By Henry Ridgwell
In his first major public speech in Europe, U.S. President Donald Trump has warned that the values of the West are under attack and questioned whether its people have the will to fight for it.
Speaking in Warsaw, Poland, the president said “The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive. Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost? Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders?”
“While we will always welcome new citizens who share our values and love our people, our borders will always be closed to terrorism and extremism of any kind,” he added to applause from the 5,000-strong crowd.
Many Poles are supportive of President Trump’s proposed ban on immigration from some Muslim countries, and are fiercely opposed to accepting quotas of refugees from Europe.
The president said he had called on Muslim nations to drive out the menace of terrorism.
“We must stand united against these shared enemies to strip them of their territory and their funding, and their networks, and any form of ideological support that they may have.”
Throughout his speech the passionate crowd – many of whom had reportedly been bussed in from across Poland – repeatedly chanted “Donald Trump” and “USA”.
Small groups of protestors, many of whom demonstrated against President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, were kept well away from the speech in Warsaw’s Krasninski Square.
Speaking in front of a monument to the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, Trump lavished praise on his Polish hosts and hailed their fight for freedom from Nazi and Communist rule.
“Those heroes remind us that the West was saved with the blood of patriots; that each generation must rise up and play their part in its defense,” he told the cheering crowd.
Trump praised Warsaw for meeting its NATO defense spending target of 2 percent of GDP – and said U..S pressure on NATO allies was yielding results.
“As a result of this insistence, billions of dollars more have begun to pour into NATO… the United States has demonstrated not merely with words but with its actions that we stand firmly behind Article 5, the mutual defense commitment,” he said.
That confirmation comes as Poland and many other NATO countries are shaken by Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
Trump is due to hold his first face-to-face meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in the German city of Hamburg, which starts Friday.
The warm welcome in Poland was a boost for Trump ahead of that summit, says Marek Matraszek, Chairman of lobbyist firm CEC Government Relations.
“It will show voters in the United States and it will show Brussels, that actually it’s probably not wise to think that one can garner up a coalition of resistance to Trump as some would like to see; that there are countries in central Europe that actually really don’t want to see that and actually do want to see the United States working with Europe militarily and economically,” Matraszek told VOA in an interview.
At a news conference earlier with his Polish counterpart, Trump said he believes Russia may have tried to interfere in the 2016 US election, but said others may have been involved.
He also pledged to end Poland’s dependence on Russian gas and to boost LNG shipments from the United States.
President Trump warned he would take unspecified action against North Korea after its recent missile test – which Pyongyang claims proves it has the technology to make intercontinental ballistic weapons.