In Poland, President Trump at last delivered the pledge he omitted from his speech at Brussels’s NATO headquarters. “To those who would criticize our tough stance, I would point out that the United States has demonstrated not merely with words but with its actions that we stand firmly behind Article 5, the mutual defense commitment.” But who now will be reassured by these glib words? The whole world has seen how long and how fiercely President Trump squirmed to avoid pronouncing them—and the world, friendly and hostile, will draw conclusions accordingly. As President Trump rightly noted, “Words are easy, but actions are what matters.” Trump’s actions reveal a president disturbingly infatuated with Russia first as a businessman, then as a candidate for president. Trump’s actions reveal a seeming affinity for Putin-style authoritarianism. His actions reveal that his words about NATO cannot be trusted—and they will not be trusted.
Trump took credit in Warsaw for the increases in defense spending announced by Germany and Canada, among other NATO countries, since his inauguration. But increases—small in scope, but symbolic in importance—were explicitly explained as reactions to decreasing trust in the U.S. guarantee and decreasing confidence in U.S. leadership. “The times when we could completely rely on others are, to an extent, over,” said Chancellor Angela Merkel, and while she did not in that speech name Donald Trump as the reason, her meaning could have been rapidly completed for her by her hearers.
Donald Trump devoted much of his speech to the heroic memory of the Warsaw Uprising of 1944.
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 and that every foot of ground, and every last inch of civilization, is worth defending with your life.
Our own fight for the West does not begin on the battlefield -- it begins with our minds, our wills, and our souls. Today, the ties that unite our civilization are no less vital, and demand no less defense, than that bare shred of land on which the hope of Poland once totally rested.
A less obtuse president might notice something amiss in comparing the challenges of the wealthy and powerful nations of the West today to the desperate and doomed struggle of the Polish Home Army. The phrase “the blood of patriots” does not belong in the mouth of a president who “likes people who don’t get captured” and demeans the sacrifice of a family that lost its son in the service of the United States.
Bad taste aside though, it’s even stranger to hear Donald Trump speak of “our own fight for the West.” If his foreign policy has had one theme since January 2017, it has precisely been to smash the unity of the Western alliance. The spinal column of the Western alliance is the U.S.-Germany relationship, and Trump has undermined it since Day One. This speech itself amounts to one more such blow against unity: Trump traveled to Warsaw to praise and reward a Polish government that all America’s other leading allies in Europe have been reproving for its suppression of free media and politicization of its legal system. Trump’s speech in praise of the unity of the West predictably and perversely ended up being an attack on the unity of the West.