Biden Meets Polish Leaders Amid Anxiety Over US Support for Ukraine

USA – Voice of America 

Washington — On the day that Poland commemorates 25 years as a member of NATO, President Joe Biden hosted Polish President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Donald Tusk at the White House amid anxiety over future U.S. funding to help Ukraine fend off Moscow’s invasion. 

“America’s commitment to Poland is ironclad,” Biden told reporters Tuesday ahead of the meeting.

The meeting comes as the administration announced another security assistance package to Ukraine — $300 million of weapons and equipment. The funds come from “unanticipated cost savings” refunded to the Department of Defense, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said during a press briefing on Tuesday.

“It’s not nearly enough,” Biden said of the package, urging Republicans in the House of Representatives to pass the Senate-approved foreign aid package that includes $60 billion for Ukraine “before it’s too late.”

“Russia’s aggression against Ukraine” has demonstrated that the United States is “the security leader,” Duda said. He reiterated calls to fellow alliance members to boost their defense spending to 3% of their GDP to defend against Russia’s aggression. 

Poland contributes 3.9% of its GDP to defense, almost twice the current NATO target of 2%, and the highest in percentage of GDP. The U.S. is the second-largest contributor by percentage, at 3.5% of GDP, but the largest within NATO in total dollar amount.

Duda’s proposal highlights the anxiety felt by Poland and other countries on NATO’s eastern flank that feel most threatened by Moscow’s aggression and comes as some in the western part of the alliance are pushing for a diplomatic resolution to the Ukraine war.

However, it’s aspirational and unlikely to be adopted anytime soon, as many within NATO have yet to meet even the 2% GDP target, said Michal Baranowski, managing director for GMF East, at the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

In an opinion piece Monday in The Washington Post, Duda highlighted Russia’s alarming militarization, with Moscow earmarking nearly 30% of its annual budget for military spending. He underscored the threat posed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, calling it the most significant challenge to global peace since the Cold War era.

More US troops

Duda, who under the Polish system represents the country in foreign affairs, and Tusk, the head of government in Poland, are bitter political rivals intensely locked in various domestic struggles but have vowed to speak with one voice on Ukraine, NATO and relations with Washington.

Warsaw advocates for more U.S. military presence in Poland, where approximately 10,000 U.S. personnel are on rotation. Washington is not keen on the idea, with Biden telling reporters Monday that there is “no need for more troops at the Polish border.”

Sullivan reinforced the message, saying the alliance is “postured well,” and that plans “to defend Poland, should it come to that, are strong.”

Sullivan said the U.S. will move forward with a new $2 billion Foreign Military Financing direct loan to Poland and will offer to sell Poland 96 Apache helicopters. Also Tuesday, the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs notified Congress of their approval to sell more than $3 billion worth of missiles to Poland.

Meeting congressional leaders

Earlier Tuesday, Duda and Tusk met with Democratic and Republican congressional leaders and advocated support for Ukraine. Duda said it is “a key element for containing Putin and Russia’s imperial ambitions.”

Democrats and the White House are convinced the foreign aid package has the votes to pass in the House of Representatives, but Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson has refused to bring it to the floor for a vote.

Having Polish leaders communicate to lawmakers the need for Washington to be a responsible ally is key, Baranowski told VOA, but it’s unlikely to be the final push that would break the logjam. Many House Republicans are allies of Donald Trump and support the former president’s opposition to providing foreign aid unless it’s structured as a loan.

Earlier this week, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán told the Hungarian state news channel that Trump would not give “a penny” to support Ukraine, and “therefore, the war will end.” Orbán’s comments followed his meeting with Trump last week.

Asked for confirmation, the Trump campaign said a “top priority” in the former president’s “second term” will be “to quickly negotiate an end to the Russia-Ukraine war,” and that “European nations should be paying more of the cost of the conflict.”

“He will do what is necessary to restore peace and rebuild American strength and deterrence on the world stage, and he is the only person who can make that happen,” Steven Cheung, the campaign’s communications director, said in a statement to VOA.

Trump’s claims have further fueled European anxiety over U.S. commitment to the alliance, particularly if there’s a change in administrations following the American presidential election in November.

Last month, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee said he’d “encourage” Russia “to do whatever the hell they want” if a NATO country didn’t spend enough on defense. 

European officials have been increasingly concerned.

“We need to send this message to Russia collectively — the EU. and the U.S. — that there is no fatigue, and that we will support Ukraine to defend itself,” one European diplomat speaking on the condition of anonymity recently told VOA.

NATO summit 

According to the White House, the leaders will coordinate strategies ahead of the forthcoming NATO 75th Anniversary Summit in Washington in July. Warsaw wants to ensure that regional defense plans agreed to at the 2023 NATO summit in Vilnius are “not only well-planned, but actually resourced with troops to provide the level of deterrence and defense” needed on NATO’s eastern flank, Baranowski said. 

Reinforcing U.S.-Polish partnership in energy security is another main topic. Warsaw has earmarked $40 billion to build two nuclear plants. The first one is being built by Westinghouse, an American company.

It has been 25 years since a Polish president and prime minister visited Washington at the same time. In 1999, President Alexander Kwasniewski and Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek attended NATO’s 50th Anniversary Summit in the U.S. capital.

VOA national security correspondent Jeff Seldin and VOA chief national correspondent Steve Herman contributed to this report.

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