In a speech about the Polish armed forces during the national army day holiday in Warsaw yesterday, Polish President Andrzej Duda praised the importance of friendship between his country and the United States.
The durability of the NATO alliance uniting them has been in question ever since US President Donald Trump, during his candidacy, began calling on other NATO member states to start spending at least 2% of their GDP for defense. At the same time, Russian interference in Ukraine and in Western elections has raised fears of aggression from Vladimir Putin’s regime.
Poland is one of five countries meeting this agreed-upon funding obligation. Duda spoke about this, as well as the “miracle on the Vistula” (the 1920 Battle of Warsaw in which Russia was stopped from taking all of Poland during the Polish-Soviet War). The leader of that war and one of Poland’s most celebrated historical figures, Józef Piłsudski, was also praised during yesterday’s speech.
The thorough recount of the 1920 may have been a veiled warning to Russia – Duda even mentioned a small contribution by America along with a few other allies from the time. He also awarded the Commander’s Cross with a Star of the Order of Merit, and important medal, to American Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, commander of the US Army in Europe.
Ujazdowski Park in Warsaw, where the speech and a multinational armed forces parade took place, was full of people walking back and forth onto the main street, though it was all but impossible to see Duda or get much view of the action on the main street — unless you were one of the athletic kids climbing on the one tiered metallic platform I noticed walking along the sidewalk.
The real show started in the air, however, and was visible to all from the ground. Announcers explained the airplanes and helicopters flying above the crowd – many of which were Polish, though there was no shortage of foreign equipment present, including American jets.
The festivities were also a flashpoint for far-right extremists, supporters of the Law and Justice (PiS) party which backs Duda, who also formed a small march of their own. The Associated Press reports that police physically removed a group of counter-demonstrators, many of them women holding signs referencing Heather Heyer – a woman killed in Virginia in the US over the weekend when a right-wing terrorist drove his car into a crowd of activists protesting a white supremacist gathering.