Polish leader won't back Russia returning to G7

WARSAW, Poland – Polish President Andrzej Duda expressed serious reservations Monday about President Donald Trump’s campaign to reinstate Russia into an elite group of leaders from wealthy nations.

Appearing at a news conference with Vice President Mike Pence at Poland’s Presidential Palace, Duda did not outright reject Trump’s calls for Russia to be allowed back into the elite Group of Seven, or G-7. But he made it clear he was not thrilled with the proposal.

“I believe we must not proceed according to the business-as-usual principle” when it comes to Russia, Duda said. “This is my position, and I don’t hesitate to express it.”

Duda’s comments came on the second and final day of Pence’s visit to the Polish capital. Pence made the trip after Trump abruptly canceled his plans to travel to Poland, saying he needed to remain in the United States and monitor Hurricane Dorian.

While Duda was not enthusiastic about Trump’s push to readmit Russia to the G-7, he was sympathetic to Trump’s reasons for canceling his visit to Poland. Trump had to postpone his visit because of  “the nature of things which cannot be predicted,” Duda said.

Trump has said he plans to reschedule, and Duda said he hopes Trump can make the trip sometime this fall.

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On the question of Russia and the G-7, Trump has called repeatedly in recent weeks for leaders of other member nations to allow Russia back into the group.

Trump pressed the case last week during the group’s annual gathering in Biarritz, France. Trump said he isn’t concerned about the political repercussions of such a move and argued readmitting Russia to the group would ease negotiations on global issues.

But other G-7 leaders weren’t receptive to the proposal.

Russia had been a member of the group – which at the time was known as the G-8 – but was ousted in 2014 over its annexation of Crimea. The decision was backed not only by the U.S. but also by the group’s other six member countries. The G-7 includes the United States, Canada, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan and Italy.

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At Monday’s news conference, Duda, whose country relies heavily on U.S. military support, also expressed concerns about bringing Russia back into the fold, citing Russia’s continued occupation of Crimea and other concerns.

“Russia, over the last years, has been undertaking actions which … nobody who wants to have peace in the world, and nobody who respects the dignity of other nations and states, can turn a blind eye to,” he said.

For his part, Pence lauded what he called the “remarkable bond” between the U.S. and Poland and stressed that NATO allies must remain “vigilant” about countering “the intentions and the actions taken by Russia.”

During his two-day visit to the Polish capital, Pence delivered remarks at a ceremony commemorating the 80th anniversary of the start of World War II and held bilateral meetings with Duda and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

During his meeting with Duda, Pence said they discussed several issues, including Poland’s plan to buy military weaponry from the United States, the U.S.’s plans to send an additional 1,000 troops to Poland and the possible establishment of a permanent military base for U.S. troops in Poland.

“Make no mistake about it,” Pence said. “This alliance, this relationship between America and Poland, has never been stronger.”

The two countries also signed a joint agreement calling for them to work together to improve the security of Poland’s 5G telecommunications system. The deal comes as the Trump administration is trying to counter the influence of the Chinese telecom giant Huawei. The U.S. accuses Huawei of facilitating Chinese spying, a charge the company denies.

Asked if Poland has any evidence that China has used Huawei technology for spying, Duda said Polish counterintelligence services have detected actions “which might have been of an espionage nature.”

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