Polish-American Relations in the Trump Era

From the dissolution of the USSR and the end of the cold war, the United States of America began a democratization project in the post-soviet space, including Eastern Europe. From that period, Poland regained its vital geopolitical and geo-economic importance for the Western world. Beginning from George H.W. Bush, every administration was trying to deepen political and economic relations with Poland. However, the majority of influential foreign policy experts agree that Polish-American relations reached its climax under the tenure of Donald Trump. As distinguished from previous US presidents, Donald Trump developed the so-called “country tailored approach” that implies strengthening strategic cooperation with certain countries, not regional organizations (so-called “One Size Fits All” approach). One of the crucial directions of Trump’s European policy associates with Poland. Consequently, Polish-American relations have flourished for the past three and a half years. Let’s examine how the incumbent president of the United States developed firm and consistent policy towards politically and economically significant Eastern European country.

Economics and trade: The United States of America is the 9th most important trade partner of Poland and the 4th among countries that are not members of the European Union (after China, Russia, and the United Kingdom). In 2016, Poland’s export in the United States amounted to $3.6 billion. The same year import from the USA was $5.9 billion worth. This statistical data considerably improved during 2017-2019. In 2019, Poland’s export to the USA became $8.04 billion (225% growth since 2016), while imports from the US also slightly increased ($6 billion). During the last three years Poland managed to shift the direction of trade with the United States. USA’s trade surplus in 2016 ($2.3 billion) has changed with a trade deficit ($-2.4 billion) by 2019. That is a consequence of Poland’s export-oriented trade policy – as well as the USA’s declined trade relations with the members of the European Union.

Furthermore, Poland became the top FDI (Foreign Direct Investments) destination for American companies. In 2019, FDI inflow from the United States reached $13.9 billion (161% boost in comparison to 2016). Moreover, the implementation of Visa Waiver Program will increase the number of tourists in both countries. According to the USA travel agency, for the next three years, Poland and the United States will earn an additional $1 billion from the tourism industry.

Energy security and infrastructure: One of the most denoting accomplishments of the Trump administration was the support of the “Three Seas Initiative” (Intermarium), which is the project that aims to develop cross-border energy, transport, and communication infrastructure among twelve European countries. President Trump already acknowledged the potential of this mega project and pledged US support for it.

With other significant goals, the “Three Seas Initiative” aims to reduce Europe’s energy dependence on Russian Federation. For 2018, approximately 40% of the European Union’s natural gas came from Russia. 81% of Russia’s gas export is heading towards Western Europe. As a geopolitical rival, the United States of America wants to cut down Europe’s dependence on Russian oil and gas. Poland cut its import from Gazprom by 6% last year. However, the Russian state-owned company still accounts for two-thirds of its imported gas. To reduce its critical reliance on Russian energy resources, Poland had begun importing liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the United States. It is expected, that for the next three years, Poland’s import on LNG will quadruple.

Another decisive step in this direction is to collapse Nord-Stream 2 project. Nord-Stream pipeline would tighten the Kremlin’s hold on European gas markets. Gazprom said that it expects to complete the project by the end of the year. The United States has warned companies helping Gazprom to build the pipeline that they could face harsh sanctions. Poland fully shares the American vision about the Russian gas pipeline. The consequences of developing Nord Stream 2 will be disastrous for countries that are trying to reduce their energy dependence on Russia.

Military cooperation: The real breakthrough between Poland and the United States took place in September 2019, when the president of the USA – Donald Trump, and the president of Poland – Andrzej Duda signed a joint declaration on expanding defense cooperation. The agreement included two fundamental changes: 1.An increasing number of American soldiers in Poland – American troops grew by 1000 soldiers and reach 5500 permanent personnel; 2. To establish an enduring American military base on Poland’s soil. Moreover, as a critical NATO member, Poland hosts NATO enhanced Forward Presence battalion, which consists of 1000 permanent troops.

Another essential direction of military cooperation is the purchase and production of arms. On January 31, 2020, in Dublin, the Minister of National Defense of Poland signed a contract for the purchase and delivery of 32 F-35 multi-purpose aircraft for the Polish Air Force, in addition to a training and logistics package. Poland and the United States of America hold annual joint military exercises under the aegis of NATO. It was planned that “Defender-2020” would be the largest military exercise in over 25 years, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic the number of outlined troops (approximately 37 000 soldiers from overall 18 countries) was considerably limited. In short, the military partnership between the U.S. and Poland has never been so productive and there is a potential to increase even more.

Additional Issues: Another important field of cooperation between Poland and the USA links to the digital economy. Poland has joined the United States in building a fifth-generation wireless telecommunications network (5G). Consequently, in May 2020 Poland launched the first commercial 5G network in its cities, including Warsaw, Gdańsk, Katowice, Łódź, Poznań, Szczecin, and Wrocław. It is expected that around 3 million people will benefit from the 5G network by 2021.

To sum up, Polish-American relations have never been so productive as they are today under the Trump administration. The main interests of the United States towards Poland are: 1. To bolster regional security environment; 2. To deter Russian aggression; 3. To support the Polish economy; and finally 4. To make reliable and loyal Eastern European ally. Developing cooperation in various fields makes us think that Poland is the top priority of American foreign policy right now. To respond to various threats and challenges, Poland and the USA should intensify relations even more in the future.

Giga Jokhadze

Research Fellow

The opinions and conclusions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Tbilisi or The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland.

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