- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 6, 2017

President Trump voiced a clear commitment Thursday to NATO’s “Article 5” principle of common defense, reassuring nervous Europeans who had worried about his support for the alliance.

Speaking to a huge crowd in Poland, Mr. Trump said Europeans should never question the U.S. commitment to NATO.

“The United States has demonstrated not merely with words but with its actions that we stand firmly behind Article 5,” Mr. Trump said in a speech to tens of thousands of cheering Poles. He had raised concerns in the spring when, during a visit to NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, he neglected to mention Article 5.

But Mr. Trump reminded the audience in Poland, “Our defense is not just a commitment of money, it is a commitment of will.”

“The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive,” Mr. Trump said in Krasinski Square in Warsaw. “Our own fight for the West does not begin on the battlefield — it begins with our minds, our wills, and our souls.”

Standing only a few hundred miles from Moscow, Mr. Trump also delivered one of his most direct warnings to date to Russia.

“We urge Russia to cease its destabilizing activities in Ukraine and elsewhere,” Mr. Trump said, and to stop its support for Syria and Iran.

He also supported Poland’s efforts to install defensive missile systems, a move that is angering Russia.

While warning that the West must always shut its borders to extremism, Mr. Trump said citizens on both sides of the Atlantic “are confronted by yet another danger — one firmly within our control.”

“This danger is invisible to some but familiar to the Poles — the steady creep of government bureaucracy that drains the vitality and wealth of the people,” Mr. Trump said. “The West became great not because of paperwork and regulations but because people were allowed to chase their dreams and pursue their destinies.”

The crowd interrupted Mr. Trump several times by chanting his name and applauding as he praised Poles’ courage in fighting against historic aggressors from Germany and Russia. The president also drew cheers as he recounted the movement inspired by Pope John Paul II in the 1980s to throw off communist Soviet oppression and embrace the message, “We want God.”

He said Americans, Poles, and the nations of Europe must renew their traditions to “value individual freedom and sovereignty.”

“We must work together to counter forces, whether they come from inside or out, from the South or the East, that threaten over time to undermine these values and to erase the bonds of culture, faith and tradition that make us who we are,” Mr. Trump said. “As the Polish experience reminds us — the defense of the West ultimately rests not only on means but also on the will of its people to prevail.”

Before the speech, the president and first lady Melania Trump laid a wreath at a memorial to the Warsaw Uprising, which commemorates the violent resistance against Nazi German occupation in 1944.

The president is heading later Thursday to the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, where he will hold his first face-to-face meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday. Mr. Trump told a news conference in Warsaw that he believes the allegations that Russia meddled in the presidential election last year but that others also could have been involved in the hacking.

During a meeting with leaders of 12 central and eastern European nations, Mr. Trump said they are still suffering the effects of their decades under Soviet control after World War II.

“It’s been 28 years since your brave citizens lifted the Iron Curtain and defeated communism, yet much of the infrastructure within central and eastern Europe has remained a relic of the old Soviet era,” Mr. Trump said. “Your people have been held back by the old roads, railways, and pipelines that still operate on restrictive systems.”

He praised the “Three Seas Initiative,” an alliance of those nations that aims to rebuild the region. In another swipe at Mr. Putin, the president said the initiative, “binds you to all of Europe and, indeed, to the West.”

Mr. Trump also issued a challenge to Russia’s dominance of energy markets in Poland and other “Three Seas” countries, inviting them to buy more fuel from the U.S.

“America is eager to expand our partnership with you,” he said. “We are committed to securing your access to alternate sources of energy so that Poland and its neighbors are never again held hostage to a single supplier of energy.”

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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