In a few short months, Donald Trump has already done more for the security of Poland than Barack Obama did over eight years in office.
I’m talking about two decisions: the first one is to sell Polish army Patriot missiles (“the best anywhere in the world”) to strengthen deterrence against Russia, which stations ballistic missiles just across the border in its Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad (formerly Konigsberg in East Prussia), and to start selling Poland natural gas from the United States – in Trump’s words, “we are committed to securing your access to alternate sources of energy, so Poland and its neighbors are never again held hostage to a single supplier of energy”. For “single supplier” read, again, Russia, which over the recent decades has in some cases enjoyed near monopoly in gas and oil supply to Eastern and Central Europe, giving them power of energy blackmail over a number of countries, and strong influence in others, including Germany.
Not bad for a supposed Russian puppet. As somebody who has never been on the #TrumpTrain, thank you, Mr President.
Trump’s speech in Warsaw, in front of a monument commemorating those who died (up to quarter of a million people) during the two months of the Uprising in 1944, was well received by the audience, in part no doubt because the audience was largely bussed by the government members of parliament. Be that as it may, reading through it I can see how it struck all the right chords with a Polish audience: dark history, national spirit, fight for independence, the role of religion, values, patriotism, Copernicus, Kosciuszko, Pope John Paul II. Trump is not a great orator, and his speeches are not as beautifully oratorical as some of his predecessors’ (with such an established Trump style, it would be jarring if they were). This produces great moments like “Then, 19 years later in 1939, you were invaded yet again, this time by Nazi Germany from the west and the Soviet Union from the east. That’s trouble. That’s tough.” Ummm, yes, it was and it was. Running at over 3,500 words, the speech was also way too long, probably by half (this is my personal speech-writing bias), containing a lot of pleasant but repetitious sentiments.
A few highlights:
Poland is the geographic heart of Europe, but more importantly, in the Polish people, we see the soul of Europe. Your nation is great because your spirit is great and your spirit is strong. (Applause.)
For two centuries, Poland suffered constant and brutal attacks. But while Poland could be invaded and occupied, and its borders even erased from the map, it could never be erased from history or from your hearts. In those dark days, you have lost your land but you never lost your pride. (Applause.) …
But there is a courage and a strength deep in the Polish character that no one could destroy. The Polish martyr, Bishop Michael Kozal, said it well: “More horrifying than a defeat of arms is a collapse of the human spirit.”
Through four decades of communist rule, Poland and the other captive nations of Europe endured a brutal campaign to demolish freedom, your faith, your laws, your history, your identity — indeed the very essence of your culture and your humanity. Yet, through it all, you never lost that spirit. (Applause.) Your oppressors tried to break you, but Poland could not be broken. (Applause.) …
Americans, Poles, and the nations of Europe value individual freedom and sovereignty. 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. (Applause.) If left unchecked, these forces will undermine our courage, sap our spirit, and weaken our will to defend ourselves and our societies…
We have to remember that our defense is not just a commitment of money, it is a commitment of will. Because as the Polish experience reminds us, the defense of the West ultimately rests not only on means but also on the will of its people to prevail and be successful and get what you have to have. 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 civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it? (Applause.)
Trump’s speech is a love poem to the Western civilisation and its values, as well as a call for confidence to defend them from internal and external threats. Not surprisingly, one of “Washington Post” idiot bloggers called it “white-nationalist dog-whistling from Warsaw”, while “Washington Post” itself called it “a dark and provocative address with nationalist overtones.” There is no better place in the world to talk about defending common values than Poland, which for centuries stood as a bulwark against the Ottoman Empire (hence probably not coincidental sitting of Trump under the portrait of King John III Sobieski) and over the past hundred years withstood the assaults by Nazism and communism to destroy it or radically transform it (in fairness, more “mainstream” German and Russian nationalism has also been the bane of Poland’s existence). Trump got that, the media doesn’t – for them any talk about family, faith, patriotism, freedom, security, fighting terror and totalitarianism is now “nationalism” and “alt-right”. That’s why people hate you, folks.
And to say goodbye, my favourite tweet prompted by the trip (joking, of course):
— Anna Bachorska (@AnnBachorska) July 5, 2017