On the eve of his first face-to-face talks in office with Russian President Vladimir Putin, President Trump
declined to hold the Kremlin solely responsible for meddling in the
2016 U.S. presidential campaign, saying others may have interfered as
At a news conference Thursday with his Polish counterpart in
Warsaw, Trump also said he was considering some unspecified “pretty
severe things” in response to North Korea’s firing of a ballistic
missile capable of hitting parts of the United States. “Something will
have to be done about it,” he told reporters.
Later, in a speech
delivered in an iconic Warsaw square, Trump cast Islamic extremism as a
modern-day successor to historic horrors like Nazism and Communist
“We must stand united against these shared enemies,”
he said, his address repeatedly interrupted by raucous cheers and
chants. “Our borders will always be closed to terrorism and extremism of
Portraying the struggle against terrorism as the
West’s primary mission, the president cited “dire threats to our
security and our way of life” that must be countered by “bonds of
culture, faith and tradition that make us who we are.”
against the backdrop of a memorial to the 1944 Warsaw Uprising against
the Nazis, Trump praised Polish perseverance and sacrifice, asking: “Do
we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the
face of those who would subvert and destroy it?”
To NATO allies,
Trump offered an explicit commitment to the alliance’s founding
principle of common defense, which he had failed to state unambiguously
at a May meeting in Brussels. But he also again tweaked allies who he
said were not contributing enough financially, taking credit for
“billions and billions” coming into NATO as a result of his importuning
members to pay more.
Trump’s characterization of Russian election
interference was considerably more tepid than U.S. intelligence
assessments that the Kremlin directed a concerted campaign of cyber
meddling meant to help him beat his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.
In his comments, he repeated an assertion that “nobody really knows” who
bore the ultimate responsibility.
“I think it was Russia, and it could have been other people in other countries,” he said. “I think a lot of people interfere.”
while leaving conditional the degree of interference by Moscow — “if
Russia did it,” as he put it — Trump also renewed an attack against his
predecessor, President Obama, saying he had failed to act on
intelligence pointing to Russian interference that surfaced months
before the election.
“That’s a lot of time, he did nothing about
it,” said Trump, who was to meet Putin on Friday on the sidelines of the
Group of 20 gathering in the German city of Hamburg.
Korea, the president declined to provide specifics about potential
options under consideration to rein in the North’s leader, Kim Jong Un.
“I don’t like to talk about what we have planned,” he said, adding: “They are behaving in a very, very dangerous manner.”
was welcomed warmly by Polish President Andrzej Duda, a right-wing
populist who has cracked down on immigration, the judiciary and freedom
of the press.
The two leaders met privately at the national Royal
Castle in Warsaw before giving public remarks and taking questions from
“Mr. Trump is thinking very seriously about Poland’s
security,” Duda told reporters, adding that he was convinced by his
meeting with Trump that the U.S. is “our loyal ally.”
of the American president’s speech, supporters of the ruling Law and
Justice party lined the street outside the small but landmark square,
holding banners and Polish and American flags.
A few people wore
the bright red baseball hats from Trump's campaign with the words "Make
America Great Again" written in white across the top. As a few lawmakers
from opposition parties walked through security, chants in the crowd
went up, calling them "thief" and "traitor" in Polish.
visit to Poland marks a brief stop in an environment friendlier than the
one that likely awaits him in Germany. Several European leaders,
including German Chancellor Angela Merkel,
have been sharply critical of Trump’s protectionist policies on trade
and his decision to pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord.
visit to Europe comes as he faces urgent foreign policy tests on
multiple fronts. In addition to North Korea’s missile adding urgency to
Trump’s calls for China to do more to pressure Kim to end his nuclear
program, the fight against Islamic State in Syria has reached a critical
After the Warsaw stop, Trump will fly to Hamburg for a
sit-down with Merkel on Thursday evening and a joint meeting with
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Moon
Like Trump, Duda was swept into power with a
nationalist-populist message. He promised to protect Polish interests
from international agreements and has set tight limits on immigration
despite pressure from western European leaders to accept more refugees
from war-torn countries like Syria.
Since being elected in 2015,
Duda has launched a public campaign against the press and tried to
undermine Polish media outlets. In the past year, Duda’s administration
and his allies that control the legislature have restricted government
access to reporters, a clampdown on press freedom that sparked large
protests in Warsaw in December.