How Poland is Driving a Wedge Between Putin and Trump

When asked in an interview for his views on relations between the US and Russia, Russian President Vladimir Putin said ‘relations between Moscow and Washington are getting worse and worse.’ Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump told reporters during his visit to Poland this week: ‘I hope that Poland is going to have a great relationship with Russia. I hope that we’re going to have a great relationship with Russia.’ But he failed to explain how he was going to improve the relationship between the two global powers and his actions in Poland this week speak louder than his words.

Warsaw asked the US for help in deterring Russian aggression, and in response, Trump announced during his visit to Poland that he will be deploying 1,000 troops in the possible event that Moscow invades Eastern Europe. He made this announcement during a joint press conference with Polish President Andrzej Duda at the Polish White House Rose Garden after the pair signed a cooperation agreement.

Duda said the agreement ‘helps solidify Poland’s ties to the West’, thereby making it clear he would prefer for his country to be tied to NATO, not Russia. In a further blow to the Russian President, Poland’s leader said Russia is ‘showing its unkind, unfriendly imperial face. Russia is always looking to take our territory.’ NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg welcomed the news and called America’s response ‘measured, defensive and proportionate.’

Trump’s actions have angered Moscow. Although the Russian leader has not yet directly responded to the US’s actions, Vladimir Dzhabarov, deputy head of the Duma’s international affairs committee, informed the Moscow Times Poland ‘could become the target of a retaliatory strike.’

Relations between the two nations have soured since the days George W. Bush claimed he could ‘get a sense of Putin’s soul.’ Trump and the Russian leader forged a positive relationship following their first meeting at the G20 summit in Hamburg in July 2017. But they worsened following the poisoning of former Russian spy, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter, during a nerve-agent attack in the UK allegedly approved by the Russian state. In response, the Trump administration expelled 60 Russian diplomats. Moscow retaliated by expelling 60 American diplomats.

Although both leaders enjoyed a successful summit in Helsinki in July 2018, which reaffirmed both countries’ commitments to the new START and the INF Treaty, Trump later ignored Putin at the G20 summit in Argentina in November 2018, citing Russia’s capture of Ukrainian ships in the Crimea. Furthermore, both leaders suspended their involvement in the INF Treaty, with America accusing Russia of failing to fulfill its obligations to the agreement.

Poland has now driven a further wedge between the US and Russia. It seems Trump is no different to his predecessors in his approach towards Putin. As long as the Russian leader proceeds with his aggressive actions, NATO must be prepared for any move Moscow makes to invade its neighbours. The US President has been right to suspend his country’s involvement in the INF Treaty and deploy American troops to Poland, whilst Russia refuses to abandon its expansionist aims.

Putin’s and Chinese President Xi Jinping’s snub towards the D-Day celebrations last week legitimises Trump’s National Security Strategy, which warns that Russia and China ‘challenge American power, influence and interests.’ With the Russian leader in office until 2024, Moscow will use this time to exert its global influence. Putin’s actions indicate he has no interest in forging an alliance with the US. Russia has ruined the hopes of anyone praying Trump would rebuild relations with Moscow after they were tarnished during the Bush and Obama years. The world could be on the verge of another Cold War, this time with Russia and China. Trump must not waiver, or the rest of the world will suffer the consequences.