Obama mounts display of military unity with Poland
03 June 2014, 15:01
Warsaw - Stepping foot in an anxious Europe, President Barack Obama mounted a display of military unity with Poland on Tuesday, as he kicked off a three-country visit aimed at reassuring allies amid in the ongoing crisis in neighbouring Ukraine.
Minutes after disembarking from Air Force One in Warsaw, Obama stood side by side with Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski and declared the two allies and friends would stand "together and forever".
The backdrop for their show of solidarity: Four F-16 fighter jets - two American, two Polish.
"I'm starting the visit here because our visit 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 the start of his four-day tour of Europe.
Calling Poland one of America's strongest allies, Obama said the US honours its commitments, invoking the Nato alliance that binds the US and Europe together in the face of Russian moves in Ukraine that have put the region on edge.
"It is a commitment that is particularly important at this moment in time," Obama said.
Komorowski, invoking the F-16s towering behind him, spoke of a "Polish-American brotherhood in arms" as he thanked Obama for helping to make Poland more secure.
Earlier this year, the US increased its rotation of F-16s operating in Poland as Russia was preparing its annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula. Komorowski noted that the name of the iconic jets traditionally stands for "fighter".
"F can also stand for 'freedom,' Mr President," Komorowski said.
The two leaders' remarks in an airplane hangar opened a four-day trip to Europe that's steeped in European history and reflections on democratic achievements of the past.
Obama planned to bookend the three-country swing with two speeches marking historic anniversaries: 25 years since Poland emerged from communism and 70 years since the D-Day invasion that eventually led to Allied victory in World War II.
He'll also get his first chance to meet Ukrainian President-elect Petro Poroshenko and will encounter Russian President Vladimir Putin at Normandy, although the White House said no formal meeting was planned between the two as they remained embroiled in dispute over Russia's involvement in Ukraine.
On Monday, Obama and Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski were to host central European leaders at Belweder Palace to discuss their security concerns in light of developments in Ukraine.
The countries invited included Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Slovenia.