In Poland, Trump reaffirms commitment to NATO, chides Russia

By Wagner – The Washington Post

WARSAW — President Trump reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to a collective-security pact with European allies and criticized Russia for “destabilizing activities” during a speech here Thursday in a public square in Poland’s capital.

Addressing a friendly crowd, Trump heaped effusive praise on Poland as he made the case for defending Western civilization against challenges posed by “radical Islamic terrorism” and ideological extremism.

“The story of Poland is the story of a people who have never lost hope, who have never been broken, and who have never forgotten who they are,” Trump said in a speech delivered at the Warsaw monument to the 1944 resistance against German occupation, a symbol of the country’s struggle to shake the brutal Nazi invasion during World War II.

His speech included an explicit commitment to Article 5, the collective security provision of the NATO treaty: “The United States has demonstrated not merely with words, but with its actions, that we stand firmly behind Article 5, the mutual defense commitment,” he said.

Trump had notably left out a mention of Article 5 during a speech in late May at NATO’s new headquarters in Brussels. Every U.S. president since Harry Truman in 1949 has pledged to honor the policy that an attack on an alliance nation is an attack on all of them. The provision has been invoked once, after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States.

Trump also used his remarks Thursday to criticize behavior by Russia, including its incursions into Ukraine.

“We urge Russia to cease its destabilizing activities in the Ukraine and elsewhere and its support for hostile regimes, including Syria and Iran, and instead join the community of responsible nations in our fight against common enemies and defense of civilization itself,” Trump said.

The president’s brief visit to Poland — which he described as “the geographic heart of Europe” — lasted less than 24 hours, but the White House saw his speech as an opportunity for Trump to lay out his assessment of the challenges faced by the world today. The speech was characterized as “philosophical” by a senior administration official. And it framed the global challenges faced by the United States and Europe as a fight for “civilization.”

The speech was Trump’s first public address outside the United States. A large crowd carrying Polish and American flags gathered in the square for Trump’s remarks. At least one person waved a campaign-style “Make America Great Again” banner, and another waved a Confederate flag. Polish government officials arranged for buses to bring supporters into the city from the rural parts of the country.

Trump is not especially popular in Poland. Just 23 percent of Poles say they have confidence in his leadership, a sharp drop from their view of previous U.S. presidents, according to a recent Pew Research Center poll.

The Poland stop comes just before Trump travels to Germany for the Group of 20 Summit of world leaders in Hamburg. There he is expected to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, their first face-to-face meeting since Trump’s inauguration.

The Poland visit was a highly symbolic one for the new American president. The Eastern European nation is a critical U.S. ally and strategically important state in Europe. Poland is one of the few NATO countries to have honored the agreement to contribute at least 2 percent of its gross domestic product to its own defense, an issue that Trump has repeatedly raised during his campaign and since taking office.

But Trump said that military spending alone is not enough to preserve Western civilization.

“We can have the largest economies and the most lethal weapons of anywhere on Earth, but if we do not have strong families and strong values, then we will be weak and we will not survive,” Trump said. “If anyone forgets the critical importance of these things, let them come to one country that never has. Let them come to Poland, and let them come here to Warsaw and learn the story of the Warsaw Uprising.”

Poland’s right-leaning populist nationalist government is a natural ally for Trump. The Law and Justice Party has embraced some of the main pillars of Trump’s candidacy, including a similar resistance to accepting Muslim refugees into their country.

“While we will always welcome new citizens who share our values and love our people, our borders will always be closed to terrorism and extremism,” Trump said. “We cannot accept those who reject our values and who use hatred to justify violence against the innocent.”

At a news conference earlier in the day, Trump praised Poland for aiding in the fight against the Islamic State. And in his public remarks, he suggested that the two nations’ shared position on refugees was not aimed at closing their respective borders, but rather was an effort to protect their nations from extremism.

“We must stand united against these shared enemies to strip them of their territory, their funding, their networks and any form of ideological support,” Trump said.

Central and Eastern European nations, which are particularly concerned about the threat of growing Russian influence in the region, view Trump’s presence here as a reassuring sign that the United States remains committed to the security of the region.

“We must work together to counter forces, whether they come from inside or out, from the South or the East, that threaten over time to undermine these values and to erase the bonds of culture, faith and tradition that make us who we are,” Trump said.