Monday 23 April 2018

'West must decide if it has will to survive,' says Trump

US President Donald Trump speaks in Warsaw earlier yesterday. Photo: AP
US President Donald Trump speaks in Warsaw earlier yesterday. Photo: AP

Matthew Day

Donald Trump warned that the West must show a "will to survive" in a speech in Warsaw yesterday, as he lashed out at Russia and North Korea on the eve of the G20 summit.

In a visit to the Polish capital before flying to Hamburg, the US president was met with thunderous applause as he called on the Western alliance to defend its values "at all costs".

He stressed the importance of Nato and claimed that the relationship between Europe and the US was "stronger than ever" - despite his fractious relationship with Angela Merkel, the German chancellor.

In response to North Korea's test launch of a long-range nuclear missile this week, he said: "They are behaving in a very, very dangerous manner and something will have to be done."

Discussions on how to tackle the rogue nation will be a top priority for world leaders when they meet in Hamburg for the G20 summit today.

"As the Polish experience reminds us, the defence of the West ultimately rests not only on means, but also the will of its people to prevail," Mr Trump told a large, cheering crowd at Krasinski Square.

"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 the desire and the courage to preserve our civilisation against those who subvert and destroy it?"

Throughout the speech Mr Trump held up Poland's history, marked by long struggles for freedom against Nazi occupation and Communism, as an example the West should follow.

In a move that would have reassured a host troubled by Russian aggression in Ukraine, Mr Trump stressed American support for Article 5 of the Nato treaty, but demanded that more European nations spend 2pc of GDP on defence.

"The United States has demonstrated with its actions, not just words, that it stands firmly behind Article 5," he said. "Words are easy, but it is actions that matter. And for its own protection, Europe, and you know this: Europe must do more. Europe must demonstrate it believes in its future by investing in the defence of its future."

Mr Trump got an enthusiastic reception from the crowd, which had been bussed to the event by Law and Justice, Poland's governing party.

Most of them made their political loyalties clear when they cheered and applauded the arrival of members of Poland's conservative government and the party.

Many others chanted "Donald Trump" and "USA! USA!"

It came after Mr Trump held a joint press conference with Andrzej Duda, the Polish prime minister, where he admitted that Russia "could have" interfered in the US election.

In a rare criticism of President Putin, Mr Trump claimed Moscow was "destabilising activities in Ukraine and elsewhere".

It was a critique that the president did not appear to extend to Russia's actions last year during the presidential campaign. In the news conference before his speech, Mr Trump questioned the veracity of American intelligence about foreign meddling in the US election, arguing that Russia wasn't the only country that may have interfered. "Nobody really knows for sure," Mr Trump said.


He also stated unequivocally that the US stands "firmly behind Article 5," the Nato provision requiring the US to defend other member nations if they come under attack. On his inaugural trip to Europe in May, Mr Trump declined to affirm that commitment, to the dismay of US allies who said it cast doubt on his allegiance to the alliance.

As US investigations into Russia's meddling forge ahead, Mr Trump is under intense scrutiny for how he handles his first face-to-face session with Mr Putin. US intelligence officials say the unpredictable Russian leader ordered interference into the 2016 election that brought Mr Trump to the White House.

From Poland, Mr Trump took a short flight to Hamburg, Germany, where he met with Chancellor Angela Merkel. The two shook hands and chatted casually but made no comments to reporters before their meeting. Mr Trump also planned to have dinner last night with the leaders of South Korea and Japan, two US treaty allies deeply alarmed about North Korea.

Mr Trump and Mr Putin plan to sit down together today in Hamburg, on the sidelines of the G20 summit of industrialised and developing economies. Asked, in Poland, whether he planned to discuss election meddling with Mr Putin, Mr Trump demurred.

But back in Washington, pressure was mounting from Mr Trump's critics in Congress for him to forcefully confront Mr Putin.

Loath to cast a shadow on his election victory, Mr Trump has avoided firmly blaming Moscow for campaign hacking in the past, and yesterday, he was similarly elusive. He argued variably that it could have been Russia, probably was Russia and indeed was Russia, while insisting it could have been other countries, too, and adding: "I won't be specific." (© Daily Telegraph London)

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