Putting political sympathies aside, on balance, a White House visit would appear quite favorable for Poland. It wasn’t a failure, but we should not be euphoric about it either.
What strikes one the most in the commentary after the meeting of President Andrzej Duda and Donald Trump is the enormous exaggeration of the event. President Duda’s critics claim that he failed spectacularly. As proof, they show a photo of Trump seated, while Duda, standing, signs an agreement concerning energy security. It wasn’t the best picture, and it also showed that the U.S. is treating us condescendingly. Duda therefore has no reason to be proud here, all the more so since this picture will continue to go viral in tons of memes and commentaries for months.
Exaggeration can also be found in the opinions of Duda’s supporters. Some write it was a tremendous success that Trump did not mention the rule of law, judicial independence, etc. Others are convinced that the partnership of Poland and the United States is so strong that it can only be compared to the one that Washington has with London, which is obviously a thesis that cannot withstand any substantive confrontation with reality.
Certainly, for the supporters of the Law and Justice Party, this visit will remain a huge success, particularly a personal one for President Duda. They claim that the thing to take into consideration is not the photographs, but rather the real effect of that meeting. In addition, the meeting will make it harder for opponents of “the good change” to say that Poland remains isolated on the international stage. Meanwhile, the critics won the next argument, asserting that Duda is an immature politician who was not only unable to be treated seriously by Trump, but who also behaved childishly on several occasions. Both of those visions contain a grain of truth, but the meeting should also be viewed without the political affinities and antipathies.
The biggest advantage of the meeting was that Trump himself spoke about the possibility of setting up permanent American military bases in Poland, and the topic was quickly picked up by the international media. Indeed, the issue is so important for Polish security that it became part of the international public debate. It is undoubtedly good news for Poland, as was Trump saying that Russia understands only the arguments of force, and that is why Poland, acting alongside the U.S., will use exactly these kinds of arguments toward Russia. The numerous reminders that matters of Polish security are important to the American president are also a kind of currency in international relationships, even though they have not been more than declarations.
On the other hand, Poland also has some problems to deal with. Trump explicitly pointed out that he is not willing to impose sanctions on companies taking part in building the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. He criticized Germany for being dependent on Russian gas, but he rejected sanctions which would be the only way to block this investment. Moreover, there was no binding declaration issued by the president. Reassurance about his care for Polish security is important, but concrete declarations, or perhaps even decisions, would be much more beneficial for Poland. It is also bad news that Trump used the meeting with the Polish president to strike at European Union once more. The attack didn’t elicit any reaction from President Duda, which doesn’t help his image, an image which is becoming more and more eurosceptic.
But bearing all of that in mind, on balance, the visit seems favorable for Poland. Yes, it could be far more favorable, but putting political sympathies aside, it cannot be portrayed as a complete failure.
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