Before attending the G20 summit with the leaders of the world’s largest economies in Hamburg, Germany, President Trump visited Poland. When he gave a speech in Warsaw, an estimated 15,000 people, many waving American flags, came to listen. This crowd reacted enthusiastically to the speech.
I am not surprised that so many Poles turned out with such excitement for a visit by the President of the United States. Poland understands what it means to fight for freedom. In my lifetime, I have seen the Polish people rally to shake off the Soviet yoke and demand their inalienable rights. They have sought to govern themselves, and in pursuit of this ideal, they have often paid a steep price.
Our countries enjoy a special relationship based on our shared commitment to freedom and self-government. As stated in last week’s column, Pulaski County is named for Casimir Pulaski, the Polish count who gave his life in the American Revolution. Likewise, in Warsaw there is a statue of Ronald Reagan, the American President who brought about the end of the Cold War and, with it, Soviet domination in eastern Europe.
In his speech, President Trump lauded Poland for its contributions to the West, and in particular, its commitment to defense spending. Poland is one of only five countries in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to spend at least two percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on defense, even though this is an agreed-upon target among the members of the alliance. The other countries are the United States, the United Kingdom, Greece, and Estonia.
Asking that NATO allies increase the amount they spend on their militaries is fair. NATO was originally formed to counter the Soviet Union. While the Soviet Union no longer exists, the dominant Soviet nation, Russia, in recent years has shown it still harbors ambitions of expansion and domination. When Russia acts on these ambitions, as it has in Ukraine, the countries of Europe will be the ones directly in harm’s way. In this column in the past, I have pointed out that more European defense spending would be a sign of resolve to the Russians. More defense spending from NATO members strengthens the alliance and deters Russian mischief.
Furthermore, since the end of the Cold War, NATO has taken on additional responsibilities, such as combating terrorism. The attacks across Europe in recent years show that NATO countries have an interest in the fight against Islamic extremism. As Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told a meeting of NATO defense ministers, “Americans cannot care more for your children’s security than you do.”
To that end, NATO as a whole is moving in the right direction on defense spending. NATO’s Secretary General announced in June that non-U.S. NATO defense spending will increase by 4.3 percent this year. By 2018, three more countries, Lithuania, Romania, and Latvia, will hit the 2 percent threshold. While more can be done, the trend is encouraging.
The history of Poland in the 20th Century shows the importance of liberal Western civilization standing ready to defend its core values today. When Western nations ignored the “gathering storm” of World War II, Nazi Germany saw a clear path to invading Poland. This war that began with the Polish invasion was the most destructive in history. In contrast, when Reagan, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and others faced off with determination against the Soviet Union in the 1980s, the Communists eventually stood down, bringing about a free Poland without war.
I hope that the move towards more defense spending by our NATO partners is a sign of renewed commitment to our mutual defense across the alliance. Making that commitment now will save a great deal of blood, lives, and treasure in the long run.
According to AAA, gas prices going into the recent Fourth of July holiday were the lowest they had been since 2005, with an average national price of $2.23. These prices are a direct result of the American energy boom, as we have discovered more oil and ways to extract it. Those on the left, including former President Obama, claimed that more energy production wouldn’t bring down gas prices. On Independence Day, Americans could simply go to the gas station to see that this way of thinking was incorrect. “Drill, baby, drill!” has been good for consumers.
If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov. Also on my website is the latest material from my office, including information on votes recently taken on the floor of the House of Representatives.