America and Poland
Were Never Closer
US Leader holds Poland up as an example for other nations to follow
By Robert Strybel
WARSAW–The eyes of the world were on Poland’s capital one day in July when US President Donald Trump paid his first visit to our ancestral homeland. The regional leader of Europe’s eastern flank, it was the first country President Trump visited during his second foreign trip. Everyone knew in advance from White House sources that he was coming to reiterate America’s commitment to Poland and its former east-bloc allies. And that he did in no uncertain terms.
The highpoint of Trump’s visit was the keynote speech he delivered at Warsaw’s Krasiński Square in front of a monumental memorial to the 1944 Warsaw Uprising against the German occupiers. Without using notes, Trump displayed a surprising knowledge of Poland’s turbulent history, its partitions, invasions and foreign occupations. “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 civilisation.” In a rousing address frequently interrupted by cheers he added: “The triumph of the Polish spirit over centuries of hardship gives us all hope for a future in which good conquers evil and peace achieves victory over war.” He added: “The story of Poland is the story of a people who have never lost hope, who have never been broken and who have never, ever forgotten who they are.”
In a clear warning to Moscow Trump said: “The United States has demonstrated, not merely with words, but with its action, that we stand firmly behind article five, the mutual defence commitment,” Article 5 of the NATO charter states that an attack on one alliance member is na attack on them all.
He praised Poland for spending the required two percent of GDP on defense and urged other NATO members to follow suit. But he added: “Money alone is not enough, there must also be the will to survive.” That veiled criticism was directed at Western Europe’s liberal elites which seem to have lost their will to defend their civilization in the face of the alien forces out to destroy it.
“We must work together to counter forces, whether they come from inside or out, that threaten to undermine these values and to erase the bonds of culture, faith and tradition that make us who we are,” he urged those who have lost their way.
Earlier in the day, Trump held a private tête-à-tête with Polish President Andrzej Duda. Since the Pole knows English, no interpreters were needed. “The president and I concluded a productive meeting in which we reaffirmed our enduring bonds of friendship which have united our citizens for a long time. We’ve never been closer to Poland than we are right now,” Trump said after the meeting. At the same time, a deal was signed to supply Poland with eight US Patriot anti-ballistic missile systems. “That is Poland’s response to the Russian Iskander missiles which threaten our country,” Polish Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz remarked.
After his face-to-face with Duda, Trump was guest speaker at the summit of the Three Seas Initiative, a bloc of 12 central-east European countries that feel marginalized and dominated by Germany and >France. Trump praised the initiative, saying it will ensure that your nations remain sovereign, secure and free from foreign coercion.“ The visit was a huge diplomatic success for Poland which raised the level of Polish-US ties and strengthened Poland’s position in NATO.
Highlights and Sidelights of Trump’s Historic Poland Visit
**President Donald Trump came to Poland at the head of a 20-member delegation of US officials and advisers. Included in his party were Slovenian-born First Lady Melania Trump, the president’s daughter and assistant Ivanka and her husband and presidential adviser Jared Kushner whose Jewish immigrant ancestors came from Poland.
**The BBC curtain-raised the visit saying: “US presidents are almost guaranteed a friendly reception in Poland, and this aspect of the trip will appeal to President Trump and make for good pictures at home. Authorities in Hamburg are expecting up to 100,000 protesters at the G20, and mass demonstrations are also expected in London when he finally makes a long-awaited state visit to the UK. But in Poland, the White House will be able to breathe easy.
**The choice of Warsaw’s Krasiński Square as the venue of President Trump’s keynote address to Poland and the world has helped publicize an internationally little-known or misconstrued event. The 1944 Warsaw Uprising, German-occupied Europe’s biggest anti-Nazi revolt, is frequently confused with the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. The monumental Warsaw Uprising Memorial near which Trump spiked forced world media to explain what the insurrection was about.
**President Trump could feel right at home in Poland, whose ruling conservative Law and Justice party shares many of the values espoused by American conservatives. Both governments are viciously attacked by the opposition media, and President Trump complained about the “fake news” being churned out against his administration by CNN and the “New York Times”. The situation is similar in Poland, where TVN and “Gazeta Wyborcza” never say a single good word about Poland’s democratically elected government.
**According to the British daily “Guardian”, Donald Trump’s Poland visit sparks fears of widening divisions in Europe. Some fear US president may be seen as endorsing a government that is clashing with EU over democracy and migrants. It has already been compared by Poland’s pro-government press to John F Kennedy’s historic 1963 visit to West Berlin, but Donald Trump’s trip to Warsaw has prompted concerns over a presidential strategy that threatens not to unite Europe but to divide it.
**Polish presidential spokesman Krzysztof Łapiński noted that no previous US president had visited Poland so soon after assuming office. The fact that he chose to visit Poladn ahead of the G10 summit in Germany and his meeting with Russia’s Putin was not lost on Moscow. “We are closely observing what president Trump says in Warsaw,” Kremlin analysts were reported as saying.
**As a guest of the Three Seas (Trimarum) Initiative Summit, President Trump demonstrated America’s strong ties to Central-East Europe.” The Initiative aims to strengthen political ties and facilitate cross-border cooperation among the region’s countries. The 12-country bloc is seen as a counterweight to Europe’s domination by Germany and France. Poland is the biggest country of Trimarum which includes the Višěhrad Group (Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and Czech Republic), the Baltic states and Balkan countries.
