President Trump hosted Poland’s Andrzej Duda on Wednesday at the White House. The meeting proved beneficial for the Polish leader, as President Trump affirmed his willingness to move some of the troops currently stationed in Germany to Poland.
This transfer is strongly desired by Poland, as it would provide a direct incentive against potential invasion from Russia. Russia, under Vladimir Putin, has been steadily extending its footprint to control territories which were previously under the dominion of the USSR. Poland has been pressing for greater military ties with the United States since the fall of the Soviet Union, and a missile defense shield plan struck under Bush was scrapped early into the Obama Presidency as acknowledged in the UK left-wing newspaper The Guardian. That plan was designed to push back against potential encroachment by Russia and to strengthen US allies against Iran. Those aims remain beneficial to the United States.
Not all of the troops which will potentially be vacated from Germany would be stationed in Poland. According to the President, “We’re going to be reducing our forces in Germany. Some will be coming home and some will be going to other places, but Poland would be one of those other places.” President Trump began to threaten to pull troops from Germany after Angela Merkel refused to attend a G-7 summit which would have been held at a Trump resort and would have included, against the wishes of all other G-7 nations, Vladimir Putin of Russia.
The prospective military restructuring would simultaneously aid Putin’s endeavors by reducing the overall troop presence in NATO countries, aid Poland by shifting troops to that country, and reduce the oversight the United States has kept in Germany since World War II.
The timing of the meeting is highly suspect. Poland’s President is facing an election at the beginning of next week, and the political aid that the promise of troop movement provides gives the appearance of election meddling. Duda is currently expecting to receive roughly 42% of the vote in the first round of elections, which puts him far out in front of all competitors, but is polling at about 50% for the likely second round. A bump now to put him over 50% in the initial round would signal a firm revitalization of his political fortunes.
Unlike Trump, Duda’s firm handling of the covid-19 pandemic increased his waning popularity in the country, setting the stage for his potential re-election.
While it is a common occurrence for Presidents to demonstrate strong relationships with individual leaders, it is exceedingly rare for them to have public meetings with them less than a week before voters are due to go to the polls. In the best of times, it would signal a weakening of the United States’ dedication to free elections. After President Trump was shown to have attempted to pressure the Ukraine into investigating his political opponent’s son and has refused to acknowledge Russia’s proven and continued efforts to undermine American elections, the meeting with President Duda further tarnishes the credibility of the United States.