Trump ally Poland conflicted over Biden win

US President Donald J. Trump and Polish President Andrzej Duda (L) depart after holding a joint press conference in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC, USA, 24 June 2020. [EPA-EFE/JIM LO SCALZO]

A faithful ally of Donald Trump, Poland’s populist government is struggling to digest his defeat and is worried the president-elect will be far more critical of its domestic policies, experts said Monday (9 November).

While much of the world hailed Joe Biden’s win on Saturday, Polish President Andrzej Duda issued a curiously-worded tweet congratulating him for his “successful presidential campaign”.

Duda also failed to mention Biden in a speech for the ratification of a US-Poland defence co-operation pact, referring instead to “a very heated time indeed” in US political life.

Four years ago, Duda had rushed to send his “warmest congratulations” to Trump very soon after the candidate’s victory was confirmed.

Poland’s state broadcaster TVP has also been reticent over Biden’s victory, describing him as a politician “referred to by some US media as the winner of the presidential election”.

Over the weekend, TVP quoted Trump and Russian media talking about possible election fraud.

“TVP is more engaged than Fox News,” political scientist Marcin Zaborowski told AFP.

Zaborowski said the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party “are very unhappy about losing such a powerful ally on the international scene”.

“Isolated within the European Union, the PiS had the comfort of being supported on the other side of the Atlantic thanks to Trump,” he said.

Ties between Trump and Poland’s ruling party, which has been in power since 2015, have been particularly close.

In June, just days from a presidential election in Poland, Duda visited Trump during his campaign and received a strong endorsement from the US leader.

Duda was the first foreign leader to visit the White House since it first eased coronavirus restrictions.

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‘Poland will lose its status’

The new president-elect, who is highly knowledgeable about the Central Europe region, will doubtlessly be a more difficult partner.

During a town hall meeting last month, candidate Biden made some critical remarks on the region.

“You see what’s happened in everything from Belarus to Poland to Hungary, and the rise of totalitarian regimes in the world,” he said.

He has also criticised homophobic comments made by leaders in Poland, where several regions have declared themselves “free” from “LGBT ideology”.

“LGBTQ+ rights are human rights and ‘LGBT-free zones’ have no place in the European Union or anywhere in the world,” he said on Twitter.

“Poland will lose its status of privileged partner and both the PiS and President Duda are worried,” said Ryszard Schnepf, Poland’s former ambassador to the US.

“They do not know how they are going to be treated by the new administration,” he said.

But Zaborowski said that, while he was critical of Poland, Biden has no intention of undermining strategic relations between the two countries.

“These relations can remain strong – and even become stronger,” he said, referring in particular to a shared scepticism of Russia.

“In areas such as politics in the post-Soviet space, Warsaw has more in common with a Biden White House than with Trump,” he said.

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