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Trump peddles US goods in Poland

Rosalia Romaniec
Rosalia Romaniec
July 6, 2017

Donald Trump visited Warsaw hours before the G20 summit kicked off in Hamburg. The speech he delivered was full of praise and emphasized cooperation, says DW's Rosalia Romaniec. But how much of it was meant seriously?

Polen Rede US-Präsident Donald Trump in Warschau
Image: Reuters/C. Barria

US President Donald Trump made a stop in Warsaw on Thursday before meeting with leaders of the states that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld once referred to as "old Europe." The visit could be interpreted as a side-swipe meant for the G20 summit - as if to say, "Poland first."

"America loves Poland, and America loves the Polish people," he declared to the crowd in Warsaw, while praising his host country as an exemplary fighting nation that has the same values ​​as the US: freedom, family and God. Trump made his appearance in front of the monument for the heroes of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising against the Nazis.

He emphasized the heroic nature of the Polish nation, placing it in the context of the world today. Trump discussed the threat of Islamic terrorism, as well as the danger posed by North Korea. He went on to underscore the common values the US shared with Poland. Some parts of the speech left the impression that Trump was depending on the Polish people in the case of a new conflict.

Yes to allegiance but no to more troops

Trump was well received in Warsaw, especially as he reaffirmed the US commitment to Article 5 of the NATO Treaty. The US president also made one of his usual comments about insufficient defense spending in Europe, although he was not necessarily addressing Poland, which does in fact meet the NATO threshold of spending 2 percent of GDP on its military.

Romaniec Rosalia Kommentarbild App
DW's Rosalia Romaniec Image: DW

However, Polish leaders were let down to a certain extent, as they was expecting the prospect of even more American NATO units to protect the country's eastern border. Nonetheless, when Trump met Polish President Andrzej Duda, he made it clear that this had not been discussed.  

Instead, they held business talks. Early in the morning, Poland announced its intention to buy Patriot missile defense systems and possibly even more liquefied natural gas from the US. Trump said that these deals would provide security and freedom for a country that should never again be held hostage by a single energy supplier.

Adding fuel to the fire?

Trump also sent a message to Moscow, where gas exports from the US to Eastern Europe and the Patriot missile deal were seen as a clear provocation. As if that were not enough, Trump urged Russia to "cease its destabilizing activities in Ukraine and elsewhere." Trump not only took a clear geopolitical position, he was sending a signal to critics back home who accuse him of maintaining close ties to Russia.

At his press conference in Warsaw, it was obvious that addressing criticism from within the US was important to him. The time and energy he spent expressing his hostility towards CNN and other media outlets bordered on rudeness, though he managed to provide the Polish press with quick answers to important questions.

However, the joint press conference brought something else to light: the two leaders' disturbing interpretation of democracy, especially with regard to press freedom. Trump and Duda both fiercely reprimanded the media in their respective countries. Men of stature should be embarrassed about such public behavior. But these presidents already have tarnished reputations and harbor no qualms about flashing a smile when questioning basic democratic values.

Trump emerges stronger for Hamburg

The idea of starting this trip in Eastern Europe was successful from Trump's point of view.  He feels strengthened by the new trade deals and warm reception, and departed for Hamburg with a fresh ego boost. Polish leaders are also satisfied with the visit despite the limitations, as Trump recognized the country's importance in Europe and NATO. Warsaw was also pleased about Trump's attendance at the Three Seas Initiative Summit, a meeting of countries bordering the Baltic Sea, Black Sea and Adriatic Sea, because it reinforces Poland's leadership role among eastern EU members.

But what are the concrete results? By Friday at the latest it will be clear to everyone that Donald Trump was not a friendly face bringing gifts to Warsaw, but instead, a tough businessman. He had many words of praise for Poland and spoke a great deal about cooperation. But that language was only tangibly expressed in the deals for liquefied natural gas and arms exports from US.

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