WASHINGTON — It’s not quite “Fort Trump,” as Polish President Andrzej Duda suggested somewhat in jest last September when he proposed permanent U.S. military bases in his country, but President Donald Trump did announce the United States would send another 1,000 troops to Poland.
Duda’s second visit to the Trump White House was another lovefest, which included a joint news conference in the Rose Garden that provided an opportunity for Trump to praise a media-bashing foreign leader and bash a less favored ally, Germany.
Trump recalled his July 2017 visit to Warsaw’s Krashinski Square where he delivered an impassioned speech, which he claimed others said “was the best speech ever made by president in Europe.”
Then he praised Warsaw for paying its fair share for defense and buying American energy rather than relying on Russian imports.
Poland is one of a minority of NATO members that meet the organization’s goal of spending at least 2 percent of their GDP on defense. (To Trump’s chagrin, Germany spends some 1.3 percent of its GDP on defense.)
Warsaw just signed another deal to get American liquefied natural gas — a stark contrast to Germany, which Trump contends is too energy-reliant on Russia. Poland also placed an order for more than 30 F-35 fighter jets, a move celebrated with an ear-shattering flyover above the White House.
During the Rose Garden event, Duda even offered a few words in English — “Make America Great Again.” It was an embrace of Trump’s America-first stance that is hard to imagine coming from German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
During a reception, Duda told Trump, “The first term of your presidency will be the introduction to your second term.”
During a talk with reporters in the Oval Office as he greeted Duda, Trump said the additional troops might be moved from a U.S. base in Germany or another European location.
Trump also teased that the deal would entail “a military facility. A great one, in a very good location in Poland.” But it appears that Poland will not get the permanent facility Duda proposed last year.
The back-and-forth between the two presidents and the press revealed two starkly different takes on Russia.
When a reporter asked Trump if Russia poses a threat to Poland and Europe, he answered, “I think that Russia will treat Poland with respect,” before adding he wants “everybody to get along.”
But when a reporter asked Duda in the Rose Garden if Russia is an ally to Poland, Duda answered that while he would “very much like” Russia to be a friend to Poland, the giant neighbor’s greater size and history of aggression argued otherwise. Duda then recalled the Soviet invasion of Poland during World War II, the Warsaw uprising and Russian post-war occupation, before he moved to Russia’s attacks on Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014.
“We would like Russia to be our friend, but unfortunately, Russia again is showing its very unkind, unpleasant, imperial face, and we do not want to be part of Russia’s sphere of influence,” said the Polish president.
Trump followed up with his hope that “Poland is going to have a great relationship with Russia.”
Bradley Bowman of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a research institute that focuses on foreign policy and national security, told the Review Journal he is among those who believe the United States needs a division headquarters permanently stationed in Europe, preferably in Poland, to respond to a possible “fait accompli” attack by Russia in Europe.
If the U.S. were to station permanent combat and combat supports in Poland, Bowman argued, “we’ll end up spending a lot less (than we do) now.”
Bowman, who serves as senior director of the Foundation’s Center on Military and Political Power, said he sees good and bad in the Trump administration’s policies. On the plus side are Trump’s successful efforts to pump up NATO partners’ defense spending, but Trump’s Putin-friendly rhetoric disappoints.
Trump also used the visit to voice common cause with Polish-American voters. “They liked me and I like them, and a lot of them voted for Trump,” he said in the Oval Office.
Duda plans to leave Washington for Houston and then Reno, where he will arrive on Friday evening. The one-day visit is the result of an invitation given by former Gov. Brian Sandoval, who met Duda in Warsaw in 2017, according to John Petkus of Poland’s consulate in Las Vegas.
“This will also be the first time a sitting Polish president will step foot in Nevada, so we’re very proud of this recognition by the Polish authorities,” Petkus added.