April 12th, 2024

Trudeau meets with Poland’s president, prime minister as he wraps up Ukraine visit

By Laura Osman, The Canadian Press on February 26, 2024.

Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk, left, and President Andrzej Duda attend a meeting of the Cabinet Council, a consultation format between the president and the government in Warsaw, Poland on Tuesday Feb. 13, 2024. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is visiting Presidential Palace in Warsaw for the first time since a political sea change in Poland ended eight years of national conservative rule. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Czarek Sokolowski

WARSAW, Poland – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw for the first time since a political sea change in Poland ended eight years of national conservative rule.

Trudeau, who spent Saturday in Kyiv reaffirming Canada’s support for Ukraine, is meeting with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and President Andrzej Duda.

Tusk, who also served as prime minister from 2007-14, is a centrist who took office in December and has been working to strengthen ties with the rest of Europe.

Duda, meanwhile, stands on the other side of the political divide – a conservative leader who now finds himself contending with a very different government.

The talks are likely to focus on the Russian threat to Ukraine and the NATO alliance, the primary bulwark that stands between Russia and the rest of Europe.

Canada is under renewed pressure to spend two per cent of its gross domestic product on defence – a NATO-mandated target most other allies are expected to hit by the end of the year.

Canada’s spending hovers around 1.3 per cent of GDP.

Both Canada and Poland have rallied around Ukraine as the country enters its third year of war with dwindling supplies and personnel challenges, prompting an urgent plea for help from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Its troops recently withdrew from the strategic eastern city of Avdiivka, handing Moscow one of its biggest victories. And Russia still controls roughly a quarter of the country after Ukraine failed to make any major breakthroughs with its summertime counteroffensive.

The looming uphill battle didn’t prevent Trudeau from doubling down on a promise to back Ukraine until it sees victory.

“Putin cannot win,” Trudeau said Saturday in a speech from Hostomel airport, where Ukrainian soldiers beat back a Russian assault on day 1 of the invasion.

“Ukraine will see victory, just like what happened on this ground two years ago.”

The Polish government wants to ensure Canada and other allies stay engaged in the war raging just over its border, Canada’s ambassador to the country said in an interview on the weekend.

Catherine Godin called the war in Ukraine a real and present threat to the people of Poland.

The two countries have been co-operating on military training missions to bolster the military skills of Ukraine’s armed forces. And Poland appreciates Canada’s role in guarding NATO’s eastern flank in Latvia, Godin said.

As for what the change of government in Poland means for Canada, Godin said Canada wants to support Tusk’s momentum.

Tusk has been working to repair Warsaw’s fraught relationship with Brussels after the European Union described Poland’s previous government as a threat to judicial independence.

In 2021, the EU called out what it considered deficiencies in Poland’s national justice systems, anti-corruption frameworks, and media freedom.

“They’ve been working really hard on the rule of law. It’s been the key preoccupation to allow them to demonstrate that they’re committed to it and that they can access EU funds and they are demonstrating commitment on human rights,” Godin said.

“This is aligned with Canadian values as well.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2024.

– With files from The Associated Press

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