It’s easy to see why Donald Trump wanted to visit Poland en route to the G20 summit in Hamburg. Poland is one of very few EU countries where he can be guaranteed a rapturous reception. In fact, Poland’s unelected de facto leader, Jarosław Kaczyński, has seen to it that crowds will be bussed in to cheer for Trump.
And of course, by speaking in Poland, which is widely regarded as Russia’s most vocal European critic, Trump looks less pro-Russian back home.
Trump’s visit coincides with the Three Seas Initiative summit. The initiative, which involves 12 EU countries, aims to bolster European energy cooperation and counter the effects of the German-Russian Nord Stream gas pipeline, which reinforces Russia’s monopoly in Europe.
For Trump, ever the mogul, the European gas market is a business opportunity for America. For Putin, gas is politics. For Poland, it represents security. For Germany, it is all these things.
Germany is regarded by the Trump administration as an economic rival, and by Poland as a potential security threat, owing to its energy alliance with Russia. If the US Congress approves new sanctions prohibiting cooperation with companies involved with Russian energy suppliers, then the planned second pipeline, called Nord Stream 2, will be called into question, undermining German economic interests.
At the same time, it is extremely unlikely that Russian-German cooperation on the Nord Stream project would collapse. The European Commission has no interest in opposing Germany, and is now at odds with the PiS government on many issues.
Trump and Kaczyński will put on quite a show in Warsaw this week. But even fictions can have very real consequences. Poland could become even more isolated in Europe, jeopardizing its participation in European defense integration – and thus playing into Putin’s hands.