Vice President Mike Pence, speaking at a ceremony in Warsaw to memorialize the 80th anniversary of the start of World War II, praised the “indomitable spirit, strength and resilience of freedom-loving” Poles in the face of fascism and communism — and pledged to push NATO members to spend more on defense from future threats.
Although President Trump abruptly canceled his planned trip to Poland because of Hurricane Dorian and sent Pence in his place, the president’s longstanding calls for more mutual defense spending were front and center in Pence’s prepared remarks.
“For ‘Americans know that a strong alliance of free, sovereign and independent nations is the best defense for our freedoms and for our interests,’ he added, quoting Trump’s 2017 address at the Warsaw Uprising Monument.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, in a historic address to Congress last April, declared that Trump’s push for NATO allies to increase their defense spending has “had an impact” and made the alliance stronger.
World leaders met for high-level talks in Poland this weekend amid the memorials. Poland’s defense minister said Saturday that six locations for additional U.S. troops have been agreed on with Washington and talks continue on one more site.
In June, Trump agreed to send 1,000 more U.S. troops in addition to the 4,500 already stationed at six different locations across Poland. The U.S. will also place a division-level command in Poland.
Also on Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he and Poland’s president have agreed that sanctions ought to continue against Russia until Ukraine regains the territory it lost in Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.
During the observances Sunday, church bells tolled across a capital that German forces razed to the ground decades ago. Polish and foreign leaders laid wreaths, and one by one rang a bell in memory.
For most of his address, Pence focused on the heroism of the Polish people in the face of invasion.