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Romney concludes foreign trip with speech on Polish, American ties

July 31, 2012|By Maeve Reston
  • Mitt Romney speaks at the University of Warsaw.
Mitt Romney speaks at the University of Warsaw. (Janek Skarzynski / AFP/Getty…)

WARSAW -- Mitt Romney wrapped up his foreign tour Tuesday with a speech emphasizing the deep friendship between America and Poland and expressing his appreciation to Poland for standing beside the U.S. in conflicts over many generations, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

During a speech at the library of the University of Warsaw, which followed separate, private meetings with the Polish foreign minister and Poland’s president, Romney said he was inspired by “the path of freedom tread by the people of Poland.”

PHOTOS: Romney's travels abroad

Romney noted that he had begun his trip in Britain and ended it in Poland, “the two bookends of NATO, history's greatest military alliance that has kept the peace for over half a century.” The three nations he visited — Britain, Israel and Poland — are far apart on the map, he said, “but for an American, you can’t get much closer to the ideals and convictions of my own country than you can in these places.”

“Our nations belong to the great fellowship of democracies. We speak the same language of freedom and justice,” Romney said. “I believe it is critical to stand by those who have stood by America. Solidarity was a great movement that freed a nation. And it is with solidarity that America and Poland face the future.”    

In his two-day visit, which included stops in Gdansk and Warsaw — two cities where he met with Poland’s president, prime minister, foreign minister and Nobel Prize winner Lech Walesa, who co-founded the Solidarity movement — Romney promised that as president he would work to strengthen the ties between the two nations.

He also turned a spotlight on Poland’s vibrant economy, noting in his speech that Poland’s economy outperformed all other nations in Europe last year. Echoing the themes of his stump speech at home, Romney said Poland’s economic successes were rooted in its efforts to “stimulate innovation, attract investment, expand trade and live within its means,” rather than “heeding the false promise of a government-dominated economy.” 

The world, he said, should pay close attention to the transformation of Poland’s economy: “A march toward economic liberty and smaller government has meant a march toward higher living standards, a strong military that defends liberty at home and abroad, and an important and growing role on the international stage,” he said during his speech at the University of Warsaw library.

Romney visited three memorials on Tuesday alone, recognizing the Poles who fought against Nazi German by laying flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier; the Monument to Ghetto Heroes; and the Memorial of the Warsaw Uprising, the 1944 Polish revolt against the Nazis.

Noting the loss of more than 200,000 Poles in the uprising, Romney said their “enduring spirit” had survived and he compared the event to the struggles for freedom elsewhere, including the civil rights movement in the U.S. and the recent "Arab Spring."

“In some desperate hours of the last century, your people were the witnesses to hope, led onward by strength of heart and faith in God,” Romney said. “Not only by force of arms, but by the power of truth, in villages and parishes across this land, you shamed the oppressor and gave light to the darkness.”

Earlier Romney met with Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski and thanked him for Poland’s contribution to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which he said had “enormous human costs with the loss of Polish lives.”

“On behalf of my countrymen I express deep appreciation for your willingness to fight with us, to stand with us, and to be our friends in time of crisis and military conflict,” Romney told Sikorski. “As we face a world which seeks to determine a course towards greater freedom or more authoritarianism, we will continue to work together to be an example of the blessings of economic and political freedom and personal freedom, and to stand in our mutual efforts to secure peace for ourselves and for others.”

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maeve.reston@latimes.com

Twitter: @MaeveReston

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