Poland, France and Germany vow to make Europe stronger as fears grow over Russia

The governments of Poland, France and Germany have vowed to make Europe a defence power with a greater ability to back Ukraine, as fears grow that former US President Donald Trump might return to the White House and allow Russia to expand its aggression on the continent.

The foreign ministers of the three countries met in the Paris suburb of La Celle-Saint-Cloud on Monday to hold talks about Ukraine, amid other issues.

The ministers discussed reviving the so-called Weimar Triangle, a long dormant regional grouping that was designed to promote cooperation between France, Germany and Poland.

German chancellor Olaf Scholz, left, welcomes Poland’s Prime Minister Donald Tusk in Berlin, Germany (Ebrahim Noroozi/AP)
German chancellor Olaf Scholz, left, welcomes Poland’s Prime Minister Donald Tusk in Berlin (Ebrahim Noroozi/AP)

The Weimar Triangle was created in 1991 as Poland was emerging from decades of communism as a platform for political cooperation among the three nations.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who met with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris and German chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin on Monday, said he wanted to “revitalise” his nation’s relations with its key European partners.

“There is no reason why we should be so clearly militarily weaker than Russia, and therefore increasing production and intensifying our cooperation are absolutely indisputable priorities,” Mr Tusk said in arguing for the European Union to become “a military power” in its own right.

The diplomatic push came after Mr Trump shocked many in Europe over the weekend by appearing to invite Russia to invade any Nato member not spending enough on its own defence.

“‘You didn’t pay? You’re delinquent?’” Mr Trump recounted telling an unidentified Nato member during his presidency.

“‘No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want. You gotta pay. You gotta pay your bills.’”

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French President Emmanuel Macron, right, welcomes Poland’s Prime Minister Donald Tusk at the Elysee Palace in Paris (Aurelien Morissard/AP)

The Republican front-runner’s words at a campaign rally were particularly shocking for front-line Nato countries like Poland, which experienced both German and Soviet occupation during the Second World War and later spent decades under Soviet control.

Speaking alongside Mr Tusk in Berlin, Mr Scholz blasted Mr Trump’s comments.

“Nato’s promise of protection is unrestricted – ‘all for one and one for all,’” Mr Scholz said without mentioning the former president by name.

“And let me say clearly for current reasons, any relativisation of Nato’s support guarantee is irresponsible and dangerous, and is in the interest of Russia alone,” the chancellor added.

“No one can play, or ‘deal,’ with Europe’s security.”

Trump’s remarks raised concerns that if re-elected, he could embolden Russia to attack other countries besides Ukraine.

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Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, said he wanted to ‘revitalise’ his nation’s relations with its key European partners (Ebrahim Noroozi/AP)

Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg issued a statement on Sunday saying that Trump’s remarks put American troops and their allies at greater risk.

Nato does not require its 31 members to pay bills, but they are expected to invest a certain percentage of their own budgets – ideally, 2% of their gross domestic product – on defence.

Some countries, like Poland, have long met the target. Other European nations ramped up their military spending after Russia invaded Ukraine almost two years ago.

Germany, with a post-Second World War political culture of military caution, was a frequent target of Trump’s ire during his presidency for falling short of the 2% target, but Berlin announced plans to step up military spending after the full-scale invasion of Ukraine and plans to hit the benchmark this year.

France’s military budget grew in recent years and reached the level of about 2% of GDP.

Polish foreign minister Radek Sikorski noted that he and his French and German counterparts “meet at a dramatic, but also solemn moment”.

He added that Russian President Vladimir Putin “must not be allowed to win this war. We must fulfil our obligations toward Ukraine”.

French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne said “each minute counts to get Europeans prepared to absorb the shock of a scenario that has been well described by Donald Trump”.

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