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Poland's Duda promises 'stronger alliance' with Donald Trump during U.S. visit

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"I don't think we've ever been closer to Poland than right now," Trump said.
"I don't think we've ever been closer to Poland than right now," Trump said.   -   Copyright  Evan Vucci/Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
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Polish President Andrzej Sebastian Duda was the first foreign leader to visit the White House since the coronavirus outbreak on Wednesday, where he attracted praise from President Donald Trump as one of only eight NATO members that are contributing enough money to national defence.

At a press conference, Trump said that he had a "close personal relationship" with Duda, who faces a tough re-election battle on June 28 which could see him secure a second term in office.

"I don't think we've ever been closer to Poland than right now," Trump said.

Duda, a right-wing populist and ally of the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS), will be hoping that appearing on the podium with Trump will play well ahead of the election. It is expected to be a close race, with Duda's popularity is on the wane amid economic fallout from COVID-19.

Duda said it was a "privilege and an honour" to be at White House and he hoped to discuss building an even "stronger alliance".

Discussions have focused on a defence cooperation agreement, which would grant Poland with extra US military assistance.

Trump said that some of the 10,000 American troops he’s pulling out of Germany will be moved to Poland, on NATO’s eastern flank against Russian aggression.

“Some will be coming home and some will be going to other places, but Poland would be one of those other places in Europe.”.

The US president had praised Poland for being one of only eight members that are fulfilling NATO's target pledge of spending 2 per cent of their gross national product on defence, unlike Germany, which Trump thinks doesn't need to be protected by US troops against Russia.

"Germany is paying Russia billions of dollars to purchase energy from Russia ... and I'm saying ‘What’s that all about?' ... They're spending billions to buy Russia and then we're supposed to defend them from Russia. So that doesn't work too well."

Warsaw has consistently demanded the extra military aid in the wake of Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014.

In June last year, Trump agreed to send 1,000 more troops to Poland to up its defences against Russia. The project, which was dropped, was unofficially named 'Fort Trump'.

According to the Polish newspaper Dziennik Gazeta Prawna, 30 US F-16 fighter jets stationed in Germany could be moved to Poland along with some 2,000 troops.

But Poland will also have to tread carefully so as not to be seen to be taking advantage of Germany, a fellow NATO ally.

NATO promised Russia in 1997 not to set up permanent bases in the former eastern bloc.