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Donald Trump

Trump relays ‘stay calm’ message to Poland over NATO, regional security

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 November, 2016, 4:11am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 November, 2016, 4:11am

Polish President Andrzej Duda said he had a friendly phone conversation with President-Elect Donald Trump two days ago, during which the incoming US leader helped ease concern over Europe’s security and relations between the NATO allies.

While they didn’t specifically discuss guarantees for eastern Europe, Duda said he was reassured by the billionaire-turned-politician, whose comments during the campaign had raised questions about his commitment to the military alliance. One of the first world leaders to talk with Trump following his surprise victory last week, the Polish president views the US as the guarantor of peace in a region where an increasingly assertive Russia is seen as a potential threat.

“It was a nice conversation, you can say that we talked like old friends, even though we didn’t know each other previously,” Duda said in an interview in Rzeszow, near Poland’s border with Ukraine, where Russia is backing a separatist insurgency.

“He told me to stay calm as cooperation between Poland and the US will develop well, and that he as president will make sure of this. To me, this was a very good signal.”

Trump’s victory is triggering a reassessment of investment risk across eastern Europe following his suggestions that US protection for allies may be conditional and because of his admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Duda said the US and the European Union should maintain sanctions on Russia, introduced in response to the annexation of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in 2014, even though he understands that Trump wants to improve relations with the Kremlin.

“The United States is a global superpower, it wants to have the best possible relations with all serious players in global affairs as this is a certain guarantee of stability and peace,” Duda said. “I would also like Polish-Russian relations to be as good as they can be, even though the situation is difficult.”

Poland, the biggest ex-communist economy in the EU, has positioned itself as an advocate for Ukraine and has championed a strategy to counter Russian moves aimed at rebuilding its influence over eastern Europe a quarter century after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

In July, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization decided to boost its eastern flank by stationing more international troops in Poland and the Baltic states, with the US leading the contingent in Poland.

Duda said he’s “convinced” that Trump will help defend international law, which the Polish president said was undermined by Russia’s actions in Crimea and the eastern Ukrainian region known as Donbas.

“I doubt that US policy in this area will change under the new Republican administration,” he said. “It would be hard to deny that the annexation of Crimea and the war in Donbas is not an attempt to destabilise the European order that emerged after the demise of the Iron Curtain.”

Asked if Trump reassured him over NATO commitments during their phone call on Wednesday, Duda said they didn’t talk about details.

Trump “told me not to worry or have concerns, that many things are discussed by the media but I can be reassured that Polish-American relations will be upheld,” Duda said. “All the agreements are all still in play, still valid. That is how I understand the situation.”