Trump’s Warsaw speech pits western world against barbarians at the gates | US news

Donald Trump used the word “civilisation” 10 times in his first speech in central Europe. The man who brought us “America first” has expanded his vision, to a clash of civilisations.

And at a time of anxiety over America’s role in the world, the message was clear: the US is still the leader of western civilisation, whether western civilisation wants it or not.

The crowd gathered in Warsaw – many arriving on free buses laid on by Poland’s conservative ruling party – seemed happy enough at this prospect. They chanted “Donald Trump! Donald Trump!”, echoing one of his barnstorming rallies in the homeland. From Britain, the former UK Independence party leader Nigel Farage quoted the speech approvingly on Twitter.

But Trumpsceptics across Europe are unlikely to have been impressed by a speech of two halves: a reassuring pledge of support for Nato and dig at Russia mixed with coded – and sometimes not so coded – warnings that the barbarians are at the gate.

“Americans, Poles, and the nations of Europe value individual freedom and sovereignty,” said Trump, wearing his customary red tie. “We must work together to confront forces, whether they come from inside or out, from the south or the east, that threaten over time to undermine these values and to erase the bonds of culture, faith and tradition that make us who we are.

“If left unchecked, these forces will undermine our courage, sap our spirit and weaken our will to defend ourselves and our societies.”

It was not hard to detect the voice of the White House chief strategist, Steve Bannon, the nationalist-nihilist who once promised that the Trump era would be “as exciting as the 1930s” and is a student of The Fourth Turning, a book that argues history moves in cycles and America is on the brink of its latest violent cataclysm.

Nor was it hard to see the hand of Trump’s speechwriter Stephen Miller, principal author of Trump’s inaugural address in January, in which the word “America” appeared even more frequently than “civilisation” did this time, most notoriously as “American carnage”.

Speaking at Krasinski Square – which memorialises the Warsaw uprising against Nazi occupation – Trump tried to conflate Poland’s second world war history with the defence of western traditions.

“The people of Poland, the people of America, and the people of Europe still cry out ‘We want God’,” he said.

In 1939, Trump recalled, Poland was invaded by Nazi Germany from the west and the Soviet Union from the east. “That’s trouble,” it occurred to him. “That’s tough.”

He made reference to the Katyn massacre, the Holocaust, the Warsaw ghetto and the murder of millions of Poland’s Jewish citizens. Then came four decades of communist rule.

From there, Trump tried to make the leap to contemporary external threats including terrorism and extremism, propaganda, financial crimes and cyberwarfare. In a paragraph guaranteed to please Republican hawks at home, he offered rare criticism of Vladimir Putin, urging Russia to end its destabilising activities in Ukraine and elsewhere, and its support for hostile regimes including Syria and Iran.

But then came a bizarre pivot to Bannon’s stated goal: the deconstruction of the administrative state.

“This danger is invisible to some but familiar to the Poles: the steady creep of government bureaucracy that drains the vitality and wealth of the people,” Trump said. “The west became great not because of paperwork and regulations but because people were allowed to chase their dreams and pursue their destinies.”

It would have been hard to imagine Ronald Reagan declaring: “Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall of bureaucracy!”

Trump changed gear to more traditional ground for US presidents in Europe. He praised the “community of nations” and said the bond between the US and Europe was maybe “even stronger” than ever. Despite his own war on the media, he heralded “the right to free speech and free expression”. He spoke of empowering women and valuing the dignity of every human life. And finally he threw his weight firmly and explicitly behind Nato’s article five, the mutual defence commitment.

Nevertheless, this was a speech about reassuring doubters around the world that America is still flying the plane, even if the passengers would prefer Barack Obama to be the pilot. The implication that cultural essentialism and national purity face existential threats hovered ominously throughout.

In what the pro-Trump Fox News called “a staunch defence of western values during a rousing speech”, the president insisted: “The fundamental question of our time is whether the west has the will to survive.

“Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost? Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders? Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilisation in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?”

A few minutes later, he answered his own questions: “Just as Poland could not be broken, I declare today for the world to hear that the west will never, ever be broken. Our values will prevail. Our people will thrive. And our civilisation will triumph.”

Trump was following in a long line of American presidents who made historic addresses in Europe, including John F Kennedy (“Ich bin ein Berliner”) and Reagan. But his attempt to set out a Trump doctrine will be remembered not for a quotable zinger but for muddled thinking and dark nativism.

