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Romney visit: 'Poland stands as defender of freedom'

Mitt Romney was received by crowds of cheering Poles, but critics denounce American disregard for Polish war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

By Jarosław AdamowskiContributor / July 31, 2012

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney stands with Mayor of Warsaw Hanna Gronkiewicz as he visits the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Warsaw, Tuesday, July 31.

Charles Dharapak/AP

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Warsaw, Poland

In Gdansk, Poland, yesterday, the final stop of his three-country overseas tour, Mitt Romney met with former Polish President and Nobel Prize winner Lech Walesa and the country’s prime minister, Donald Tusk.

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The presidential candidate was received in the birthplace of Poland’s communist-era democratic trade union Solidarity by crowds of cheering Poles, as well as several dozen protesters. 

One group of protesters chanted “Obama, Obama” as Mr. Romney left the meeting with Mr. Tusk, while another group held a banner supporting Romney's Republican rival Ron Paul.

Poles are disgruntled over the US's waning attention and disregard for their war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, but Poland is still considered one of the most pro-American countries in Europe. Local observers say the US presidential candidate was received with praise because of Poland’s desire for reassurance about its importance in American foreign policy.

“You often hear that Poland is one of the most pro-American countries in Europe, but people would like to see more tangible proof that the feeling is mutual,” says Teresa Nowak, a local shopkeeper. “After we fought in Afghanistan and Iraq alongside the US, it would be good to ... have our safety strengthened by [the missile defense system].”

Former US President George W. Bush proposed a plan for establishing an antimissile defense system in Poland, which Poles welcomed as additional border security. President Obama has since abandoned this plan, displeasing many Poles. 

The significance of the visit to American voters is twofold, according to Marek Jablonowski, professor and director at the Institute of Journalism of the University of Warsaw. “This visit could be a factor in safeguarding the Polish American vote in the election, but it also sends a message to other voters in the US. It proves there are still countries where American politicians are cheered.”

Following a meeting with Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski and Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski today, Romney gave a speech on US-Polish relations and the values of liberty at the University of Warsaw. 

“It is critical to stand by those who stood by America,” Romney said at the event. “In a turbulent world, Poland stands as an example and defender of freedom.”

Mr. Sikorski said Poland's aim is to maintain good relations with the United States regardless of who wins the upcoming presidential election, but some Polish politicians openly endorsed the GOP candidate.

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