President Trump decided to start his visit to Europe before the G20 summit in Hamburg in Warsaw. Poland finds itself on the sharp end of the stick in Europe’s dealings with Russia and is assuming a leading role in trying to raise the costs of Russia meddling in the Baltic States. Poland is also a much friendlier venue that would be Merkel’s Germany.
First the controversies. The Polish ruling party bused people into Warsaw from the outlying provinces for Trump’s speech. I know, I know, this is the first time in the history of the Western world that people have been brought in to listen to a speech. As Newsweek says:
It goes on to say:
Tarczynski, as all members of the ruling party have been instructed to do, will bus in 50 of his constituents to provide a very different reception for Trump than he is likely to receive in Hamburg, where up to 100,000 protesters are expected. The tactic is a mirror of that adopted when Poland was a member of the Soviet bloc, and the Communist Party would bus agreeable crowds to Warsaw to greet visiting dignitaries from Moscow.
Presumably, the 100,000 protesters are all going to arrive organically with no organization involved.
Trump skipped a visit to the monument of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising but did visit the memorial to the Warsaw Uprising. Ivanka Trump did make a visit. No reason, as far as I can find, has been given for this and every US president visiting Warsaw has made a stop there. Trump did mention the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and suffering of Poland’s Jews in his speech but he did so in the context of Poland in general:
Under a double occupation the Polish people endured evils beyond description: the Katyn forest massacre, the occupations, the Holocaust, the Warsaw Ghetto and the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, the destruction of this beautiful capital city, and the deaths of nearly one in five Polish people. A vibrant Jewish population — the largest in Europe — was reduced to almost nothing after the Nazis systematically murdered millions of Poland’s Jewish citizens, along with countless others, during that brutal occupation.
There are claims that the Polish government is trying to whitewash pre-World War II Polish antisemitism and the Warsaw Ghetto and that Trump went along. Plausible? Sure. There are other plausible reasons, too. But I don’t pretend to be an authority on domestic Polish politics. You’ll have to make your own judgment as to the reasoning and what it means.
President Trump’s speech in Warsaw will undoubtedly anger a lot of people and it will make a lot of people happy.
Trump reiterated that Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty is alive and well.
Speaking in Warsaw, Poland, Trump defended his calls for allies in the 28-member North Atlantic Treaty Organization to pay more for their defense. He then endorsed Article 5, which ensures that allies will come to each other’s defense in the event of an attack.
“To those who would criticize our tough stance, I would point out that the United States has demonstrated — not merely with its words but with its actions — that we stand firmly behind Article 5, the mutual defense commitment,” Trump said.
“Words are easy, but actions are what matters. And for its own protection, Europe — and you know this, everybody knows this, everybody has to know this — Europe must do more.”
The Poles, it will be noted, one of 5 NATO members who spent the targeted 2% of GDP on defense. Article 5 is also important to Poland because Russia is not far away. So can we just put to bed for once and for all the nonsense that Trump has not agreed to the mutual defense requirements of the North Atlantic Treaty? Of course not, but I just thought I’d ask.
Trump tossed aside the obfuscation of the past two administrations and portrayed the ongoing war as a something close to a clash of civilization with barbarism (full disclosure–I’ve held this view since at least 2001).
Mr. Trump, delivering a stark message to a friendly Polish crowd before a two-day summit meeting of Group of 20 leaders, cast the West’s battle against “radical Islamic terrorism” as a way to protect “our civilization and our way of life.” He portrayed his domestic agenda as an equally serious challenge to powerful, entrenched bureaucracies in the United States and Europe.
“I am here today not just to visit an old ally, but to hold it up as an example for others who seek freedom and who wish to summon the courage and the will to defend our civilization,” Mr. Trump said in a speech in Krasinski Square, where a monument commemorates the 1944 Warsaw uprising against the Nazis.
“The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive,” he said, employing the same life-or-death language as in his inauguration speech, which promised a war against the “American carnage” of urban crime. “Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost? Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders? Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?”
I think this is all completely on target and it shows that the battle over whether or not “radical Islamic terrorism” will be used is basically over. This message will resonate in other places in Europe… like in Austria where troops have been deployed to the Italian border to stop the Italians from passing their refugee problem north. This statement is fundamental. Unless we can agree that Western Civilization is worth defending, then there is no logical reason to care about ISIS or the refugee flow into Europe from Turkey.
He equated Russia with the Soviet Union and called on Russia to moderate its behavior:
“As I stand here today before this incredible crowd, this faithful nation, we can still hear those voices that echo through history. Their message is as true today as ever. The people of Poland, the people of America, and the people of Europe still cry out ‘We want God,'” Trump said.
In a direct confrontation of the modern threats to Poland and the West, Trump urged the leaders of Russia to stop their aggressive actions in eastern Europe.
“We urge Russia to cease its destabilizing activities in Ukraine and elsewhere, and its support for hostile regimes including Syria and Iran, and to join the community of responsible nations in our fight against common enemies and in defense of civilization itself,” Trump said.
Trump mentioning God makes a lot of people react like the Devil does to Holy Water so they can be comforted in the knowledge that the “we want God” phrase Trump is uttering is the spontaneous crowd response heard over and over during Pope Saint John Paul II’s epic 1979 visit to Poland.
On the whole, it was a solid speech that said a lot of what needed to be said. It set a solid foundation for what could be a successful trip though, Heaven knows, Trump always has the ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.