Defense Secretary James N. Mattis and Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak met at the Pentagon yesterday to discuss mutual security issues and to reaffirm the defense relationship between their nations.
Before the meeting, the defense leaders recognized the prominent place that Polish Gen. Thaddeus Kosciuszko and U.S. President Woodrow Wilson hold, respectively, in U.S. and Polish history.
“The United States and Poland have a long-shared history of military cooperation and understanding,” Mattis said. “And across the Potomac, you can see the homage to this close relationship in Lafayette Square, where a statue of General Kosciuszko stands tall. And the inscription is what we remember there.
“Inscribed on that statue is, ‘And freedom shrieked, as Kosciuszko fell,’” the secretary continued, “and it reminds us of the critical role he played in our Revolutionary War — the role of leaders in protection of liberty and protection of freedom. And he did so, masterminding the victory at Saratoga in 1777 and then reinforcing the fortifications at West Point which, in those days, was a key choke point on the Hudson River.”
In 1918, Wilson reinforced America’s commitment to the Polish people’s freedom in his “Fourteen Points,” stating the need to guarantee, by international covenant, an independent Polish state, Mattis noted.
Today, the bond between the militaries and the people of the United States and Poland remains strong, Mattis said. He thanked Blaszczak for Poland’s continued hosting of U.S. and NATO forces, and for its contribution to the campaign to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and to the Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan.
“These contributions, along with your hosting of NATO’s 2016 summit in Warsaw, illustrate Poland’s deep commitment to collective security, a commitment that includes the purchase of a Patriot air and missile defense system last month,” Mattis said.
The secretary also saluted Poland’s commitment to reach a defense spending level of 2.5 percent of its gross domestic product by 2030, exceeding the pledge to spend at least 2 percent that NATO nations made at the alliance’s 2014 summit in Wales.