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Polish president unlikely to get earful from US

Laura King, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

"Probably like me a little bit controversial, but that's OK," Trump said of Orban.

Duda is expected to escape the high-profile gibes Trump has directed at some members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, particularly Germany, over military spending as a share of the country's gross domestic product. Addressing a pet peeve of Trump's, Poland has met a 2% target for such expenditures.

Poland has taken a canny approach to wooing an American president known to take considerable pride in his personal brand. Last year, Duda proposed naming a Polish military installation "Fort Trump."

That particular piece of Trump-themed real estate may not become a reality, but Poland is hoping to secure a larger American military footprint than the approximately 4,000 troops already in the country on a rotating basis. Duda told the Reuters news agency last week that "we are speaking about a strengthening of a U.S. presence."

A senior Trump administration official, speaking to reporters on condition of anonymity Tuesday, said there would be a "significant" security announcement in connection with Duda's visit.

Poland's mistrustful stance toward Russia puts it at odds with some of the Law and Justice party's nationalist-populist allies elsewhere in Europe, including Orban and Italy's interior minister, Matteo Salvini.

But even with differing views on the threat posed by Moscow, the European populists share plenty of common ground on matters such as curbing immigration and restricting the regulatory powers of the EU.

Under diplomatic protocol, it was once frowned upon for U.S. leaders to put a thumb on the scales of allies' internal affairs. But Trump has tossed that convention aside in the current leadership contest in Britain amid the bitter fight over Brexit, and in the run-up to Israel's April election, among other votes.

In advance of Poland's October balloting, the Law and Justice party -- emboldened by its decisive win in the European Parliament elections -- is seeking to capitalize on the perception of a close personal relationship between Duda and Trump, said Melissa Hooper, director of foreign policy advocacy with Human Rights First.

 

"He wants that photo op," she said of the Polish president.

Underscoring that, Duda has also invited Trump to Poland for the Sept. 1 commemoration of the 80th anniversary of the Nazi invasion of Poland, which marked the outbreak of World War II. The White House has not yet confirmed that visit, which would come weeks before the Polish vote.

Like Trump, Duda and the ruling party, with which he has largely allied himself, hope to avoid an economic downturn that could harm electoral prospects.

Polish officials have said Duda's White House visit would be followed by stops in California, Nevada and Texas, aimed at attracting investment and forging energy and technology partnerships.

(c)2019 Los Angeles Times

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