Donald Trump arrived in Poland, Wednesday, and the most pressing question for the White House was: How many Pollocks does it take to make Trump look popular? Fortunately, the far right Polish government had an answer.
As Newsweek reported, the ruling Law and Justice party will use an old trick that the Communist government perfected when Poland was under Soviet control. The party will bus in thousands of right wing supporters from across Poland to give Trump a warm reception.
“It’s going to be huge—absolutely huge,” Law and Justice Party member Dominik Tarczynski said. “They just love him, the people in Poland—they just really love him.”
Tarczynski, as all members of the ruling party have been instructed to do, will bus in 50 of his constituents to provide a very different reception for Trump … The tactic is a mirror of that adopted when Poland was a member of the Soviet bloc, and the Communist Party would bus agreeable crowds to Warsaw to greet visiting dignitaries from Moscow.
The Law and Justice party came into power in 2015 following an election with very low turnout, and proceeded to embark on a radical course of packing the courts with political appointees, vesting far greater power into the presidency, growing the military, opposing immigration, and embracing social policies based on conservative Catholicism. This has put them at odds with much of the rest of the European Union, though it fits a pattern of growing far right demagoguery also seen in Hungary, the UK and the US. Thus, Trump expects a warm reception in a country that is, at best, a side door to influence in the EU. The Polish government still has to conjure up an illusion of that warmth, though.
Following Trump’s disastrous visit to Europe in May, which left America’s top allies “shaken,” the president is hoping for a second chance to make a first impression. Yet, the trip was already off to a poor start in this regard before Trump even landed. Polish officials used the visit to thumb their noses at the EU’s leadership, like Germany’s Angela Merkel and France’s Emmanuel Macron, who are striving to keep the liberal international coalition together. Poland had become the “envy” of the rest of Europe because of the visit, one right wing official said. That likely elicited bemused scoffs in Berlin and Paris.
European officials will be watching the meeting closely for any sign that Trump is encouraging Poland’s demagogic drift. Even more significant, though, will be Trump’s one-on-one meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin. For better or worse, this could be the most important bilateral meeting of the year, with a range of issues on the table from Syria to Ukraine, arctic drilling and wherever the heck Rosneft’s 20% share was mysteriously re-deposited. Russia’s hacking of the US election and support for Trump against Hillary Clinton will be the elephant in the room, of course. Expect that intelligence agencies around the globe will be aggressively trying to eavesdrop on that meeting.
After Trump leaves Poland, he heads to Hamburg for the G20 summit, where officials expect that up to 100,000 protesters will greet him.