WARSAW: Donald Trump’s high-stakes trip to Europe, where he faces a prickly G20 meeting and animosity from traditional US allies, kicks off on a comforting note Thursday—in front of a friendly crowd bussed in by his sympathetic Polish hosts.
Air Force One touched down in Warsaw late Wednesday, for what is the US president’s second foreign outing after a European tour in May that exposed fierce mistrust.
The US president’s four-day swing starts in Warsaw, where he will deliver a major speech, before moving on to the northern German city of Hamburg for his first G20 summit, where tricky geopolitical currents—from rumbling transatlantic discord to increasingly difficult ties with China—will converge.
Looming large over the entire visit is Pyongyang’s test of an intercontinental ballistic missile that could deliver a nuclear payload to Alaska.
Tough-talking Trump had previously vowed North Korea would not be allowed to possess an ICBM, and leaders from rival and allied powers alike will be watching closely to see whether his threats were bluster or will crystallize into action.
After repeatedly urging Beijing to ratchet up the pressure on North Korea, Trump will hold what promises to be a testy meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Hamburg to trace the next steps.
“Trade between China and North Korea grew almost 40% in the first quarter. So much for China working with us—but we had to give it a try!” Trump tweeted indignantly on Wednesday.
On Friday, Trump will hold a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin that will— amongst other things—be pored over for its significance to US domestic politics.
Several of Trump’s closest aides are under investigation for possible ties with Moscow, which US intelligence agencies say tried to tilt the election in the Republican candidate’s favor.
The scandal continues to eat away at his administration, with key White House staff being forced to hire their own lawyers and spend time rebuffing new allegations.
So far, Trump has been reluctant to acknowledge Russian interference in the election or criticize the veteran Russian leader and has branded allegations against his aides as “fake news.”
Even simple photographs of Putin and Trump shaking hands or meeting face-to-face pose a political risk for the US president and will likely be weaponries by his foes in the United States.
‘Disastrous trip to Brussels’
Trump will look to a public speech Thursday to burnish his credentials as a global statesman and deflect criticism that he invited ridicule on the United States after an acrimonious G7 summit during his first trip overseas in May.
In Poland, Trump has a willing host in the form of President Andrzej Duda, whose rightwing politics resemble his own.
Trump will use a landmark speech in Warsaw later Thursday to warn that the future of the West is in doubt if nations do not show more resolve.
“The defense of the West ultimately rests not only on means but also on the will of its people to prevail,” Trump will say, according to excerpts released by the White House.
“The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive.”
Trump will paint a picture of the West facing existential challenges to “defend our civilization” from terrorism, bureaucracy and the erosion of traditions, according to the extracts.
He will point to Poland—which in the last century endured Nazi and Soviet occupation— as an example of resolve.
Trump will also issue a Reaganesque call to tackle bureaucratic overcontrol, which he will frame as more than just an inconvenience or byproduct of a rules-based society.
“On both sides of the Atlantic, our citizens are confronted by yet another danger—one firmly within our control. This danger is invisible to some but familiar to the Poles. The steady creep of government bureaucracy that drains the vitality and wealth of the people.”
“The West became great not because of paperwork and regulations but because people were allowed to chase their dreams and pursue their destinies,” he will say.