Appearing alongside Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski (shown in photo), Obama said the European Reassurance Initiative demonstrates America’s “unshakable commitment” to its NATO allies. Poland has been a NATO member since 1999.
“I’m starting the visit here because our commitment to Poland’s security as well as the security of our allies in central and eastern Europe is a cornerstone of our own security and it is sacrosanct,” Obama said at Okecie Military Airport, where Komorowski welcomed Obama “against the background of the F-16 aircraft — Polish and American aircraft.”
Obama used the event to comment on the U.S. reaction to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, which has resulted from Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the Kremlin’s support of pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine:
Given the situation in Ukraine right now, we’ve also increased our American presence. We’ve begun rotating additional ground troops and F-16 aircraft into Poland. And this is going to help our forces train together. This is going to help our forces support NATO air missions. It’s also part of NATO’s stepped-up presence across Central and Eastern Europe. And I look forward to announcing some additional steps later today.
Speaking to the media, Komorowski said:
The decisions of the American authorities to increase its presence in the Eastern countries of NATO are very important. We welcome them with great hope. And we welcome these decisions as an announcement of a true return of NATO to focusing very strongly on questions that are connected at the foundations of the alliance, which is Article 5 of the [NATO] Washington Treaty that refers to the collective defense — the defense on the basis of solidarity of the territories, the homelands of the member states.
Obama also mentioned Article 5 when he said at Belweder Palace, the residence of Poland’s president: “I’ve come here, first and foremost, to reaffirm the enduring commitment of the United States to the security of Poland. As NATO allies, we have an Article 5 duty to our collective defense. As president, I’ve made sure that the United States is upholding that commitment.”
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Photo of Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski and U.S. President Barack Obama in Warsaw: AP Images