**The Trimarum Summit was originally set to take place in the southwestern city of Wrocław. After President Trump confirmed his visit to Poland, the venue was moved to Warsaw for security reasons. From previous presidential visits, the US Secret Service is familiar with the layout of Poland’s capital, potential evacuation routes and other emergency measures.
**Unlike Obama, who had based his administration’s European policy on Germany, Trump seems to prefer a 12-member multinational wedge (Trimarum) between an aggressive Russia and unpredictable Germany. The central-east bloc was inspired by pre-war leader Marshal Józef Piłsudski whose Intermarum (Between the Seas) concept was to affiliate Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Belarus, Ukraine, Hungary, Romania, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia.
**The cover of Poland’s right-wing news weekly “Gazeta Polska” enraged liberal-leftist commentators but appealed to its readers. It showed President Trump and the words “Make Poland great again!” – a paraphrase of his campaign slogan. “Gazeta Polska” editors were delighted that millions of Americans and viewers world-wide saw the cover thanks to Fox News.
**Viciously opposed to the present Polish government and no great fans of the conservative US president, Poland’s liberal opposition was unsure whether to attend Trump’s speech at Krasiński Square. “That’s going to be a rally of the ruling Law and Justice (party) with the US president attending. If we are to be only a fig-leaf, there’s no reason for us to be there,” remarked Sławomir Neumann, leader of opposition Civic Platform caucus.
**Warsaw’s Hotel Marriott was the US Presidential couple’s home away from home during their visit to Poland. Its top-floor presidential suite provided them with a great panoramic view of downtown Warsaw. The hotel was turned into a veritable armed fortress swarming with Secret Service agents, and the entire surrounding area was closed to traffic. The presidential visit was a huge security operation. Special monitoring equipment was brought in from the US, snipers were poised on rooftops and heavy Polish police presence was seen at every intersection as Trump traveled across Warsaw in Cadillac One, an armored vehicle popularly known as The Beast.
**In his powerful pro-Polish address at Warsaw’s Krasiński Square, President Trump said: ”On June 2nd, 1979, one million Poles gathered around Victory Square for their very first mass with their Polish Pope, that day, every communist in Warsaw must have known that their oppressive system would soon come crashing down. They must have known it at the exact moment during Pope John Paul II’s sermon when a million Polish men, women, and children suddenly raised their voices in a single prayer. They did not ask for wealth or privilege. Instead, one million Poles sang three simple words: ‘We Want God’!”
**On more than one occasion during his Warsaw sojourn Donald Trump spoke approvingly of Polish Americans and thanked them for their support. “As you know, Americans of Polish extraction stromgly supported me in the election. That gave me great satisfaction and I want to thank them for that.” Unlike Hillary Clinton, Trump traveled to Chicago in September 2016 to meet with leaders of the American Polonia. In appreciation, a majority of PolAms voted for the Republican candidate. Up until the 1960s and ’70s, when the Democratic Party began espousing various left-wing agendas, Polish Americans had mostly voted a straight Democratic ticket.
**Kennedy had his “Ich bin ein Berliner” and Reagan had said: “Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” Trump’s historic exhortation in Warsaw was: ”LET THEM COME TO POLAND!” It was preceded by the words: “We can have the largest economies and the most lethal weapons anywhere on Earth, but if we do not have strong families and strong values, then we will be weak and we will not survive. If anyone forgets the critical importance of these things, let them come to one country that never has. Let them come to Poland!”
**Headlines such as „Poland’s First Lady snubs President Trump” and ”Wife of Polish president humiliates Donald Trump” made world-wide headlines and got huge internet play. Even the ”all-knowing” BBC said: ”Agata Kornhauser-Duda went right past President Trump to greet Melania instead. The president and Polish First Lady shook hands shortly after, fixing the snub. Except no snub was involved. According to traditonal Polish etiquette, ladies are always greeted first whether by a man or another woman. That is inculcated into Polish children almost from birth.
**Poland’s First Rabbi, US-born Micheal Schudrich, and Warsaw’s Jewish community complained that President Trump had slighted Polands’ Jews by neglecting to pay his respects at the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising Memorial. ”Every US president and vice-preisdent who ever visited Warsaw had done so,” Schudrich said. US First Daughter Ivanka Kushner, who is married to a descendant of Polish Jews, came to the rescue and placed a floral wreath at the foot of the monumental memorial. Herself an observant Jewess, the president’s daughter then visited the Museum of Jews in Poland and came away impressed and deeply moved.
**During his speech in Krasiński Square, Trump singled out the historic Solidarity leader Lech Wałęsa for praise. “We are pleased that former President Lech Wałęsa, so famous for leading the Solidarity Movement, has also joined us today,” said Trump, thanking Wałęsa for attending. The American president seemed surprised there was no huge ovation. Instead, some polite applause was interspersed with booing. Despite conclusive evidence showing that back in the 1970s he had briefly been a paid informer of the communist secret police, he continues to deny his guilt.
**While their husbands were busy conferring, fielding questions at a press conference and delivering speeches, the First Ladies of Poland and the US spent some quality time together. First they met for coffee at Belweder Palace and chatted for half an hour. No interpreter was needed because both Agata Kornhauser-Duda and Melania Trump are polyglots. Then they visited the Copernicus Science Center across the River Vistula, a unique educational attraction full of high-tech novelties and opportunities for hands-on experimentation. There they met and chatted with Polish children visiting the center.