President Donald Trump may well have felt as if Air Force One had touched down in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, or any other American city that had hosted his campaign-style rallies when he landed in Warsaw Wednesday night — the first leg of his second trip abroad as president.
First lady Melania Trump accompanied Trump, as did daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner. Flanked by ten uniformed troops, Polish Foreign Affairs Minister Witold Waszczykowski and other dignitaries met America’s first family on the tarmac late Wednesday. Scores of people who lined darkened roads waved American and Polish flags and recorded video of Trump’s motorcade as it sped past.
Conservative Warsaw is likely to show a lot of love for Trump during a 16-hour visit before he heads to the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, Germany. There, Trump can expect German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other European Union leaders to challenge his rejection of the Paris climate agreement.
At the same time, Trump will have to contend with escalating tensions with North Korea after it successfully launched its first intercontinental ballistic missile this week. Asked, as he left the White House, what he would do about North Korea, Trump said only: “We’re going to do very well.”
Trump, who’s been seeking China’s help in containing Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear weapons programs, also tweeted his frustration with China for continuing to trade with North Korea.
“So much for China working with us — but we had to give it a try!” Trump wrote.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is among at least nine leaders Trump is scheduled to meet with, in Germany during the G20 summit. Trump is also scheduled to have a sit-down with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In Warsaw, leaders of the ruling Law and Justice Party are busing in supporters to cheer the American president when he delivers an afternoon speech at Krasinski Square on Thursday. The ruling Law and Justice party see Trump’s choice to visit Poland as a fine way of tweaking the left-leaning leadership of the European Union.
The Poles have benefited from a booming economy since joining the EU in 2004 — while not absorbing the political sensibilities that prevail in Brussels and Berlin. Trump and Polish President Andrzej Duda both have been on the receiving end of French and German disapproval for their rejection of calls that America and Poland accept their share of Syrian and other refugees, as well as for their treatment of the media and opposing political views.
So Poland and America are mutual admiration societies. “We still perceive America as a beacon of freedom,” noted Marcin Wrona, a Washington correspondent for Polish network TVN.
When Poland’s dissident Solidarity Party was working to oust Communists from power in 1989, Wrona added, they created a campaign poster from an ad for the movie High Noon starring Gary Cooper. “This is the single image that we remember from 1989,” he said.
According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, Poland is the most pro-American nation in Europe — 65 percent of Poles have a favorable view of America, while 16 percent have an unfavorable opinion. Young adults approve of America by an 88 percent margin — a higher rate than among older Poles.
Tour guide Tomasz Obinski, 23, is among that group. A Warsaw native, he spoke approvingly of the new American president because Trump is pro-Poland. Obinski hopes Trump will admit Poles who hold U.S. visas.
Standing near Old Town where barricades were placed in preparation of Trump’s visit later Wednesday, Obinski added, “We close half of the city just for president.”
Kris Ruszczynski, a retired engineer who returned to Warsaw after living in London for more than three decades, likes Trump because he takes on “problems which have been hidden under what I call ‘political correctness.’“
Ruszczynski praised Trump’s decision to come to Poland before Germany as “a very brave decision. The message will be sent to Germany and Russia.”
Poland and the United States also share the pain of partisan division. Duda surprised the political class when he won the presidency in 2015 with 52 percent of the vote — and many Poles are not happy with the change at the helm.
Asked about the new government, one Polish woman sighed as she thought of Poland’s second president, Lech Walesa. He had a saying, she noted, “There should be a left leg, and a right leg. And I’ll be in between.”
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