The head of the American Senate Armed Services Committee, John McCain, promised his personal involvement in the abolishment of the visa requirement for Poles wishing to travel to the U.S. He announced that adequate changes regarding the matter will be passed on for enactment in next year’s defense budget.
McCain, a former Republican Party candidate for the presidency in 2008, was an honored guest at the celebration of the constitution of May 3, which took place Tuesday evening local time at the residence of Poland’s ambassador in Washington. McCain has received “The White Eagle” award from the ambassador Ryszard Schnepf in recognition of his achievements in advancement of Polish-American relations, including his support for Poland joining NATO.
Speaking to few hundred Polish community representatives that arrived for the ceremonies, McCain promised to get personally involved in a waiver of the visa requirements. “There is very strong support for this matter from the majority of Congress, and I assure you I will do everything in my power to straighten this out in the framework of defense spending” he said.
Later, while speaking to Polish journalists, he explained that he will see to making adequate changes to the defense spending act, which will enable Poland to enter the Visa Waiver Program; he is currently working on the act as the head of the Armed Services Committee.
“The VWP should have been changed long ago to allow Poles the same possibilities that citizens of the rest of Europe have, who come to Poland without a visa,” he said. “Visas are a barrier in our friendship and I will act to see that this obstacle is removed.”
When asked whether it is possible for it to happen this year, McCain said this is his goal, but also stressed that not everything is dependent on him. “A veto might be imposed on that enactment by Barack Obama for different reasons, so there is a long way ahead of us and I cannot guarantee anything, but I know that this will happen sooner or later, because it is the right thing to do for friends and allies,” he stated.* He assured that the Republicans strongly support that cause. This is quite important since, as of January, the Republicans control both houses of American Congress.
Poland has been trying for years to become a part of the American Visa Waiver Program like the rest of the European Union. President Obama promised in 2012 that before the end of his presidency, the U.S. will waive visas for Polish people. So far though, there hasn’t been adequate action on making the criteria of the program less strict (so that Poland can meet it) that has gotten approval from Congress.
While being handed the award, McCain thanked the Poles for their involvement regarding freedom and democracy, whether by fighting side-by-side with U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, or by backing Ukraine’s struggle for freedom.
He expressed the conviction that the resident of Russia, Vladimir Putin, “has barely paid any price for the dismantling of the Ukraine,” and he warned that the aggression of Russia towards this country “hasn’t yet ended.”*
“Right now we are writing one of the most shameful chapters of American history,” he assessed, referring to the negative response of U.S. administration to Ukraine’s request for weapon supplies. He said he does not think Putin’s actions are a direct threat to Poland. “Poland is a strong country, but I believe that Baltic countries are under enormous pressure from Vladimir Putin and if he succeeds with them, then his appetite for further hostility will grow,” he emphasized.*
*Editor’s Note: These quotes, while accurately translated, could not be verified.