The New York Times,
By RICK LYMAN and JOANNA BERENDT, JULY 6, 2017
WARSAW — The crowd in Krasinski Square was loving it. “In the Polish people,” President Trump said, “we see the soul of Europe.”
Cheers. Shouts of joy. American flags of red, white and blue waved with red and white Polish ones across the crowded square, the epicenter of the Warsaw Uprising against the Nazis in 1944 and the site of a revered monument to that battle. Aging fighters from Poland’s struggle against Communism stood alongside new mothers pushing baby carriages, and the crowd spilled into the narrow side streets on the edge of Old Town.
If Mr. Trump was looking for a soft entry point for his second foray into Europe as president, after the stinging reaction of many European leaders to his first visit, he certainly found it.
“Poland is the first place in his foreign voyages where he can feel fully satisfied,” Janusz Sibora, an expert in diplomatic protocol, said in an interview with Gazeta.pl, a Polish website. “If he could, he would have taken this square back with him to Washington.”
As for Poland’s government, which has been repeatedly criticized by the European Union and others for moves that they say erode the rule of law, the American president’s visit was a chance to prove that Poland has powerful friends who share its nationalist vision.
In his speech on Thursday, not a word of concern about respect for the rule of law escaped President Trump’s lips, to the delight of the leaders of Law and Justice, Poland’s right-wing governing party.
The event was a bit stage-managed. Allies of the Law and Justice Party had bused hundreds of its supporters from the countryside into the more liberal capital.
But there is no doubt that many of President Trump’s themes — immigration, for instance — have broad support in Poland, and his brand of nationalism feels very familiar here.
“I respect Mr. Trump’s views on immigrants,” said Slawomir Famulski, 38, who brought his two children to the speech, Zofia, 10, and Tomasz, 8, to “teach them about patriotism.”
Poles have been fiercely pro-American for more than a century, crediting President Woodrow Wilson with helping to re-establish their nation after World War I and celebrating President Ronald Reagan for his role in bringing down their Communist oppressors.
One of the most prominent banners at Thursday’s speech quoted Reagan: “Poland is not East or West. Poland is at the center of European civilization.”
In his speech, President Trump not only echoed that theme, but also told Poles that they were an inspiration to the world.
“For two centuries, Poland suffered constant and brutal attacks,” he said. “But while Poland could be invaded and occupied, and its borders even erased from the map, it could never be erased from history.”
This made Polish hearts swell and the crowd cheer. Governing party leaders beamed.
When President Trump spoke about “our civilization and our way of life,” or how it must urgently be defended “in the face of those who would subvert or destroy it,” his words were familiar to populist audiences across Central Europe.
In Poland, some opposition leaders groused about those supporters who had been bused into Warsaw from the countryside. Others said that President Trump could have been more specific about, for instance, how long American troops would remain stationed in the country.
Forever, many in Poland hope. But when a reporter asked President Trump during a news conference for such a guarantee, he declined.
“What he said about ‘not being in that position to discuss guarantees’ is unbelievable,” Marcin Bosacki, Poland’s former ambassador to Canada, said in a radio interview. “Who else is in a position to discuss those if not two heads of state?”
Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council and Poland’s former center-right prime minister, said it was not an easy day for the Polish opposition.
“It is obviously a diplomatic success when the president of the most powerful country in the world arrives in your country and says very nice things about Poland and its rulers,” Mr. Tusk said in a Polish television interview.
But pro-government commentators were ecstatic about the president’s speech for the way it spotlighted Poland on the world stage and for its full-throated embrace of the government’s direction.
“This speech was moving, and it was hard to keep emotions under control because the president hit Poland’s most profound notes,” said Pawel Lisicki, the editor in chief of Do Rzeczy, a right-wing weekly.
In an interview on state-controlled television, Mr. Lisicki also praised President Trump for “his words about faith, references to God,” something people notice in this predominantly Roman Catholic country.
“My hope, which will probably remain unfulfilled, is that Trump ends all this drama with Russia, Germany, Britain, France and all the others,” said Elzbieta Wielecka, 69, who came to Warsaw from Rybnik, a town in southern Poland.
“But I’m just not sure if Trump can deliver,” she added. “He says one thing in one moment and then changes his mind in the next.”
Slawomir Kaminski, 46, had come with a big group on a bus from the eastern town of Pulawy.
“I am here because the most powerful politician in the world is here,” Mr. Kaminski said, and because he agrees fervently with most of Mr. Trump’s views. “Look at him pressuring the NATO members to raise their military spending,” he said. “That’s what we need.”
Mr. Kaminski shrugged off worries that Mr. Trump would follow through and establish friendlier ties with Russia, enabling President Vladimir V. Putin to reassert Moscow’s influence.
“One should be judged by their deeds,” he said. “Not words.”