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Poland: NATO's Solana Says Membership Brings Security Guarantees

Warsaw, 23 January 1998 (RFE/RL) -- NATO Secretary General Javier Solana says NATO will guarantee Poland's security after the country gains full membership in 1999 but the alliance will also expect Poland to make a serious military contribution. Addressing yesterday in Warsaw the Polish Parliament, Solana said: "Once Poland joins NATO as full member, the other Allies commit themselves to the defenses of Poland's security and territorial integrity,' adding that "It is crucial that the new members demonstrate that they are aware of this fundamental commitment and that they willing and able to return it." Solana went on to say that "Poland will have to make serious military contributions to the alliance.' The Sejm speaker Maciej Pluzynski responded immediately that Poland is aware of its duties and obligations as the future NATO member. "Poland is not going to be only a consumer of security," he said. "We shall contribute to this security."

Solana recalled that the signing of the Protocols of Accession last December opened the NATO door for Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. "Opening NATO may have served as an incentive to make progress," he said "but it is first and foremost you, the Polish people, who deserve credit fort having brought Poland closer to the West." He said the December decision taken in Brussels was a historic moment for the European continent. "It signified that in this new Europe, geography is no longer a destiny,' Solana said. Solana went on to say that NATO enlargement stems from the conclusions the West drew following the end of World War II when Europe remained divided.

The Secretary General warned that Poland is facing a difficult task of restructuring its forces. But he also said the country does not have to "overspend" money for defense at the beginning of the restructuring and should concentrate on assuring interoperability between the Polish Army and NATO troops. Solana particularly emphasized the need for efficient communication systems and stressed that the Polish officers have to improve their command of English. "Our soldiers have to speak the same language," he said.

During the welcoming ceremony for Solana, Polish Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek said that NATO has offered an "aid' to Poland to restructure its forces. He stopped short of providing details, however.