President Trump’s Foreign Policy: The Case of Eastern 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.… Today, the West is also confronted by the powers that seek to test our will… We urge Russia to cease its destabilizing activities in Ukraine and elsewhere… Americans know that a strong alliance of free, sovereign and independent nations is the best defense for our freedoms.” President Donald Trump

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By Nicholas Dima l July 25, 2017

President Trump’s Poland speech delivered in front of the monument in Krasiński Square dedicated to the heroes of the Warsaw Uprising against the German Nazis

Washington’s foreign policy under President Trump must address a series of global challenges. One of them is confronting Russia’s attitude in Europe.

Moscow is using the carrot to lure Western Europe away from America and the stick to threaten Eastern Europe – defined as the former Soviet satellite countries plus the three Baltic republics that regained their independence after the dissolution of the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics (USSR). These countries stretch from the Baltic Sea to Central Europe and further south to the Black Sea. Their integration into NATO has upset Russia, and the newly created American military bases in Poland and Romania have enraged it.

What has led to this new East-West confrontation and what is to be expected?

Except for Ukraine, an Eastern European country that Moscow will never give up willingly, Poland, Romania, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are the countries that historically suffered most at the hands of the Soviet Union. To safeguard their independence, these countries joined the North Atlantic Alliance. As a candidate, Donald Trump downplayed the importance of NATO giving the impression he would cozy up to Moscow. He was less vocal toward the Russian annexation of Crimea and showed little interest for Eastern Europe. This attitude created confusion and concern among many Eastern Europeans. However, once in the White House, he had to face the cold reality of the world as it is. And Europe figured high on his international agenda.

Several political analysts have stressed the importance of Eastern Europe in what is a new period of chilly U.S.-Russian relations; analysts such as George Friedman of Stratfor, Robert Kaplan, Marek Jan Chodakiewicz and Richard Haass. They have stressed the importance of the ‘Intermarium,’ the land between the Baltic and Black seas, in deterring Russia’s new aggressive posture. The area was also stretched to the Adriatic Sea. In the view of these geopolitical analysts, Poland and Romania represent the new pivots of NATO’s defense. They stress that the two countries are strongly pro-American and staunch NATO supporters. Indeed, the United States has focused militarily on Poland and Romania. And, as president, Donald Trump has shown good sense and realism toward these countries.

On June 9, President Trump invited Romania’s President Klaus Iohannis to the White House and reassured Bucharest of U.S. support and cooperation. On the same occasion, President Trump reaffirmed his support for Eastern Europe and for strengthening NATO. Iohannis was the first Eastern European president hosted officially by President Trump. Then, in July Trump went to Poland, the first East European country visited by the new commander-in-chief. Addressing an enthusiastic audience in Warsaw, President Trump’s speech was inspiring. The speech was posted on the White House web site and reported by many newspapers. Mr. Trump declared:

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.… Today, the West is also confronted by the powers that seek to test our will… We urge Russia to cease its destabilizing activities in Ukraine and elsewhere… Americans know that a strong alliance of free, sovereign and independent nations is the best defense for our freedoms…

Following Trump’s visit. Poland and Romania increased their military spending and decided to acquire American Patriot missile defense systems.

President Trump’s speech was reassuring. Yet, we should remember what Chodakiewicz wrote in his 2012 book Intermarium, which I reviewed: Moscow’s aim is to re-impose its control over Eastern Europe… an area where the United States lacks a coherent geopolitical vision. And he added a warning: America may no longer take for granted the support of its foreign policy by the nations of the post-Soviet sphere… That was in 2012. We are now in 2017 and there still are questions that need answers. It is now all in the hands of President Trump.


Nicholas Dima, Ph.D, is a former professor and author of numerous books and articles including the autobiographical memoir, Journey to Freedom, a description of the effects of communist dictatorship on a nation, a family and an individual. He currently lectures and is a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis of the online-conservative-journalism center at the Washington-based Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research.

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