MODEL OF TRANSITION
JULY 8, 1996
In 1989 foreign investment in Poland was zero. Seven years later, it tops $10 billion. Poland's President Kwasniewski is in Washington to tout his country's success and push for NATO membership. Correspondent Charles Krause provides a backgrounder, before performing a live interview.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Mr. President, thank you for joining us. Welcome. Let me begin by asking you why is membership in NATO so vitally important for your country?
The NewsHour looks at the aftermath of the November 1995 Polish elections that ousted Lech Walesa in favor of former Communist Kwasniewski
ALEKSANDER KWASNIEWSKI, President, Poland: Well, I can say many reasons. The first one is very simple. Of course, Poland needs very effective guarantees of the security, but more important is that Poland wants to organize and to be participant in a new system of European security, and I think NATO enlargement, a new NATO, that is a very important stage, and this process and this way which we started seven years ago in Poland and this process of democracy, of integration of Europe, a unification of Europe, how President Clinton said today had very special stages. The first one was collapse of the Soviet Union, collapse of Warsaw Pact. The next one was unification of Germany and now is, is a time to enlarge NATO, to organize new architecture of European security. That is the real reason why we want to be in NATO.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Some have suggested that perhaps the reason is that Poland views Russia as a continuing threat. Is, is that what this is all about?
PRESIDENT KWASNIEWSKI: No, no. It's absolutely wrong approach. Poland wants to be in NATO, not against Russia. We want to have strategic partnership with Russia. I was in Russia in April this year. I discussed this question with Russia's partners, and of course, we are absolutely interested to have the best relations with our Eastern neighbors, new neighbors, because in your movie you show that Poland had three neighbors before '89, and now we have seven new neighbors--Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, Slovak Republic, Czech Republic, Germany. And I think with everybody we have very good relations, and we can continue such very positive, very stabilizing regional policy.
CHARLES KRAUSE: I understand what you're saying, but let me ask you another question. Do you think that President Yeltsin's victory has reduced tensions and perhaps even reduced the urgency of Poland becoming a member of NATO?
PRESIDENT KWASNIEWSKI: I'm sure that this victory is good news, is a very positive element for European integration, and reduced fears and problems, because Mr. Yeltsin's victory means Russia is going to be more democratic, more free market, and economy-oriented, more open country than before. So I think that is very good news, and I think this very positive and really democratic, a very fair election in Russia, with the huge participation of the voters in the election, should encourage everybody to make next steps in this way of European unification.
CHARLES KRAUSE: But it doesn't make any difference in terms of Poland's desire to be part of NATO?
PRESIDENT KWASNIEWSKI: Well, I'm sure that not only--I'm sure that our contribution in all these international relations, ties in last years is absolutely positive, and Poland tried to make what is possible to show that enlargement of NATO from American point of view, it means no more troubles. It means more stability, more cooperation, more dialogue in Europe.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Do you think--do you think that Russia has now come to terms with Poland's membership in NATO and, in fact, is willing to accept it?
PRESIDENT KWASNIEWSKI: Well, I hope so, that we can discuss this question. We will explain our intentions, but I'm sure that it is on the American side, on the side of western partners, because we understood the situation. Before the election, it was very difficult and maybe not very diplomatic to discuss NATO enlargement, but we are after the election and Russian election is successful, is positive, and then I think is the time to say what should be next step, and in my opinion, this arguments I used today in discussion with President Clinton, these steps should be enlarge NATO, open the doors for a new NATO, for new countries, because it means, it means cooperation. It means dialogue. It means more security. It means more confidence.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Why do you think the Clinton administration has been so reluctant then to, to agree to a timetable, to a date?
PRESIDENT KWASNIEWSKI: Well, I think we discussed the question of date today as well, but we said that for this process maybe it's better to, to be careful and to discuss this problem with many partners because let's understand decision about enlargement of NATO is a decision not only of the United States; it's a decision of 16 members of NATO. And this decision must be approved by parliaments. I think we need time, but very short time, to say what, what--what is the real schedule, what is timetable of this enlargement. In December this year, there will be a meeting of the ministers, and I think this meeting, December's meeting, should give us the answer where is very concrete timetable of, of this opening of NATO.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Do you expect that Poland will be a member of NATO by the year 2000?
PRESIDENT KWASNIEWSKI: Absolutely, yes. Absolutely. And I think--I see this question as my task as a President, but I see more--that's in my opinion a task of new generations of the politicians. I think that is absolutely a challenge of President Clinton, as well, because some of American Presidents made a lot to change the situation in Europe. Mr. Reagan participated in the collapse of Soviet Union and Communism. Mr. President Bush was very active in Germany unification, and now is the time to--to unify--to unite, to make Europe--and I think that is--that is the real challenge for President Clinton.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Let me ask you a couple of questions about your own political background. You joined the Communist Party in 1977. Why did you remain in the party after 1980, when Solidarity was born?
PRESIDENT KWASNIEWSKI: Well, it was, you know, Polish Communism, it was different than Soviet Communism or German Communism--or Czechoslovakian Communism. So I think in seventies Poland and myself I felt it is possible to reform the system, and in eighties, it was absolutely sure for me that we should reform the system.
And, of course, it was two ways. One way was Solidarity, which was a position. The second one was reformed Communist Party in Poland. I chose the second way. And, of course, I had huge respect of my colleagues and today some opponent. In Solidarity's day, they tried, they changed the system from the opposition side, but I think that without reformers in the party, it would be very difficult to have such smooth way by dialogue, by roundtable talks to reforms, to reform Poland without victims, without that, without huge costs like in other countries like Romania, for example.
CHARLES KRAUSE: We just have a couple of seconds left. I'd like to ask you--your own foreign minister has said that he believes the West is still testing you and other members of your government, the former Communists. Do you think that this trip will help alleviate any lingering questions about your views?
PRESIDENT KWASNIEWSKI: Time is going. We are seven years after Polish reforms. And if you see Poland, you can see that progress, you can see growth of the economy. You can see civilian society. You can see democracy. You can see political pluralists. And everything has happened with our participation, so I think today it's not a good time to discuss history. We can't change the history, but we can organize good future for us, for a new generation in Poland, and for good relations, a good partnership between Poland and the United States. That's my task. History is behind. Future is, is a task, is a real challenge.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Mr. President, thank you very much.
PRESIDENT KWASNIEWSKI: Thank you very much.