Biden Meets Polish Leaders Amid Anxiety on US Support for Neighboring Ukraine 

Washington — President Joe Biden is hosting Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda, and prime minister, Donald Tusk at a joint meeting at the White House Tuesday, amid anxiety over an impasse in the U.S. Congress on additional funding to support Poland’s neighboring Ukraine in its fight against Moscow’s invasion.

The meeting comes as the administration is preparing a new military aid package for Ukraine, first reported by Reuters Tuesday. The package could be worth as much as $400 million, from credits refunded to the Pentagon for recent purchases.

Warsaw is also looking to increase NATO troop presence in the alliance’s eastern flank. Biden told reporters Monday, there’s “no need for more troops at the Polish border,” but said he will discuss the matter today.

The meeting coincides with the 25th anniversary of Poland joining NATO, on March 12, 1999. Ahead of his visit, Duda urged fellow alliance members to boost their defense spending to 3% of their GDP, citing Russia’s aggression.

“The war in Ukraine has clearly shown that the United States is and should remain the leader in security issues in Europe and the world,” Duda said in an address to his country on Monday. “However, other NATO countries must also take greater responsibility for the security of the entire alliance and intensively modernize and strengthen their troops.”

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 by far within NATO in total dollar amount.

Duda’s proposal highlights the anxiety felt by Poland and other countries in 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 research organization German Marshall Fund for the United States.

In an opinion piece for 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.

Meeting Congressional leaders

Before their White House meeting, Duda and Tusk met with Democratic and Republican congressional leaders to push for passage of the Senate-approved foreign aid package that includes $60 billion for Ukraine. Democrats and the White House are convinced the measure 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 in the House of Representatives. Many Republican lawmakers there 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 a confirmation, the Trump campaign said that 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,” said Steven Cheung, the campaign’s communications director, 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 administration following the American presidential election in November.

Last month, Trump, 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.

Ahead of NATO Washington Summit

According to the White House, the leaders will reinforce U.S.-Polish partnership as well as coordinate strategies ahead of the forthcoming NATO 75th Anniversary Summit in Washington in July.

For Warsaw, the focus is on ensuring that the 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, said Baranowski.

The last time the Polish president and prime minister visited Washington at the same time was in 1999, when President Alexander Kwasniewski and Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek attended NATO’s 50th Anniversary Summit.

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