Donald Trump has finally committed America to the principle of mutual defense. It is a triumph for diplomacy.
There were plenty of theories about why Donald Trump chose to make Poland the first stop on his trip to Europe. But the one I’d been pinning my hopes on was that although he’d been lured here mostly by the prospect of a much warmer welcome from Poland's populist leader Jarosław Kaczyński and his minions than he could expect from most other European countries, the most important reason was that the few grown-ups in his administration saw an opportunity to win a much bigger prize.
The issue for them was the US commitment to NATO. At the NATO summit in May, Trump, having questioned NATO’s relevance during his election campaign, pointedly ducked the opportunity to affirm America’s commitment to Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which holds that an attack on one member state is an attack on all. In response, German Chancellor Angela Merkel concluded that the days when Europe could rely on others were “over to a certain extent.”
Trump probably saw his evasion as part of his effort to compel Europe to pay more towards its defense. But the apparent weakening of the key commitment binding NATO members together worried the grown-ups in his administration, such as Defense Secretary James Mattis, and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster.
If they wanted to give Trump another opportunity to reiterate America’s commitment to NATO, where better to do it than here in Warsaw? Poland and Russia may both have authoritarian leaders, but that is where they part company. Poland is fiercely anti- Russian and is the most outspoken of Russia’s critics.
Buttered up by cheering crowds and doted on by members of the Polish establishment, Trump was unable to resist saying what his hosts most wanted to hear.If there was such a plot, it was brilliant. Let’s just hope that the mercurial Trump doesn’t change his mind once again.