By Ken Thomas and Darlene Superville | AP,
WARSAW, Poland — President Donald Trump opened his second visit to Europe at a Polish castle on Thursday, welcomed by President Andrzej Duda and a vigorous handshake.
Trump and Duda shook hands at the Royal Castle in front of a white marble bust of Stanislaw August Poniatowski, the last king of Poland. The leaders then retreated to a room decorated with red walls for their private talks.
Asked how he felt about the trip, Trump said “Great.” Trump arrived in the Polish capital of Warsaw late Wednesday for a whirlwind 16-hour stop in the eastern European nation. Later Thursday, he heads to Germany for a summit of leaders from the world’s rich and developing nations.
Duda told Polish broadcaster TVN24 on Wednesday that he wanted to focus the meeting on concrete issues like energy security for an eastern European region that remains heavily reliant on oil and gas deliveries from Russia, and not on “some general talk about world security.”
The leaders will also discuss further deliveries of U.S. liquid gas to Poland and the region. A one-time shipment arrived last month.
Trump and Duda planned to answer questions when they appear before journalists in the castle courtyard following their private talks. It will be Trump’s first overseas news conference, coming before his highly anticipated meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday, and after North Korea’s worrisome test of an intercontinental ballistic missile.
Trump broke with presidential tradition by not holding a question-and-answer session with the news media at any point during his first overseas journey as president, a nine-day trip through Saudi Arabia, Israel, Italy and Belgium in late May.
Before heading to a public square in downtown Warsaw to address the Polish people, Trump planned to highlight a regional effort to boost energy independence by meeting with a dozen central and eastern European leaders collectively known as the Three Seas Initiative.
The group of countries, all bordered by the Baltic, Adriatic and Black seas, aims to expand and modernize energy and trade with the goal of reducing the region’s dependence on Russian energy. Trump also planned a separate meeting with Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic.
Trump is delivering the speech from Krasinski Square, the site of a monument commemorating the 1944 Warsaw Uprising against Nazi occupation. Polish media reports said the government, as part of its invitation to Trump, promised the White House a reception of cheering crowds. Plans call for ruling party lawmakers and pro-government activists to bus in groups of people from outlying provinces for the speech.
The White House did not respond to requests for comment on those reports. Scores of people lined darkened streets late Wednesday after Trump arrived to watch as the motorcade sped him and his wife, Melania, to their hotel.
White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster said the president’s speech will praise Polish courage and celebrate Poland’s emergence as a European power. Trump will also call on all nations to be inspired by the spirit of the Polish people as they confront today’s challenges.
“He will lay out a vision, not only for America’s future relationship with Europe, but the future of our trans-Atlantic alliance and what that means for American security and American prosperity,” McMaster said before the trip.
Trump may also seek to use Poland as an exemplar of partnership.
Poland is one of five NATO members that spend at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product on the military, something Trump and U.S. leaders before him have demanded of NATO allies. Trump has scolded other NATO countries for falling short on their commitments.
Poland hosts several thousand U.S. troops, supports U.S. and NATO forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, and is a regular buyer of U.S. military equipment.
Before Trump arrived Wednesday, Poland’s government emphasized that Russia’s aggression in Ukraine poses a threat to the whole of Europe, an issue that inevitably will be raised in discussions with Trump as Europeans seek to gauge his willingness to confront Putin before their first face-to-face meeting on Friday.
Poland also hopes Trump’s visit will reinforce its position with European partners as it faces allegations of backsliding on democracy. The right-wing government is among three European Union countries — along with Hungary and Austria — that refuse to accept any relocated refugees, in legal violation of EU quotas.
Trump has been working to curb refugee admissions to the U.S. as part of his ban on travel from six mostly Muslim countries.
The stop in Poland marked a break with tradition as U.S. presidents typically make a point of visiting stalwart allies like Britain, France and Germany in their opening months in office. Trump will rectify that to some degree next week when he returns to Europe, this time visiting France at the invitation of President Emmanuel Macron to help celebrate Bastille Day and the 100th anniversary of the U.S. entry into World War I.
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