, first of all, welcome President Kwasniewski to the White House and to the Oval Office. And I want to thank him for the warm hospitality extended to my wife last week. She had a wonderful trip to Poland and has given me a great report on it.

We are going to discuss NATO enlargement and a number of other things. As to that, I want to emphasize that the United States secured the agreement of our allies in NATO to expand NATO, and we did it under circumstances where we agreed that we would follow a certain deliberate process. We will do that. We will probably take some further steps on that when the ministerial meets in December. I'm certain that more action will be taken there. But the important thing is that NATO is going to expand and we're going to do it in a deliberate fashion, in an open fashion, as we have said all along.

The second thing I'd like to say is I'm very pleased with our present level of cooperation. I appreciate the service of Polish troops in Bosnia. I appreciate the participation of Poland in the Partnership For Peace. And our economic relations are growing stronger every day, and I'm very pleased with the level of investment of the United States in Poland. I hope we will be able to continue that.

I'd like to ask the President to make a statement, and then we'll answer your questions.

President Kwasniewski. Well, you understand Polish a little bit, for after so many years in the United States you speak English early.

[At this point, President Kwasniewski continued speaking in Polish, and a translation was not provided.]

Q. Mr. President, when are you going to say who and when will be admitted as new members of NATO?

President Clinton. Well, that's what we're going to discuss in December. But I know it is something that is sometimes perhaps frustrating to you, but you have to realize, NATO is a group that operates together. And a NATO pledge is a solemn pledge; it's a security pledge. And one of the ways that we have secured agreement from all of our allies with all the various factors involved to expand NATO is that we have worked with them together in a very deliberate fashion.

So our next meeting is in December. I think further steps will be taken in December. And I think that is what I should say at this point, consistent with my obligation to them.

NOTE: The President spoke at 11:31 a.m. in the Oval Office at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Dorothy Lamm, wife of Richard Lamm. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.

William J. Clinton, Remarks Prior to Discussions With President Aleksander Kwasniewski of Poland and an Exchange With Reporters Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/222759

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