Polish leader to meet Trump days before election in unusual move

President TrumpDonald John Trump Bowman has a double-digit lead over Engel in New York. McGrath leads Booker in Kentucky with results expected next week New York Republican Chris Jacobs wins special election to replace Chris Collins MORE It will welcome Polish President Andrzej Duda to the White House on Wednesday, the first visit by a foreign head of state since March during the coronavirus pandemic.

Duda’s visit to Washington is considered very unusual given its proximity to the Polish presidential election. Duda, the country’s right-wing leader, faces an unexpectedly tight re-election battle and will appear in the White House just four days before competing for a second term.

“There is an unwritten rule in United States diplomacy: People in the midst of electoral campaigns are not invited to Washington,” said Daniel Fried, the former United States ambassador to Poland, who deeply criticized the White House for the time of the meeting. . “You don’t want to be seen as putting your thumb on the scale.”

Molly Montgomery, a non-resident fellow at the Brookings Institution and a former adviser to Vice President Pence in Europe, said she viewed the decision to hold the meeting “as an intentional effort by the White House to support a leader Trump sees as allied personnel. ”

The meeting follows Trump’s abrupt announcement to reduce the permanent presence of US troops in Germany from 34,500 to 25,000, sparking speculation that Trump could announce plans to send some of those forces to Poland.

White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien wrote an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal on Monday acknowledging that thousands of soldiers could be transferred from Germany to “other countries in Europe”, again deployed in the Indo -Pacific or return to bases in the United States. O’Brien said that while Trump had announced the decision to withdraw some forces from Germany, details of the plan were still in development.

Trump and Duda are expected to discuss a variety of topics, including defense and energy cooperation between the two NATO member states, economic affairs, trade and the coronavirus, during Wednesday’s meeting, which will be followed by a press conference. joint.

Trump last received a foreign leader on March 12, when he met Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar in the Oval Office a day after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic, and Trump restricted travel. from most of Europe to stop the spread of the virus in the United States. Trump’s European travel restrictions remain in place and include Poland.

The White House says it is taking health precautions to ensure the safety of leaders and delegations during the visit. A senior administration official told reporters on Tuesday that members of the Polish and US delegations would be screened for COVID-19 before the meeting.

“The White House continues to implement very high health and safety procedures for all visitors,” said the official.

Trump has been eager to put the coronavirus pandemic in the rearview mirror and return to normal, even as COVID-19 deaths in the United States exceed 120,000. Several states have seen significant spikes in the cases as they moved forward with the reopening of businesses.

A second senior administration official said Tuesday that the White House did not have an announcement about future visits abroad, but noted that officials are “eager to organize this visit and get back to normal and move on.”

Observers see the meeting as safe for Trump, offering him the opportunity to meet with a leader with whom he feels a personal bond without risk of confrontation.

Trump and Duda have met twice in Poland, and Trump received Duda at the White House for a visit last June that was marked with an elaborate F-35 fighter jet flyover. Trump then announced that he would send 1,000 additional troops to Poland, although authorities say they are still working on the final details of legal deals to increase the presence of US troops there.

“This visit is safe for the President,” said Montgomery. “Duda is a strong ally and someone with whom he is personally related and knows that difficult problems will not arise.”

“This is also an opportunity for Trump to deflect criticism of his decision to withdraw some US troops from Germany and describe it as part of a broader plan” that will be in line with the recommendations of those in establishing foreign policy, Montgomery continued.

Trump has been widely criticized, including by Republicans, for his plans to reduce the presence of US troops in Germany.

“To ensure that free and open societies triumph over the tastes of Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinBolton says he hopes history will remember Trump “as one-term president” Low voter registration represents a threat to American democracy Poland in the middle: His pressure on US troops may alienate Germany and Russia MOREThe regime and the Chinese Communist Party, the United States, must continue to build and maintain a united coalition of like-minded allies, “a group of Republicans in the House Foreign Affairs Committee wrote to Trump on Monday.

“The withdrawal of thousands of troops from Germany will only complicate this crucial effort and, in turn, jeopardize the national security of the United States,” they wrote, urging him to reconsider the decision.

Trump’s announcement that he would cut troops to Germany came amid mounting tensions between Washington and Berlin over defense spending and other issues. Trump criticized Germany for failing to meet NATO’s goal of spending 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense, calling the country “criminal.” Officials, in turn, praised Poland for meeting NATO’s spending targets.

Rebecca Kheel contributed.