President Trump Poland Trip
Toni Mikec, Foreign Policy Contributor
Opinion - The past week has seen the US and EU relationship continue to change under the new American presidential administration. On his trip to meet with President Vladimir Putin for the first time at the G-20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany, President Donald Trump also paid a visit to Poland.
It is unsurprising that he received a warm reception in Poland as both he and the Law and Justice Party (PiS in Polish) that governs Poland after the most recent round of elections have a great deal in common in their political perspectives. According to some political scientists, both have been ideologically predisposed towards populism, a political ideology that combines a strong predisposition towards nationalism with a protectionist economic program.
For instance, both President Trump and the Law and Justice Party have both advocated in favor of a return to nationalism and protectionism instead of continuing to adhere to the ideologies of internationalism and free trade that have guided international relations for the past couple of decades. This ideological shift means that their nations have begun to look inward and take care of their own people before following the guide of multinational organizations like the European Union and trade organizations like NAFTA.
Furthermore, both party platforms have advocated for a return to the traditional moral values of the past, when their nations were more prosperous and independent rather than continue to adhere to the moral relativism of the present. That is, both have rejected the notion of increased access to abortion as well as arguing against increasing immigration from foreign countries that might threaten the integrity of the nation. For instance, both the PiS and President Donald Trump have come out vocally against taking in any refugees from Syria, citing their links to the recent wave of terrorist attacks that have struck the West and their incompatibility with Western values.
Finally, both the PiS and President Donald Trump have displayed a dislike towards the media, political elites, and other institutions that maintain the checks of “liberal democracy.” Such beliefs have led to the rise of discussions regarding “fake news” in the United States and efforts on the part of the PiS to co-opt and control the Polish media and court system. While some of their supporters have praised these moves as overcoming the shortfalls of democracy and the endless debates that they generate, their detractors have claimed that these actions have sounded the death knell of democracy in both countries.
During his speech in Warsaw, President Trump drew on Poland’s long and rich history, much like the PiS has, in order to underscore the similarities between Poland’s history and his own struggle to “make America great again”. For instance, he complimented Poland for producing such intellectual lights such as Copernicus, Pope John Paul II, and Chopin and he praised Poland’s resistance to Nazi and Soviet aggression during World War II. This part of the speech was rendered ever more poignant by the fact that it was given in front of the monument to the failed 1944 Warsaw Uprising, where many Poles lost their lives.
Furthermore, President Trump took the time to, much like the PiS has, attack the governmental bureaucracy as the enemy of the people. Instead, President Trump praised Western notions of individualism and control of one’s own destiny as key factors that led to the rise of the West. In this part of the speech, it is easy to pick out the strands of populism in expressions that show a strong connection to ordinary men and women, instead of the disinterested party elites.
At the same time, President Trump also took the time to warn President Vladimir Putin of Russia against any further meddling in the Ukraine. While the PiS’s dislike for Russia is quite obvious, given Poland’s tumultuous history with both Russia and Germany from the creation of modern Poland in 1918 to the fall of the Communist government in 1989, President Trump’s reaction to this was more surprising.
The reason for this is that both before and after his election, many of his critics had accused him of being a pawn of Russia and Putin. As a result, many of these individuals expected him to support Russia’s seizure of the Crimea and support for the pro-Russian rebel groups in Ukraine. The fact that he has not came as a shock to many.
Is this a new trend or a temporary political shift? Only time will tell.
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