July 17, 2018 / 12:32 PM / a month ago

Trump-Putin meeting could have been worse, Poland says

WARSAW (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump’s meeting with Vladimir Putin was not as bad as some feared, because Trump did not appear to have made concessions on Ukraine, Poland’s prime minister said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki arrives to deliver a speech during a debate on the future of Europe at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, July 4, 2018. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

Trump drew outrage back home from Democrats and Republicans alike for refusing at the Helsinki summit to accept the conclusion of U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies that Russia meddled in a the 2016 election to help him win.

He said nothing in public at his summit to criticize Russia over any of the issues - from Syria to Ukraine to the poisoning of a spy in England - that have brought relations between Moscow and the West to their lowest since the Cold War.

The friendly meeting was a notable contrast after a NATO summit last week at which Trump berated allies for failing to spend enough on defense, prompting Germany to say Europeans could no longer rely on the White House.

But Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, asked at a news conference if he was alarmed by the events, said on Tuesday that the worst fears of U.S. allies had not been borne out.

“I look at the latest developments, including Helsinki, where it might have been that one president of our neighboring country (Putin) was pressuring the U.S. president for concessions. But I have not seen any concessions, neither as regards the annexation of Crimea nor the war in Ukraine,” Morawiecki said.

“None of the voices that were appearing beforehand as hypothetically possible - concessions by the United States - have materialized. So I don’t see where he (Trump) has made any significant concessions.”

Before Trump’s meeting with Putin in Helsinki, officials from NATO allies expressed worry that he could offer the Russian leader concessions over Western sanctions related to Ukraine, or over U.S. troop deployments in eastern Europe. Trump unexpectedly canceled military exercises in Korea after meeting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last month.

Poland is the biggest former communist country in both the European Union and NATO, and has called for the alliance to boost its defenses, especially after Russia seized Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in 2014.

“NATO’s eastern flank needs to be strengthened because Russia’s aggressive policy has not, unfortunately, ended,” Morawiecki said. “This aggression hasn’t diminished in any way. President Trump must have come to the same conclusions.”

Poland has repeatedly requested a permanent U.S. military presence on its soil and has offered up to $2 billion in funding for such a base. U.S. soldiers are now present on its soil through NATO’s back-to-back rotation.

Last March, Poland signed its largest arms deal ever, agreeing with the United States to buy Raytheon Co’s Patriot missile defense system for $4.75 billion. Its plan to boost air defenses is aimed at deterring Russia, which has long opposed the formerly-communist countries’ integration with NATO.

Editing by Andrew Heavens

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