What Is Trump Looking For in Eastern Europe?

Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

In the context of the recent activity in the US foreign policy, when the attention of the media was mainly on the developments in the US-Russia relations, the visit of the US president Donald Trump to Poland took place. There Donald Trump participated in the meeting of the so-called “Three Seas Initiative” leaders (Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Croatia, Slovenia, Austria). The meeting by such a format was new for the US president and is quite interesting, if viewed from several aspects.

It should be noted that the so-called “Three Seas Initiative” is a joint Polish-Croatian initiative, which was launched in 2016 and aims at the development of the trade among the Adriatic, Baltic and Black Sea countries as well as at their cooperation in energy, infrastructure  and political spheres. To kick off the initiative, a two-day regional forum took place in 2016, in which also the delegates from Macedonia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Turkey, as well as representatives from the United States and China participated. The fact, that no delegate was present from Russia in the meeting, made experts state that the initative is anti-Russian.

It is interesting to note that according to some experts the initiative is also aimed at counter-balancing the influence of Germany and the official Brussels on the Eastern and Central European countries. It was not accidental, that for example, Jaroslaw Kaczynski of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice Party in an interview with a Hungarian media agency noted that it would prevent Brussels’ attempts “to reach a complete hegemony in Europe”

The argument of counter-balancing Brussels becomes more grounded, when we refer, for example, to the recent disagreements between Poland and the official Brussels.   

The recent example of that disagreement was connected with the legislative amendments in Poland, according to which the parliament will be given more powers to appoint judges. This planned change has become a cause for protests in Poland and was criticized by Brussels, in answer to which Polish officials noted that Brussels had no right to interfere in internal affairs of the member states.

The negative atmosphere in the relations of Brussels and Poland is also noted in the issue of accepting migrants from the Middle East and Africa. Poland refuses to accept migrants conditioning its decision with security and economic problems in the country.

The reason for disagreements between Warsaw-Brussels became the law on the media adopted last year in Poland, which gives a right to the authorities to directly appoint the heads of the state media agencies.

Thus, in the context of such developments, how can one explain the interest of the US new administration in cooperating with the European countries in this format? By the cooperation in the format, Trump in essence tries to fulfill at least two goals simultaneously.

First, by this Trump delivers a message to the official Brussels that they will not limit themselves by the cooperation with the official Brussels and will cooperate with the European countries in other formats irrespective of the existing disagreements with the official Brussels (in the context the existing disagreements within the EU are good preconditions of the US). In essence this was an addressed call to Brussels, that it will be the one to suffer most from the US-EU disagreement.

The US wish to find new allies in the EU can also be explained by Brexit. After losing its loyal ally in the EU, the US administration aims at making new strong partnerships in the Union not to weaken its leverages of influence there.

Second, it was not a usual thing, that Trump’s visit to Poland and the meeting in that format preceded his meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin. It was not occasional either that in the format of “Three Seas Initiatives” the main topic of discussion was the cooperation in the energetic sphere, particularly the export of the US LNG to Europe. Thus the visit of Trump to Poland and his participation in “Three Seas Initiative” aimed at strengthening the US positions in the negotiations with RF to show the latter that the US is going to preserve and strengthen its presence in the Eastern Europe.

Thus, to conclude, we should state that Trump’s activity in this format aims at ʺkilling two birds with one stone” strengthening the US positions in the negotiations with the EU and Russia.

Liana Hovhannisyan