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In Warsaw, Trump vows to lead "fight for the West"

Petr David Josek / AP

In Warsaw this morning, President Trump delivered what the White House sees as one of the most important speeches of his presidency. He didn't identify himself with the nationalist populist ruling party in Poland, but has something grander in mind.

  • The president presented himself as the leader of the West during an address to thousands of Poles in a public square. Trump's team, led by senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, saw an opportunity to use the story of the Polish resistance as the setting for a new rallying cry to Western civilization.
  • But, but, but ... "America first" stings in places that aren't America, and Trump's neglect or contempt of traditional alliances has risked the office's traditional mantle as leader of the free world.
  • From Trump's text: "The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive. ... Our own fight for the West does not begin on the battlefield — it begins with our minds, our wills, and our souls."

Between the lines from sources familiar with the drafting: The speech implicitly rejected the premise that Trump has retreated from the world and given up on American leadership, whether it be his withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, his checkered history with NATO, or his exit from the Paris climate accord.

In Trump's address to Congress, he called for a "renewal of the American spirit." Today, Trump, in effect, called for a renewal of the spirit of the West to fight new enemies. What the President wanted the world to hear: America is again standing up for traditional values — "family, freedom, country, God" — and rallying Europeans who support those values.

Trump spoke in front of the memorial to the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, when more than 150,000 Poles died in the effort to drive the Nazis out of Warsaw and re-establish their independence before Stalin's Soviet forces could capture the city.

New enemies: Trump pointed to a set of new threats to the West: Islamic terrorists, state sponsors of terror (mainly Iran), "new forms of threats from traditional competitor nations," and "bureaucratic excesses."

More from the speech:

"Americans, Poles, and the nations of Europe value individual freedom and sovereignty. We must work together to counter forces, whether they come from inside or out, from the South or the East, that threaten over time to undermine these values and to erase the bonds of culture, faith and tradition that make us who we are.
"I am here today not just to visit an old ally, but to hold it up as an example for others who seek freedom and who wish to summon the courage and the will to defend our civilization. ... While we will always welcome new citizens who share our values and love our people, our borders will always be closed to terrorism and extremism."
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