Biden sends subtle message to Polish leaders on democracy

Mar 26, 2022, 12:57 PM | Updated: Mar 27, 2022, 6:46 pm

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — In a forceful speech in Warsaw denouncing Russia’s Vladimir Putin and praising Ukrainians, President Joe Biden on Saturday also appeared to have a more subtle message for his Polish hosts.

Speaking of a “perennial struggle for democracy,” Biden mentioned the rule of law and freedom of the press among the principles essential in a free society.

He made his remarks in a speech attended by President Andrzej Duda and his conservative political allies in the ruling Law and Justice party. Since they won power in 2015, they have been accused by the European Union of eroding the rule of law with changes that have given the party vast new powers over the judicial branch of government.

Biden paid homage to Poland’s long struggle for democracy in his speech that he delivered at the Royal Castle, which like most of Warsaw was destroyed by the occupying Nazi German forces during World War II and was later rebuilt.

He said Warsaw “holds a sacred place in the history of not only of Europe but humankind’s unending search for freedom. For generations Warsaw has stood where liberty has been challenged and liberty has prevailed.”

The American leader observed that democratic values “have always been under siege, they have always been embattled.”

“Every generation has had to defeat democracy’s moral foes,” Biden said.

Liberal critics of Duda and the government of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki have been concerned that with the war in Ukraine, Poland’s rising importance as a key NATO country on the eastern flank could lead the United States and the EU to let up on the pressure on Warsaw over the rule of law.

Duda clearly preferred Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, and waited weeks after the U.S. election in 2020 to congratulate Biden.

But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has prompted Duda and some other European populists to unite with Democrats in the United States and European leaders whom they had been in conflict with for years.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, Poland has accepted the lion’s share of the more than 3.5 million Ukrainians who have fled. At the same time Poland is hosting some 10,000 U.S. troops, thousands of them arriving recently to help with the humanitarian crisis. Poland is also a base for sending military help into Ukraine, something that makes the country feel more vulnerable.

The Polish authorities were also in conflict with Washington last year over legal attempts to silence TVN, a broadcast network owned by the U.S. company Discovery Inc. The aim was to strip Discovery of its control of TVN, which produces independent news programs that are critical of the government.

Duda late last year vetoed the legislation, but concerns about press freedom remain due to the government’s use of public media as a party mouthpiece.

At the start of his speech Biden paid homage to two great Poles of modern history, John Paul II, the first Polish-born pope, and Solidarity leader Lech Walesa.

“While I know he couldn’t be here tonight, we’re all grateful in America and around the world to Lech Walesa,” Biden said, in a direct appeal to bridge the deep divides in Polish society.

Walesa is a harsh critic of Poland’s right-wing government and often accuses it of eroding the democracy that he helped to usher in.

Ruling party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski and his allies have sought to significantly play down Walesa’s historic role in the successful fight against communism. They also accuse him of making too many compromises in the transition to democracy, something Walesa and others believe was necessary to prevent bloodshed then.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


A Boeing 737 Max suffered damage to parts of the plane's structure after it went into a “Dutch ro...

Associated Press

Plane that did ‘Dutch roll’ on flight from Phoenix suffered structural damage, investigators say

A Boeing 737 Max suffered damage to parts of the plane's structure after it went into a “Dutch roll” during a flight from Phoenix last month.

17 hours ago

This photo provided by Randy Shannon shows Mooney Falls on the Havasupai reservation outside the vi...

Associated Press

Dozens report illness after trips to waterfalls near Grand Canyon

Dozens of hikers say they fell ill during trips to a popular Arizona tourist destination that features towering blue-green waterfalls deep in a gorge neighboring Grand Canyon National Park.

2 days ago

Mugshot of Rudy Giuliani, who was processed Monday, June 10, 2024, in the Arizona fake electors cas...

Associated Press

Rudy Giuliani posts $10K cash bond after being processed in Arizona fake electors case

Rudy Giuliani, a former New York City mayor and Donald Trump attorney, was processed Monday in the Arizona fake electors case.

4 days ago

FILE - White House former chief of staff Mark Meadows speaks with reporters at the White House, Wed...

Associated Press

Former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows pleads not guilty in Arizona fake elector case

Former Donald Trump presidential chief of staff Mark Meadows and Trump 2020 Election Day operations director Michael Roman pleaded not guilty Friday in Phoenix to nine felony charges for their roles in an effort to overturn Trump's Arizona election loss to Joe Biden.

8 days ago

deadly heat wave last summer...

Associated Press

After a deadly heat wave last summer, metro Phoenix is changing tactics

Fresh memories of the deadly heat wave last summer have led Arizona authorities to launch new tactics ahead of summer 2024.

18 days ago

A Yuma man has been arrested for allegedly starting a wildfire in a national wildlife preserve near...

Associated Press

Man accused of starting wildfire in national wildlife preserve in Yuma

A Yuma man has been arrested for allegedly starting a wildfire in a national wildlife preserve near the California border.

19 days ago

Sponsored Articles


Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinic visits boost student training & community health

Going to a Midwestern University Clinic can help make you feel good in more ways than one.


Sanderson Ford

3 new rides for 3 new road trips in Arizona

It's time for the Sanderson Ford Memorial Day sale with the Mighty Fine 69 Anniversary, as Sanderson Ford turned 69 years old in May.



Here are 5 things Arizona residents need to know about their HVAC system

It's warming back up in the Valley, which means it's time to think about your air conditioning system's preparedness for summer.

Biden sends subtle message to Polish leaders on democracy