Trump's first foreign visitor since the coronavirus pandemic began will be Poland's anti-gay, increasingly authoritarian leader

Trump's first foreign visitor since the coronavirus pandemic began will be Poland's anti-gay, increasingly authoritarian leader
Poland's President Andrzej Duda, right, and U.S President Donald Trump attend a news conference at Royal Castle, in Warsaw, Thursday July 6, 2017.AP Photo/Evan Vucci
  • Polish President Andrzej Duda is coming to Washington to meet with President Donald Trump on June 24.
  • It will mark Trump's first meeting with a foreign leader since the coronavirus pandemic began.
  • Duda's government has been criticized by civil liberties and human rights groups for attacks on democratic safeguards and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric.
  • The Polish leader has pushed his country in an increasingly authoritarian direction.
  • Duda's visit will come just four days before Poland's presidential election.

President Donald Trump's first foreign visitor since the coronavirus pandemic began will be Polish President Andrzej Duda, who has pushed his country in an increasingly authoritarian direction.

Trump's last visit with a foreign leader took place on March 12, when Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar came to Washington. The World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic the day prior.

Duda's visit will take place on June 24 — four days before Poland's presidential election, in which he's running for reelection.
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The Polish leader, who has expressed blatantly anti-gay views, will be visiting the US amid Pride Month.

In a recent campaign speech, Duda called the promotion of LGBTQ rights an "ideology" that is more destructive than communism, BBC News reported. Poland is the worst-performing country in the European Union when it comes to LGBTQ rights, according to an index published last month by ILGA-Europe, an LGBTQ rights group.

Concerns have also been raised about the erosion of democratic safeguards and human rights abuses in Poland under Duda.
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"Poland continues to stand out for the systematic, targeted, and aggressive nature of the government's attacks on judicial independence," Freedom House, a nonprofit that monitors democracy around the world, wrote in a recent report.

Human Rights Watch described the Polish government as actively undermining "the rule of the rule of law and human rights protection" while curbing "free expression and assembly." "Judges and prosecutors face disciplinary proceedings for standing up for the rule of law. Civil society organization working on women's rights and migration have had their state funding cut. Poland's LGBT community has been under regular attack by the ruling party, declaring some towns 'LGBT free zones,'" Human Rights Watch said. "Polish border guards routinely deny access to asylum at the Belarus-Poland border and summarily return asylum seekers to Belarus."
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Critics have said Trump should do more to push back on Duda's autocratic tendencies.

"Poland's democracy remains in danger: The politicization of the security services, transformation of state-owned media into propaganda organs, and pressure on independent journalists and civil society continue," the Washington Post editorial board wrote in 2018. "The Trump administration, for its part, ought to reconsider the political bet it has made on the Polish nationalists, whom it has openly favored. It's an ugly cause whose demise may have already begun."

Whether Trump will address these issues when he meets with Duda remains unclear. The White House did not offer a comment when contacted by Insider.
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"The visit comes at a critical time for both the United States and Poland, as we reopen our countries after months of battling the coronavirus pandemic," the White House said in a statement on Wednesday. "As close partners and NATO allies, the United States and Poland continue to expand our cooperation across a wide range of issues. President Trump and President Duda will discuss further advancing our cooperation on defense, as well as trade, energy, and telecommunications security."

Duda's visit will come as Trump discusses moving US troops out of Germany and increasing the US military footprint in Poland. The plan has led to tensions between the US and Germany, and led to pushback from NATO allies.

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