Donald Trump opens European visit in Poland

US President Donald Trump waves next to First Lady Melania Trump in Krasinski Square, Warsaw. Picture: AP Photo/Alik Keplicz
US President Donald Trump waves next to First Lady Melania Trump in Krasinski Square, Warsaw. Picture: AP Photo/Alik Keplicz
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Donald Trump has delivered a major speech in Poland declaring that “the West will never be broken” and vowing to win the battle against extremism.

Mr Trump told crowds in Krasinski Square, Warsaw: “Our people will thrive and our civilisation will triumph.”

President Donald Trump and Polish President Andrzej Duda hold a joint press conference at the Royal Castle in Warsaw. Picture: AFP/Wojtek Radwanski/Getty Images

President Donald Trump and Polish President Andrzej Duda hold a joint press conference at the Royal Castle in Warsaw. Picture: AFP/Wojtek Radwanski/Getty Images

He offered praise for his hosts’ resilience in the face of historic threats from Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, declaring: “Let us all fight like Poles.”

He used the speech to make the case for the US and its allies to embrace the spirit of national pride that helped sustain the Polish people.

He repeatedly drew contrasts with the beliefs of extremists and made the case for the necessity of his travel ban, which restricts immigration from some terror-impacted countries.

He had started his day at the Royal Castle, welcomed by Polish President Andrzej Duda with a vigorous handshake in front of a white marble bust of Stanislaw August Poniatowski, the last king of Poland.

President Donald Trump has opened his second visit to Europe at a Polish castle, welcomed by President Andrzej Duda and a vigorous handshake.

The leaders then retreated to a room decorated with red walls for their private talks.

Asked how he felt about the trip, Trump said: “Great.” Trump arrived in the Polish capital of Warsaw late on Wednesday for a whirlwind 16-hour stop in the eastern European nation. Later on Thursday, he heads to Germany for a summit of leaders from the world’s rich and developing nations.

Duda told Polish broadcaster TVN24 on Wednesday that he wanted to focus the meeting on concrete issues like energy security for an eastern European region that remains heavily reliant on oil and gas deliveries from Russia, and not on “some general talk about world security”.

The leaders will also discuss further deliveries of US liquid gas to Poland and the region. A one-time shipment arrived last month.

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Trump and Duda planned to answer questions when they appear before journalists in the castle courtyard following their private talks. It will be Trump’s first overseas news conference, coming before his highly anticipated meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday, and after North Korea’s test of an intercontinental ballistic missile.

Trump broke with presidential tradition by not holding a question-and-answer session with the news media at any point during his first overseas journey as president, a nine-day trip through Saudi Arabia, Israel, Italy and Belgium in late May.

Before heading to a public square in downtown Warsaw to address the Polish people, Trump planned to highlight a regional effort to boost energy independence by meeting with a dozen central and eastern European leaders collectively known as the Three Seas Initiative.

The group of countries, all bordered by the Baltic, Adriatic and Black seas, aims to expand and modernize energy and trade with the goal of reducing the region’s dependence on Russian energy. Trump also planned a separate meeting with Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic.

Trump is delivering the speech from Krasinski Square, the site of a monument commemorating the 1944 Warsaw Uprising against Nazi occupation. Polish media reports said the government, as part of its invitation to Trump, promised the White House a reception of cheering crowds. Plans call for ruling party lawmakers and pro-government activists to bus in groups of people from outlying provinces for the speech.

The White House did not respond to requests for comment on those reports. Scores of people lined darkened streets late on Wednesday after Trump arrived to watch as the motorcade sped him and his wife, Melania, to their hotel.

White House national security adviser HR McMaster said the president’s speech will praise Polish courage and celebrate Poland’s emergence as a European power. Trump will also call on all nations to be inspired by the spirit of the Polish people as they confront today’s challenges.

“He will lay out a vision, not only for America’s future relationship with Europe, but the future of our trans-Atlantic alliance and what that means for American security and American prosperity,” McMaster said before the trip.

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Trump may also seek to use Poland as an exemplar of partnership.

Poland is one of five NATO members that spend at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product on the military, something Trump and US leaders before him have demanded of NATO allies. Trump has scolded other NATO countries for falling short on their commitments.

Poland hosts several thousand US troops, supports US and NATO forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, and is a regular buyer of US military equipment.

Before Trump arrived on Wednesday, Poland’s government emphasised that Russia’s aggression in Ukraine poses a threat to the whole of Europe, an issue that inevitably will be raised in discussions with Trump as Europeans seek to gauge his willingness to confront Putin before their first face-to-face meeting on Friday.

Poland also hopes Trump’s visit will reinforce its position with European partners as it faces allegations of backsliding on democracy. The right-wing government is among three European Union countries - along with Hungary and Austria - that refuse to accept any relocated refugees, in legal violation of EU quotas.

Trump has been working to curb refugee admissions to the US as part of his ban on travel from six mostly Muslim countries.

The stop in Poland marked a break with tradition as US presidents typically make a point of visiting stalwart allies like Britain, France and Germany in their opening months in office. Trump will rectify that to some degree next week when he returns to Europe, this time visiting France at the invitation of President Emmanuel Macron to help celebrate Bastille Day and the 100th anniversary of the US entry into World War I.