Sign up for the Minute email. Catch up on today’s US politics news in 60 seconds

Source link

Poland’s courting of Trump is a few supporters short of a picnic | Remi Adekoya | Opinion

Poland’s rightwing government is pulling out all the stops for what it sees as its greatest foreign policy achievement to date: a visit to Warsaw today by US president Donald Trump. In what has to be acknowledged as wily diplomacy, the Law and Justice (PiS) government is appealing to the US president’s achilles heel: his vanity, reportedly luring him with promises of adoring crowds, in contrast to the chillier receptions he can expect in western Europe.

The ruling party is bussing in its supporters from all over Poland, encouraging them to take part in a “great patriotic picnic” on the occasion of Trump’s visit. The idea is to make the big man feel as good about himself as possible, which will hopefully benefit Poland in some way, such as a more categorical assertion that Nato would – under US leadership – protect Poland from any aggression from Moscow.

PiS is working hard to tickle Trump’s ego. The party’s leader and Poland’s most important politician, Jarosław Kaczyński, described Trump’s decision to visit Warsaw as a “new success” for Poland. “[Others] envy it, the British are attacking us because of it.” Meanwhile, the defence minister, Antoni Macierewicz, described Trump as “a man who is changing the shape of the world’s political scene”, adding that his “historic” visit would “once and for all, erase [Poland’s] experience of occupation and Soviet enslavement”.

There used to be a time when one could predict US foreign policy in rational terms; today it’s more an issue of how Trump’s ego will react to a particular situation. As a narcissist enthralled with those who offer him affirmation, Trump will likely respond to Warsaw’s lavish praise in kind. Additionally, he shares much ideologically with the current Polish government: hostility towards Muslim migrants and doubt over climate change and German leadership in the EU.

Trump is already responding to Warsaw’s fawning. His national security adviser, HR McMaster, promised the American president would deliver “a major speech” in Warsaw where “he will praise Polish courage throughout history’s darkest hour, and celebrate Poland’s emergence as a European power. And he will call on all nations to take inspiration from the spirit of the Poles as we confront today’s challenges.” McMaster added that Trump would “lay out a vision” for “America’s future relationship with Europe” in Poland. Were the last promise to materialise, this would certainly be viewed as a diplomatic coup for Warsaw, and a snub to the likes of Berlin and London where such an important speech might have been expected to be made.

Indeed, there is the danger that Trump will use his Warsaw speech to draw a divisive line between what he would likely portray as a commonsense eastern Europe, proud of its (Christian) identity and values and a multiculturalism-obsessed, politically correct and naive western Europe that has lost its way and left itself vulnerable to Islamist terrorism. The Polish government will certainly hope for such a message, to help legitimise its anti-migrant and increasingly anti-EU stance, particularly in the eyes of its domestic audience.

But while the Polish government may well hear the message it wants from Trump, its attempts to portray Poles as more sympathetic to Trump than western Europeans will be more illusion than reality. Recent Pew Research suggests Poles are generally very sceptical of the US president. Only 23% expressed confidence in Trump to “do the right thing regarding world affairs”, compared to 22% in the UK, while 57% of Poles lack confidence in him. In comparison, at the end of his presidency, 58% of Poles expressed confidence in Obama’s handling of world affairs.

Moreover, the Pew survey showed 46% of Poles expressed confidence in Angela Merkel’s global leadership. Twice as many Poles now trust the global leadership of a German chancellor over that of an US president, a remarkable development taking into consideration Poles’ historically strong pro-US stance and post-second world war fears of “German domination”, which are consistently stoked by the current government in Warsaw.

So even if news agencies beam pictures of seemingly numerous pro-Trump Poles from his visit in Warsaw, this should not be taken to mean widespread support for the US president or his policies within Polish society in general. Most of the crowd will be the bussed-in PiS supporters, who are generally more sympathetic towards Trump, plus of course a number who might turn up out of curiosity at seeing first-hand the world’s most controversial politician.

Polish society may generally be more conservative and sceptical towards Muslim migrants than western European nations, but the majority of Poles are by no means fans of Trump’s crass and clueless style of leadership. Don’t be fooled Mr President, Poland ain’t Trumpland.

Source link