Donald Trump will receive Poland’s nationalist president in the White House next week, giving Andrzej Duda a probable electoral boost just four days before a tightly-contested presidential vote.
Duda would be the first foreign politician to see the US president at the White House since Venezuela’s Juan Guaidó in early February, after having a break of several months since the world dealt with the coronavirus pandemic.
“President Trump and President Duda will discuss further advancing our cooperation on defence, as well as trade, energy, and telecommunications security,” said the White House in a statement announcing the meeting on Wednesday.
In reality, the White House visit is a coveted photo-opportunity and campaign boost for Duda, as he heads into the final strait of a closely fought presidential election. Duda is allied to Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, which has been accused of eroding democratic norms recently.
Duda has frequently used homophobic rhetoric throughout the campaign, pledging to “defend children from LGBT ideology” and comparing the LGBT rights agenda to communist dictatorship.
Polls suggest that the election probably will result in a 2nd round between Duda and liberal challenger Rafał Trzaskowski, with Duda as a really slight favourite. Trzaskowski, the liberal mayor of Warsaw, is running on a progressive platform, and has been increasing his predicted vote share in recent weeks. He has been attacked by media loyal to Duda being an “extremist” for his backing of LGBT and other minority rights.
Trump’s overt backing will be important for Duda, given the strong backing for Washington and Nato in Poland, which is cautious with a resurgent Russia.
Trump said on Monday that 9,500 US troops will be withdrawn from Germany, and Poland hopes a number of them may be deployed there. During a Duda visit to the White House last year, Trump said however like to relocate some US forces from Germany to Poland.
“We would like an increase in American forces in Poland,” said a source near Duda. “We aren’t happy that America is withdrawing forces from Germany, we want as many US forces in Europe as possible, but it’s a separate issue, the more forces we have in Poland, the better.”
Trump was because of travel to Warsaw late last summer to be the guest of honour at a ceremony to mark 80 years because the start of the 2nd world war. In the conclusion, he pulled out at the last minute and headed for the golf course alternatively, sending vice-president Mike Pence in his place.
Now, Duda’s team believes Trump could make amends for the no-show with the White House invitation, which will be portrayed as an endorsement of Duda. It is highly unusual for a foreign trip to come so close to an election.
Earlier on Wednesday, the US ambassador to Poland, Trump loyalist Georgette Mosbacher, denied Polish media reports that she had complained to Duda over his homophobic campaign statements, but added that the US condemned discrimination predicated on sexual orientation.