In Poland, Obama Raps Belarus, Ukraine And Reaches Out To Russia

In Poland to wrap up a weeklong European tour, U.S. President Barack Obama has called for Russian participation in a European missile-defense shield while stressing NATO’s primacy on any plan to defend its member states.

He also cited Poland’s experience since 1989 in urging neighboring Belarus and Ukraine to improve their democratic and economic fortunes.

Meeting with Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski in Warsaw, Obama said that “we believe that missile defense is something where we should be cooperating with the Russians because we share external threats and this would not be a threat to the strategic balance that Russia is concerned with.”

“But as you just heard from the [Polish] president, we think it is very important that NATO remains in charge of NATO defense capabilities,” Obama added.

The U.S. and Polish presidents discussed democracy and security issues that also were expected to include a deal to base some F-16 fighter jets at a Polish air base.

On the second day of his Polish visit, Obama also lauded that country as a key ally whose democratic path and economic prosperity can serve as a model for nearby former Soviet states like Ukraine and Belarus.

Obama specifically called out Minsk on its recent persecution of individuals who questioned the results of a presidential election in December, including handing out lengthy prison terms to leading opposition figures and harassing many other regime critics.

He said “a country like Belarus is backsliding,” adding, “The kind of repressive actions we’re seeing in Belarus can end up having a negative impact over the region as a whole and that makes us less safe and makes us less secure.”

After participating in a Group of Eight (G8) summit in France, Obama arrived in Poland on May 27 and laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and at the Warsaw Ghetto Memorial. He also attended a working dinner with more than a dozen presidents from former Communist states, plus the leaders of Germany and Italy.

The U.S. president was due back in Washington late on May 28.

Obama’s six-day Europe trip also took him to Ireland and England.

compiled from agency reports

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