Former President Richard Nixon on Friday praised Poland for its economic turnaround and said the West should pay more attention to Russia's plight.

Nixon made his remarks during a brief visit to Poland, part of a five-nation mission that started on Feb. 7.Nixon, 80, arrived Thursday in Warsaw after visiting the Ukrainian capital, Kiev. He earlier traveled to Moscow and St. Petersburg in Russia and to Riga, Latvia. He is to stop in Paris before flying home Sunday.

During his meeting with Polish President Lech Walesa at Belweder palace, Nixon praised the nation's 3-year-old market reforms.

"Poland has played a role much greater that its size in this great revolution that we are witnessing today," he told reporters.

"It began it, and it now is in the vanguard of demonstrating that political freedom can be followed by economic freedom and be successful," he said, referring to the recovery that started last year with Poland's economic austerity policies.

Nixon said his conversations with Polish officials largely were devoted to the former Soviet Union.

He said the West should pay more attention to political and economic reforms in Russia and other newly independent east European nations.

"The Cold War is only half over," Nixon said. "Communism has been defeated, freedom is not yet won."

The most important foreign policy issue for the new U.S. administration is what happens in Russia, he said.

"Russia is a huge country, and if democracy and freedom fail there, it is going to have a damaging effect all over the world."

He said Russia was going through a very difficult period economically, trying to do "on a massive scale what Poland has done and is doing on a smaller scale."