Philip H. Gordon
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
One-on-One at Foreign Press Center
Washington, DC
November 6, 2009

TVN: There were some hurt feelings in Poland after Secretary Clinton canceled her meeting with our Polish Foreign Minister this week. Are these feelings justified? And when do you think this meeting could finally take place?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Secretary Clinton was very much looking forward to meeting with Foreign Minister Sikorski. The President asked her while she was on this trip to the Middle East to go back to Cairo to work on the critical issue of the Middle East peace process. That was unfortunate that she couldn’t be in Washington, but we thought really an essential foreign policy matter, and I think the Polish government and other counterparts, she was very keen to come back to participate in the U.S.-EU Summit, which is another high priority of hers, but given the critical moment in the Middle East and the President’s request that she stay in the Middle East to do that, she felt that was important, and I think Foreign Minister Sikorski understands that. He also cares about the Middle East, and the Secretary looks forward to seeing him in the near future.

TVN: Do we know when approximately?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: I don’t think we have a date for it, but she’s very committed to this relationship and looks forward to doing that.

TVN: Sir, we heard yet another angry reaction from Russia, this time after remarks made by Polish Foreign Minister supposedly here in Washington when he, at CSIS, said that the presence of U.S. troops on Polish soil would strengthen our security in case of a hypothetical threat from Russia. And now we hear this angry reaction from Russia. They are saying that we are making steps back again.

What is your position on this? What is the position in regard of U.S. troops on Polish soil?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: I don’t think it’s healthy or constructive to get into a war of words over this and raise tensions. We really shouldn’t have an issue here. Poland is a strong and close NATO ally. We have longstanding security cooperation with Poland. We don’t believe it threatens Russia. We’re not looking at putting new bases and substantial forces in Eastern European countries. I think we should give this one a rest and just avoid this sort of escalation of comments.

TVN: Especially after this new defense, missile defense system was proposed which pleased Russia a lot. Is this a favorable system for Poland also and for Europe?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: I genuinely believe it’s a favorable architecture for Poland and for Europe. Initially there was a lot of reaction to what people thought we would do, and headlines about scrapping missile defense or abandoning Poland. When you actually look at what we’re doing, I really think the only conclusion is not only that we’re putting forward a better missile defense plan, but that we’re strengthening the relationship with Poland. We came to Poland immediately with a proposal, a right of first refusal to deploy the SM-3 missiles in Poland. The Prime Minister has given favorable signals about that. We came to Poland with a reinforced proposal to move forward on the Patriot missile system, and we reiterated our strong interest in moving forward with the different defense and strategic cooperation and dialogue groups that the Bush administration has proposed. So I think any way you look at it, what we’re proposing to do with Poland in the defense and security and missile defense area is at least as strong as it was previously and it’s a better system for all of Europe.

TVN: The last question about Afghanistan. You mentioned minutes before that you would like more support from Europe in Afghanistan. Do you expect Poland to send more troops to Afghanistan?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Each country is going to do what it can and what it believes is useful and necessary. We are very grateful for the role that Poland has played in Afghanistan. Few countries have been as engaged as seriously, including on the military side as Poland. We know that’s difficult. We know there are risks. And so we’re enormously grateful for that. And as we move forward together on a strategy, I think each country will just have to decide what it’s able to do.

TVN: Thank you, sir.