Donald Trump arrived for a high-stakes visit to Europe Wednesday evening (5 July), landing in Poland ahead of his first G20 summit in Hamburg and a closely-watched meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The still-novice US president begins a four-day swing through Warsaw (5-6 July) and Hamburg (7-8 July), where tricky geopolitical currents – from rumbling transatlantic discord to the North Korean nuclear threat – will converge.
Air Force One touched down at 10:15 pm (20:15 GMT), kicking off Trump’s second foreign trip.
President Trump and the First Lady exit Air Force One upon arrival in Warsaw, Poland. pic.twitter.com/xSOjkV8Iuq
— Josh Caplan (@joshdcaplan) July 5, 2017
In Poland, Trump will have a willing host in the form of President Andrzej Duda, whose own right-wing politics resembles “The Donald’s” in many ways.
Poland is hosting a summit of the “Three Seas Initiative”, a recent pro-Atlantic initiative which also comprises the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Austria, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia and Slovenia, First Lady Melania’s home country.
Trump will use a public speech today to burnish his credentials as a global statesman and deflect allegations that he has invited ridicule on the United States.
“After his disastrous trip to Brussels and Taormina [where a G7 meeting was held on 26-27 May], friendly pictures with European leaders and cheering crowds at his public speech could help Trump repair his image at home,” said Piotr Buras of the European Council on Foreign Relations.
In public, European officials profess the decades-old transatlantic partnership to be inviolable and essential.
In private, they wonder whether it can survive four or eight years with Trump at the helm.
The White House has said Trump will use the stopover in Warsaw to showcase his commitment to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, which he once called “obsolete”, a likely effort to patch up relations after the tense alliance summit in May.
Poland’s conservative and Eurosceptic government, which shares views with Trump on issues such as climate change, migration and coal mining, has hailed the US president’s visit as a recognition of its role as a leading voice in central Europe.
Western Europeans, critical of Poland’s democratic record, will be watchful as to whether Trump, who will give a major policy speech on a Warsaw square, may encourage its government in its defiance of Brussels.
Some European governments are worried over a deepening regional divide between east and west within the European Union and some diplomats see today’s regional summit as a Polish bid to carve out influence outside of EU structures.
Poland also wants to buy liquefied natural gas from US companies to counterbalance Russian gas supplies in the region.
“We are simply an important country in this part of the world,” Polish President Andrzej Duda said in an interview with the PAP news agency.
“We are among the biggest countries in Europe, we are a leader of Central Europe, and President Trump … understands this.”
If you see cheering crowds in Warsaw, remember: only 23% of Poles admire him, same percentage as other Europeans https://t.co/tdi7gT9FVB
— Anne Applebaum (@anneapplebaum) July 5, 2017
Like other countries close to the NATO frontline with Russia, Poland will be eager to hear Trump embrace the alliance principle that an attack against one member represents an attack against all of them.
Trump, who has praised Russian President Vladimir Putin in the past, flustered allies at his first NATO summit when he dropped a mention of the mutual defence principle, known as Article 5, which is the bedrock of the transatlantic partnership.
“The White House sees opportunities to fix the problem that they created in Brussels where it looked like there was a big transatlantic divide,” said Julie Smith, who was a national security adviser to former US Vice President Joe Biden.
“If he has a very warm welcome in Poland … that could help push back on the narrative that he’s not developing strong partnerships with our closest allies,” added Smith, now with the Center for a New American Security in Washington.
Warsaw welcomes Trump, courtesy of Greenpeace pic.twitter.com/l3xvkpRBUS
— Sylvie Kauffmann (@SylvieKauffmann) July 5, 2017
The G20 meeting in Hamburg is seen as a second chance for Trump to improve ties with the wealthiest EU countries participating (France, Germany, Italy, UK) and the leaders of the EU institutions, following a disastrous trip to Brussels last May and his announcement on 1 June that the US was quitting the 2015 Paris Agreement.