Not surprisingly, following President Trump’s visit to Warsaw, the Polish government declared that it is no longer concerned about the U.S. President’s perceived friendliness with Putin’s Russia. Although none of these facts are likely to affect Trump’s detractors and their “Trump-Russia” narrative, it is clear that a U.S. President’s visit to Poland relatively early in his term, his calling-out of Moscow’s energy blackmail, his strong endorsement of a strong Poland and the Three Seas Initiative, as well as Patriot missile sales to Poland and Romania are all elements of a policy of strategically containing Vladimir Putin’s aggressive and emboldened post-Soviet Russia.
By Paweł Piotr Styrna | August 1, 2017
The presidents of the U.S. and Poland, Donald Trump and Andrzej Duda
President Trump’s first official visit to Poland – on his way to the G20 summit in Hamburg – was well received in Poland and hailed by his supporters as a huge success. Predictably, the president’s critics wasted no time in finding fault with Trump’s visit and, in particular, his July 6 Warsaw speech. Simultaneously, the liberal newsmedia’s obsessive perpetuation of the “Trump-Russia collusion” narrative has, at least in part, served to drown out the importance of the president’s visit.
In fact, at approximately the same time in the first year of his presidency (2009), Barack Obama visited Moscow. Soon thereafter – on the seventieth anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland (in collaboration with Nazi Germany), to boot – Obama cancelled the Bush-era missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic. This was one of many concessions made to appease the Russians as part of Obama’s “reset” policy. In April 2010, following the highly suspicious death of the Polish president and his entire entourage (96 members of the pro-Western Polish elite in total), the 44th President preferred to golf rather than attend Lech Kaczyński’s funeral. Trump’s predecessor did not visit Poland until 2011 – his third year as president. This is important food for thought when considering the left’s claims of President Trump’s alleged Russophilia.
The president’s speech – delivered in front of a monument to the heroes of the Warsaw Uprising against the German Nazis – certainly gave no indication of any sympathies for the Kremlin or its neo-imperial policies. The speech was an all-out defense of Western Civilization against both its foreign and domestic adversaries, as well as a warning against key current threats. Trump further endorsed a “Poland that is safe, strong, and free,” thereby signaling that the country is not alone in the face of threats by EU bureaucrats attempting to force Poland (and Hungary) to take in droves of Muslims fleeing Syria and other Middle Eastern countries. The president also alluded to Moscow’s energy blackmail when he announced that the U.S. is “committed to securing your access to alternate sources of energy, so Poland and its neighbors are never again held hostage to a single supplier of energy.”
Less reported, albeit just as significant, were President Trump’s presence and remarks at the second summit of the Three Seas Initiative shortly before his Warsaw speech. Launched in 2015 by the presidents of Poland and Croatia to further regional cooperation among Central and Eastern European former “captive nations,” the grouping includes the twelve nations depicted in green in the map below situated between the Baltic, Black, and Adriatic Seas. In his remarks, Trump expressed his enthusiastic support of the Three Seas Initiative. He also added, sending a clear message to any actors wishing to use energy blackmail against the Three Seas nations: “if one of you need energy, just give us a call.”
It is also worth noting that Poland’s defense minister, Antoni Macierewicz, spoke with President Trump about the Smolensk Crash. Macierewicz has been fighting to get to the bottom of the suspicious crash since 2010, in spite of the Obama administration’s lack of interest in the issue. How Team Trump will handle Smolensk remains to be seen. Nevertheless, during the 2016 election, during a meeting with Polish-American voters, President Trump declared his willingness to help Poland in the Smolensk investigation and bringing the wreckage of the Polish Tu-154M back home from Russia.
Hoping to reverse “reset”-era appeasement and strategic disinterest in the Intermarium, Trump has also agreed to sell Patriot missiles to Poland and Romania. The Russian regime responded with typical smugness – dismissing the Patriots as already obsolete – but the Polish and Romanian governments beg to differ, and it is clear that Moscow is not pleased about renewed American interest in Central and Eastern Europe.
Not surprisingly, following President Trump’s visit to Warsaw, the Polish government declared that it is no longer concerned about the U.S. President’s perceived friendliness with Putin’s Russia. Although none of these facts are likely to affect Trump’s detractors and their “Trump-Russia” narrative, it is clear that a U.S. President’s visit to Poland relatively early in his term, his calling-out of Moscow’s energy blackmail, his strong endorsement of a strong Poland and the Three Seas Initiative, as well as Patriot missile sales to Poland and Romania are all elements of a policy of strategically containing Vladimir Putin’s aggressive and emboldened post-Soviet Russia
Paweł Styrna is a Ph.D student in Russian history at a DC area university. He holds two MA degrees, one in modern European and Russian history (University of Illinois at Chicago) and another in statecraft international affairs (Institute of World Politics in Washington DC). Mr. Styrna is also a Eurasia analyst for the Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research and a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis.