Poland Hopes for Trump’s Support on Troop Presence and Migration Spat With EU

By Patrick Goodenough | July 5, 2017 | 11:41 PM EDT

President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump arrive in Warsaw, Poland on Wednesday, July 5, 2017. (Screengrab: U.S. Embassy Warsaw)

(CNSNews.com) – President Trump has arrived in Poland, where the conservative government is hoping he will reaffirm a “permanent” U.S. troop presence, and back Warsaw’s rejection of a European Union refugee/migrant admission quota.

The president and First Lady Melania Trump, accompanied by his daughter and son-in-law, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, disembarked from Air Force One on Wednesday night.

Polish President Andrzej Duda, who will meet with Trump on Thursday, said he viewed the visit as “historical.” A Duda spokesman pointed out that no American president has traveled to Poland at such an early point in his tenure.

Trump’s itinerary includes a meeting with 12 leaders from central Europe, the Baltics and western Balkans – a summit of the Polish-led ‘Three Seas Initiative,” a group of nations situated between the Baltic, Adriatic and Black seas.

He is also expected to deliver a speech – his first public address as president in Europe – at Krasinski square, home to a monument to Poles who fought against the Nazis in the 1944 Warsaw Uprising.

Poland is one of just five of NATO’s 28 member-states to have achieved a commitment to devote at least two percent of its GDP to defense spending – an issue that has stoked tensions between Trump and other alliance members which have not made the grade, notably Germany.  (The other four that have are the United States, Britain, Estonia and Greece.)

Ahead of the visit, media commentators in both countries and further afield have pondered whether Poland, whose leaders are conservative nationalists, is “pro-Trump.”

A much-discussed Pew poll last month found “low confidence” in Trump in most countries around the world.

Still, of ten European countries included in the survey, Poland accounted for the lowest “no confidence” ranking:  Respondents in Poland and Hungary both had 57 percent “no confidence” in Trump, compared to 92 percent “no confidence” in Spain, 87 percent in Germany and 86 percent in France.

The global median in all 37 countries polled, was 74 percent “no confidence.”

The visit comes just before Trump attends a G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, where he’s expected to have his first encounter with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Polish government hopes Trump will address the issue of a permanent U.S. troop presence and the future of the military base at Redzikowo, Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski told the Polish Press Agency (PAP).

As part of a Russia-focused NATO mission called Operation Atlantic Resolve, a U.S. Army mechanized infantry battalion of some 1,000 personnel has been deployed this year in Poland, along with several hundred troops from Britain and Romania.

The troops are stationed in a town in north-eastern Poland, just 30 or so miles south of the Kaliningrad, the small exclave of Russian territory located between Poland, Lithuania and the Baltic Sea.

Moscow has called the NATO enforced forward presence, which also includes alliance forces in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, a threat to stability in Europe.

(Screengrab: YouTube)

Redzikowo is a small air base, near Poland’s Baltic Sea coast, where missile interceptors are due to be stationed by next year as part of the NATO ballistic missile defense (BMD) shield.

Groundbreaking at the site took place in May 2016, amid protests from Russia, which alleges the BMD system is calculated to weaken its nuclear deterrent.

The Pentagon says the BMD shield, which also includes another interceptor site in Romania, Aegis ships in the Mediterranean and a radar in Turkey, is designed to protect U.S. troops and allies against the threat of missiles launched by Iran, not Russia.

Like other countries in central and eastern Europe, Poland is concerned about Russian activity in the region in the aftermath of its military intervention in Ukraine and annexation of Crimea.

State-owned Radio Poland said Wednesday many Poles hope Trump will use the visit to reiterate Washington’s commitment to article five of the North Atlantic Treaty, which states that that an attack on any NATO member is considered an attack on all.

Migration wrangles

In his PAP interview, Waszczykowski also said the government intends during Trump’s visit to protest against what he called the enforced mass resettling of refugees.

The E.U.’s executive Commission last month launched legal action against Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic over their refusal to cooperate with a 2015 proposal to distribute some 120,000 refugees and migrants among E.U. member states.

The aim of the “relocation and resettlement” scheme is to ease the load on countries in southern Europe which took in large numbers of migrants in recent years

The quotas were based on E.U. member states’ population, GDP and unemployment rates and other factors, with Germany given the largest quota, a little over 31,000. Poland is meant to admit 9,287 asylum-seekers but has taken in none. Hungary has not cooperated, while Czech has taken in just 12 of a 2,978 quota – the last one more than a year ago.

(Overall the plan is way behind schedule – 120,000 people meant to be resettled by September, but by mid-May the number stood at just 18,418.)

It was not clear from Waszczykowski’s remarks whether Poland hopes for anything more than rhetorical support from the American president, possibly during Thursday’s speech.

Trump will, however, be meeting with several European leaders at the G20 and summit host German Chancellor Angela Merkel has including “migration and refugee flows” in her agenda.

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Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow