Morning Brief

Poland’s President Visits White House Before Tight Election

The Polish president is in an unexpectedly tight race, can Trump lend a hand?

U.S. President Donald Trump along with Poland's President Andrzej Duda arrive in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C. on June 12, 2019.
U.S. President Donald Trump along with Poland's President Andrzej Duda arrive in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C. on June 12, 2019. Mandel Ngan/AFP

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Polish President Andrzej Duda becomes the first foreign leader to visit the White House since the coronavirus pandemic began, the United States and Russia agree to continue talks on nuclear arms control, and Mexico suffers a powerful earthquake.

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Duda Heads to White House For Pre-Election Boost

The White House will welcome Polish President Andrzej Duda today for the first visit from a foreign leader since the coronavirus pandemic began.

The meeting comes as Duda faces a potentially tough election contest this Sunday—with recent polls showing him tied in a second round run-off with one of his challengers, and losing to another (if Duda wins more than 50 percent of the vote, no run-off is needed). U.S. President Donald Trump will be hoping to give his ideological ally the same edge he gave Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he hosted him in January before the Israeli elections. Duda has come under fire after he described  the LGBTQ rights movement as an “ideology” worse than communism. He has also signed on to proposals to oppose same-sex marriage and the teaching of LGBTQ issues in schools.

Polish politicians have been blunt about the value of the visit. “We love Donald Trump, we think he’s a great president, and I do believe he’s going to help us win the election,” said Dominik Tarczynski, a member of parliament for the Duda-aligned Law and Justice party. “He’s going to help Andrzej Duda win.”

It’s not just one-way traffic for Duda, however. U.S. officials have a chance to present Poland as a model nation—having been outspoken in their praise for Poland’s defense spending as one of the few NATO members to reach the recommended 2 percent threshold.

Is Fort Trump back on the table? They also have a chance to discuss the allegedly stalled plan to station 1,000 U.S. troops in Poland. With 9,500 troops set to leave Germany soon, speculation has grown that some will move east. White House officials refused to be drawn on the question during a Tuesday briefing, instead referring press to an op-ed by U.S. National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien where he declared that “the Cold War practice of garrisoning large numbers of troops with their families on massive bases in places like Germany is now, in part, obsolete.”

Diplomacy, COVID-style. As a precaution against infection, the White House has said both delegations will be tested for the coronavirus in the morning before meetings begin. They did not confirm whether participants would wear masks.

Poland loves the U.S. president. Unlike their neighbors Germany, where a Pew poll showed only 13 percent of citizens have confidence in the U.S. president “to do the right thing in global affairs,” Polish citizens have faith—51 percent of Poles polled trust the president on the global stage. Poles also have a highly favorable opinion of the United States, which at 79 percent was only beaten by the Philippines (80 percent) and Israel (83 percent).


What We’re Following Today

U.S.-Russia nuclear talks end without agreement, or Chinese involvement. Nuclear talks between Russia and the United States in Vienna ended with no concrete agreement, except one to continue talking. Marshal Billingslea, the U.S. special envoy for arms control, said the talks were “so productive that we found enough common ground to establish several technical working groups to dive further into the details of what a future trilateral arms control agreement should look like.”

Billingslea said the U.S. is hoping such an agreement would limit all nuclear weapons and not just “strategic” ones. The U.S. envoy lamented China’s decision to rebuff his invitation to the talks, saying they have an “obligation” to negotiate. Billingslea had set out Chinese flags at the negotiating table on Monday to highlight their absence, a move the Chinese U.N. Mission in Vienna dismissed as “performance art.”

High-altitude diplomacy. India and China have agreed “to take the necessary measures to lower the temperature on the situation” after military leaders from both sides met for 11 hours on Monday near the site of the deadly confrontation in the Himalayas on June 15. “There was a mutual consensus to disengage,” an Indian government source told Reuters. The news comes after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, speaking at a trilateral meeting on Tuesday alongside India and China, said the two countries could solve their issues without “any help from outside.”

Kim cools on North Korea military rollout. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un took his opportunity to play the statesman after a meeting he chaired decided to suspend plans to build up forces on its border with South Korea. The move is a sign that North Korea could begin walking back its hostile rhetoric following last week’s comments from Kim’s sister Kim Yo Jong that the country would retaliate militarily against South Korea for allowing defectors to drop leaflets north of the border.

Powerful earthquake in Mexico. At least six people were killed in Mexico after a 7.4 magnitude earthquake struck the country’s southern coastline. The earthquake was powerful enough to sway buildings in Mexico City, more than 400 miles from the epicenter. The U.S. Geological Survey has estimated the death toll will come to less than 100 people, although rescue workers have yet to reach all villages affected by the earthquake. 


Keep an Eye On

EU could ban U.S. travelers. The European Union could soon bar Americans from traveling to the bloc, if proposed entry criteria are adopted. The EU is considering using infection rates per capita as a deciding factor on whether to allow entry, although the threshold has not yet been agreed upon. Earlier in June, the European Commission recommended that travel be restricted to those countries who are also willing to let in EU visitors, as well as countries who have an infection rate at least as low as the EU.

The U.S. seven-day rolling average is currently at roughly 28,300 cases per day—more than 8 times higher than the same EU figure. Because of the way the EU’s border policy is constructed, any recommendation would not be binding for member states, many of which are eager for travelers to return for the peak tourist season.

U.S. destroyer skirts Venezuelan waters. The U.S.S. Nitze, a U.S. Navy destroyer, navigated to within range of Venezuela’s exclusive economic zone in a freedom of navigation operation, or FONOP. The United States has used FONOPs in the past as a way to remind China of its capabilities in the South China Sea. The Nitze remained outside of the 12-mile exclusion zone extending from the Venezuelan coast, but entered an area that Venezuela “falsely claims to have control over,” according to a post on the website of U.S. Southern Command. The move comes a day after an Iranian ship delivered a food shipment to the country.


Odds and Ends

Major cities in the United States are experiencing an unexplained explosion in fireworks use, with a corresponding rise in complaints (as well as conspiracy theories). Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said complaints to the city’s police have increased by 2,300 percent. In New York, police have recorded a 2,000 percent increase in complaints on the same period last year. Julie Heckman, the executive director American Pyrotechnics Association, has a simple explanation for the increase. “I think the general public, due to COVID, is just itching to do something,” she told Slate.


That’s it for today. 

For more from FP, visit foreignpolicy.com, subscribe here, or sign up for our other newsletters. Send your tips, comments, questions, or corrections to morningbrief@foreignpolicy.com.

Colm Quinn is the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @colmfquinn

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