Shortly before meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin this week, U.S. President Donald Trump warned Russia that it should stop supporting hostile regimes and destabilizing Ukraine.
The warning was given against the backdrop of Trump’s first visit to Poland in the run-up to the G20 summit in Germany. Trump was greeted with strong support from Poles, who are enthusiastic about his message of strong national sovereignty.
Speaking in Warsaw at Krasiński Square, site of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, Trump called on the West to be prepared to fight for its survival. “As the Polish experience reminds us, the defense of the West ultimately rests not only on means but also on the will of its people to prevail,” Trump said, drawing parallels between the heroic sacrifice of Polish resistance fighters in World War Two against the Nazis, and current international threats.
“The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive.”
Trump’s G20 appearance, originally cast as a showdown with Angela Merkel over climate change, has quickly been overshadowed by a series of international security events, with North Korea’s successful test of its first Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) taking center stage.
Trump identified the North Korean regime as the United States’ number one security threat, and has said that all options remain on the table to handle it, including military action.
But in a move sure to confuse or enrage the small army of journalists and news organizations well into their eighth month of trying to find a connection between Trump and Russia, the president set the stage for his meeting with Putin by urging Russia to “join the community of responsible nations in our fight against common enemies and in defense of civilization itself,” surely a reference to Russia’s continuing support to despotic regimes like those in Syria and Iran.
Warnings notwithstanding, the meeting remains subject to Trump and his Trump-isms, which have been famously and intentionally difficult to predict. Speaking on Wednesday, Trump referenced this by saying he does not wish to telegraph the options he is considering on actions to take with regard to North Korea. Given the atmosphere Trump wishes to emphasize, that of an international order teetering on the brink of collapse and conflict, it’s likely Trump will maintain a hard-line on Russia while seeking to leverage whatever good relations he has stoked personally with Putin into backing off his commitments in the Middle East.
Editorial Cartoon courtesy of Robert L. Lang
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