As President Donald Trump prepared to address the United Nations General Assembly in New York City Monday, it is fitting that he chose to meet with Polish President Andrezj Duda to sign a historic joint defense cooperation agreement on the eve of his speech.
With global security threats top of mind for the dignitaries gathered in Turtle Bay this week, a strong reminder of the enduring relationship between the United States and Poland could not have come at a better time.
Coming on the heels of Vice President Mike Pence’s productive trip to Warsaw last month to commemorate the 80th anniversary of World War II, the new agreement serves to honor the past, seize the opportunities of the present, and look towards the future of this vital security partnership.
Polish troops fought and died alongside U.S. troops during the war in Afghanistan. In Iraq, Poland stood by the United States as a member of the coalition of the willing at a time when most European countries refused to do so and even criticized the effort from platforms like the U.N.
A stone’s throw away from the White House, Lafayette Square pays tribute to a quartet of foreign war heroes who came to the aid of the American patriots during the Revolutionary War. One of the military leaders honored in the park with a prominent bronze statue is Polish-born Brig. Gen. Thaddeus Kosciusko, who devoted seven years of leadership and service to Gen. George Washington’s Continental Army. Since the American Revolution, the bonds of friendship between Poland and the United States have been strengthened by centuries of military and economic cooperation.
President Trump hosted President Duda in Washington earlier this year, when F-35 fighter jets flew over downtown Washington, including the White House and Lafayette Square, as a demonstration of this cooperation. Poland agreed to purchase 32 American-made F-35s, and the Trump administration committed to sending an additional 1,000 U.S. troops to rotate through Poland to reinforce bilateral security ties. Poland also committed to purchasing liquefied natural gas from the United States in an effort to sever its dependence on Russian energy imports. These commitments are central to President Duda’s pledge to modernize Poland’s national defense.
Poland has proven itself to be a reliable partner for the United States in the United Nations and other international organizations such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. President Trump has understandably expressed disappointment that many NATO members have not met their obligation to spend at least 2 percent of GDP on national defense. Poland is one of the few countries that has met and exceeded this obligation, according to the most recent NATO defense expenditure report.
With Britain’s new government moving closer to cutting ties with the European Union, Poland is uniquely well-positioned to be a leading EU ally to the United States. Press reports indicate that President Trump’s personal relationships with President Duda and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis are much warmer than his relationships with the heads of state of other leading EU member countries. Moreover, the Polish economy has remained strong and resilient with sustained GDP growth during the last decade, while other countries in the region have struggled and even fallen into recession. The U.S.-Poland relationship will be more important than ever as both democracies look for ways to work together to counter the growing military and economic influence of adversaries like Russia and China, another major concern for many UNGA attendees.
At Monday evening’s ceremony, President Trump reaffirmed his support for Poland’s entry into the U.S. visa waiver program and vowed to complete the years-long integration process.
The Trump administration backs this commonsense policy because it recognizes that it is in the interest of the United States. The administration understands what American businesses have known for some time: Poland is a stable ally with a booming economy and growing influence in European politics. The United States’ friendship with Poland was key to America’s founding, as the tribute to Gen. Kosciusko in Washington serves to remind us. Trump’s meeting with President Duda this week ahead of a high-stakes UNGA shows that this friendship will also be key to the United States’ future.
Eric Stewart is the president of the U.S.-Poland Business Council and a former deputy assistant secretary for Europe/Eurasia at the Department of Commerce under President George W. Bush.
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