What does President Trump’s visit to Poland mean? Four points
"The visit by the President of the United States Donald Trump to Poland means that he has taken notice of the economic potential of Central Europe", considers Bartosz Wiśniewski, Head of the Research Office at the Polish Institute of International Affairs. He believes that the visit will translate into a stronger relationship between the new administration and the region.
What is the context of the visit?
Trump will first hold a bilateral meeting with Polish President Andrzej Duda and then attend a meeting of leaders attending the Three Seas Initiative (TSI) summit. The next stop during Trump’s trip to Europe will be the G20 summit in Germany, where the U.S. president is scheduled to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump has travelled outside the U.S. only once since taking office, so including a meeting with TSI leaders on his busy itinerary signals the U.S. administration’s seriousness about the potential of intra-regional cooperation, as well as collaboration within the EU and with the United States. In addition, the U.S. is aware of China’s growing profile in Central Europe through its "16+1" initiative.
What are the expectations of the U.S. administration?
The meeting with the TSI countries will be the backbone of the visit. The initiative’s business dimension likely played a role in the decision to accept the invitation. Perception issues will be of paramount importance. Trump can expect a rather chilly reception at the G20 summit in Hamburg, in no small part because of his announcement to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement. His visit to Poland will allow him to highlight U.S. leadership on NATO’s Eastern Flank and thus deflect some of the criticism levied at the president after he failed to make a direct reference to the United States’ commitment to NATO’s Article 5 guarantees during the recent Alliance meeting in Brussels. Trump’s calls to European allies for increased defence outlays—a narrative likely to be repeated in Poland, too—will therefore strike a very different tone.
What is the significance of the visit for Central Europe?
The trip does not indicate the elevation of the region in the hierarchy of U.S. foreign policy priorities. However, the Trump administration has managed to avoid a mistake made by his predecessor by quickly investing in relations with Central Europe. In addition, it is accurately interpreting the region’s economic potential. American investors will be attracted to Central Europe by its dynamic GDP growth (according to EU Commission forecasts, Poland will grow by 3.5%, Hungary by 3.6%, and Romania by 4.3%, to list just a few examples) and by the reassuring presence of U.S. troops. The aim of the TSI—moving towards completion of the single European market via tighter cooperation in transport, energy and digital communications—makes the region more competitive and therefore more attractive for U.S. exporters. Thus, economic interests can help anchor the United States even more firmly in Central Europe.
What can Poland gain from this visit?
Trump’s visit is an undisputable success of a months-long effort of Polish diplomacy. The U.S. president should depart Warsaw with a firm conviction that a sustained U.S. military presence in the region and, by extension, in Poland, and high-intensity political engagement are expressions of the United States’ vital interests. The Trump administration’s support for TSI will help build up its credibility in the eyes of the U.S. private sector, which has access to both financial and technological means and solutions necessary to implement particular projects. To fully exploit the economic dimension of the visit, a follow-up initiative would be advisable in the form of a regional trade mission involving U.S. companies from the energy, digital (including cyber-defence) and transport sectors.