Trump says future of Western civilisation is at stake

US president uses speech in Poland to appeal for Western unity in the face of ‘dire threats’

US president Donald Trump has held up Poland's struggle for survival throughout hits history as an example to the West in its ongoing battle with Islamist extremism.

To thunderous applause in Warsaw, Mr Trump used a keynote address to reaffirm US commitment to its Nato partners and offered his backing to central European countries amid growing tensions with Russia.

"Just as Poland could not be broken I declare for all to hear: the West will never be broken, our values will prevail, our people will thrive and our civilisation will triumph," he said, standing before a monument to the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, when 150,000 Poles took on occupying Nazi forces.

The rising was put down and the Nazis retreated in 1945, demolishing Warsaw block by block as they went, and leaving Poland to the Red Army and four decades as a Soviet satellite state.


Describing Poland as the "soul of Europe", Mr Trump paid tribute to those present who fought for a free homeland: elderly survivors of the uprising as well as Lech Walesa, the Gdansk shipyard union leader who lead the campaign against communist rule.

Drawing a red line from Polish struggles to the “dire threats” of today, he said Western nations must stand together to defeat extremism.

“What we have inherited from our ancestors has never existed before and if we fail to preserve it, it will never exist again,” he said. “The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive.”

Success in this endeavour depended on defending borders “at any cost” and showing the courage to “preserve our civilisation in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it”.

After months of uncertainty over his commitment to Nato, Mr Trump stated unequivocally that the US stands by its alliance partners in the event of attack.

The speech was music to the ears of central European and Baltic Nato members, but particularly Poland’s national conservative government.

Collision course

Piling on the praise – of Polish soldiers who fought for US independence to the Polish-Americans who elected Mr Trump – the US president made no mention of Warsaw interventions to capture the courts and state broadcaster. Instead the president promised greater US investment in the region – in particular on energy.

His speech, embraced by Warsaw's government as proof it is not alone in security and refugee concerns, is likely to complicate the EU's search for agreement on burden-sharing amid a spike in migrants arriving in southern Europe.

Meanwhile Mr Trump's energy promises could put the US on a collision course with Germany over a Baltic Sea gas pipeline. Ukraine and Poland, both bypassed, fear the new pipeline will allow Russia cut supplies to them without affecting western customers.

“We are committed to ensuring access to alternate sources of energy so Poland and its neighbours are never again held hostage to a single supplier of energy,” said Mr Trump.

Derek Scally

Derek Scally

Derek Scally is an Irish Times journalist based in Berlin