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Poland hails upcoming Trump visit as a ‘huge success’

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, center, twin brother of the late president Lech Kaczynski, and leader of the now-ruling Law and Justice party, speaks during a monthly tribute to the victims of the 2010 presidential plane crash, in front of the Presidential Palace in Warsaw, Poland, Saturday, June 10, 2017. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Polish officials are hailing an upcoming visit by Donald Trump, with Poland’s defense minister calling it a “huge success” for the government and another official celebrating the unexpectedness of a U.S. president stopping in Warsaw before Paris, London or Berlin.

Trump’s visit offers the promise of raising the standing of the government of Prime Minister Beata Szydlo as it finds itself increasingly marginalized within the European Union over a refusal to resettle refugees and migrants and over judicial changes that the EU says weaken the rule of law.

The White House said Friday that Trump will visit Poland on July 6 before he joins the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, Germany. It said the visit to Poland — where the U.S. recently deployed hundreds of troops — is meant to reaffirm Washington’s “steadfast commitment to one of our closest European allies.”

Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz said late Sunday that the upcoming visit is a “huge success of Polish diplomacy” and an “enormous event showing how much Poland’s place in geopolitics and world politics has changed” since his party, Law and Justice, took power in 2015.

Krzysztof Szczerski, chief of staff to President Andrzej Duda, said Polish officials had worked “many months” to persuade Trump to visit.

“At first … it seemed impossible that we would be able to convince the U.S. president that he should visit Poland before the biggest European countries,” Szczerski told the wPolityce web portal Sunday.

The visit will be part of Trump’s second international foray as president, after a tour last month of the Middle East and Europe that included stops in Saudi Arabia and Taormina, Sicily, for a Group of Seven meeting.

In Warsaw he can expect a much warmer reception than he will find the following day in Germany, with many world leaders dismayed by his decision to pull the United States out of the Paris climate deal.

Poland’s conservative and nationalistic ruling party, Law and Justice, shares many of Trump’s beliefs, including opposition to Muslim immigrants, support for burning coal and skepticism of international bodies, including the EU, which they see eroding the sovereignty of nation states. Like Trump, Polish leaders speak of restoring national greatness.

Where the two sides differ — and sharply — is on Russia, with Polish leaders deeply fearful and skeptical of Russia’s resurgence. The Polish ruling party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who is widely considered more influential than the president or prime minister, accuses Russia of intentionally bringing down a plane in 2010 that killed his identical twin brother, President Lech Kaczynski. In a speech on Saturday he railed against what he called “Russian barbarity.”

Many Poles have worried about Trump’s past dismissiveness of NATO, though the current leaders have refrained from criticizing him publicly.

The visit to Poland will bring Trump to one of only four NATO members other than the U.S. that spends the required 2 percent of GDP on defense.

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