Polish government criticises Trump remarks but opposition calls for Germany to spend more on defence

Donald Trump’s remarks suggesting that he would encourage Russia to attack any NATO member that did not spend enough on defence have prompted differing reactions from the two sides of Poland’s political divide.

The defence minister accused Trump of “weakening” NATO. But a former prime minister from the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party that ruled Poland until last year said that the government should instead treat Trump’s remarks as a prompt to push NATO allies such as Germany to fulfil their spending obligations.

Donald Trump has said he would 'encourage’ Russia to attack any Nato member that fails to pay its bills. https://t.co/skp3jzdZXT pic.twitter.com/Z2dh30u400

— Sky News (@SkyNews) February 11, 2024

At a campaign rally on Saturday, Trump declared that, under his leadership, the US “would not protect” a NATO ally attacked by Russia if it was not meeting the alliance’s commitment for members to spend at least 2% of GDP on defence.

“In fact, I would encourage them [the Russians] to do whatever the hell they want,” he added.

Those remarks were met with criticism by Poland’s defence minister Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz, who is part of a government – led by Prime Minister Donald Tusk – that took office in December.

“NATO’s motto of ‘one for all, all for one’ is a specific commitment,” tweeted Kosiniak-Kamysz. “Challenging the credibility of allied countries means weakening the entire North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. No election campaign is an excuse for toying with the security of the alliance.”

Dewiza NATO „jeden za wszystkich, wszyscy za jednego” jest konkretnym zobowiązaniem. Podważanie wiarygodności państw sojuszniczych to osłabianie całego Paktu Północnoatlantyckiego. Żadna kampania wyborcza nie jest wytłumaczeniem dla igrania bezpieczeństwem Sojuszu.

— Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz (@KosiniakKamysz) February 11, 2024

One of Kosiniak-Kamysz’s deputy ministers, Paweł Zalewski, told Polsat News on Sunday that they see “Trump [as] a serious risk but also an element of the international environment for which we are preparing very seriously”.

However, Mateusz Morawiecki of PiS – who served as prime minister from 2017 until his party was removed from government late last year – said that Poland’s leaders should stop “dissecting Donald Trump’s words” and instead take action.

“Instead of criticising the US, Polish leaders should mobilise Germany and other European NATO members to fulfil their allied obligations,” said Morawiecki, who noted that his government increased defence spending to 4% of GDP last year, the highest relative level in NATO.

PiS-aligned President Andrzej Duda, who was a close ally of Trump when the latter was in office, also called for restraint in responses to the former US president’s remarks.

“The Polish-American alliance must be strong regardless of who is currently in power,” tweeted Duda. “Offending half of the American political scene serves neither our economic interests nor Poland’s security.”

Meanwhile, one of the leaders of Confederation (Konferacja), a far-right group that is aligned with neither Tusk’s current ruling coalition nor with PiS, expressed support for Trump’s remarks.

“Trump is obviously right,” wrote Sławomir Mentzen. “What’s the point of defending countries that don’t want to defend themselves? How could he justify sending young Americans to fight for countries that don’t want to arm themselves? Europe must wake up, start arming itself and build its own strength.”

Trump ma oczywistą rację. Jaki sens jest bronić państw, które same bronić się nie chcą? Jak miałby uzasadnić wysłanie młodych Amerykanów do walki o państwa, które nie chcą walczyć, które nie chcą się zbroić?

Europa musi się obudzić, zacząć się zbroić, budować własną siłę.

— Sławomir Mentzen (@SlawomirMentzen) February 11, 2024

Notes from Poland is run by a small editorial team and published by an independent, non-profit foundation that is funded through donations from our readers. We cannot do what we do without your support.

Main image credit: Sebastian Indra/MFA (under CC BY-NC 2.0)

Daniel Tilles is editor-in-chief of Notes from Poland. He has written on Polish affairs for a wide range of publications, including Foreign PolicyPOLITICO EuropeEUobserver and Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.

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