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As fears over Russia and Trump grow, Europe vows to stay strong

By Sylvie Corbet, Vanessa Gera and Geir Moulson | Associated Press

PARIS — The governments of Poland, France and Germany pledged Monday to make Europe a security and defense power with a greater capacity to support Ukraine, as fears grow that the former U.S. president Donald Trump can return to the White House and allow Russia to expand its aggression. on the continent.

Foreign ministers from the three countries met in La Celle-Saint-Cloud, a Paris suburb, to discuss Ukraine, among other issues. They discussed the revival of the Weimar Triangle, a long-dormant regional grouping designed to promote cooperation between France, Germany and Poland.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who met French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin on Monday, said he wanted to “revitalize” his country’s relations with its main European partners.

“There is no reason why we are so clearly weaker militarily than Russia, and therefore increasing production and intensifying our cooperation are absolutely unquestionable priorities,” Tusk said in advocating for the European Union to become “ a military power in its own right.

The diplomatic push came after Trump shocked many in Europe over the weekend by appearing to invite Russia to invade any NATO member that does not spend enough on its own defense.

“’You haven’t paid? Are you a delinquent?’ ” Trump recounted saying this to an unidentified NATO member during his presidency. “No, I won’t protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever they want. You have to pay. You have to pay your bills.’”

The Republican frontrunner’s remarks at a campaign rally were particularly shocking to front-line NATO countries like Poland, which experienced German and Soviet occupation during World War II and later passed decades under Soviet control. Concerns are high due to the ongoing war right on Poland’s eastern border.

Speaking alongside Tusk in Berlin, Scholz blasted Trump’s comments.

“NATO’s promise of protection is unlimited: ‘all for one and one for all,’” Scholz said without mentioning the former president by name. “And let me say it clearly, for the present reasons: any relativization of NATO’s guarantee of support is irresponsible and dangerous and only serves Russia’s interest.”

“No one can play with Europe’s security or ‘deal’ with it,” the Chancellor added.

Earlier on Monday, Scholz inaugurated a new munitions factory, highlighting Europe’s efforts to increase arms production.

Tusk also urged European countries to invest more in military projects in order to “achieve as quickly as possible…over the next twelve months, much greater air defense capabilities and much greater production capacities in terms of munitions “.

Asked about Trump’s remarks, Tusk said they “should act as a cold shower for all those who continue to underestimate this increasingly real threat that Europe faces.”

Macron, speaking alongside Tusk in Paris, said Europe’s willingness “to provide more and respond to Ukraine’s needs is crucial”, after leaders of the 27 EU member countries reached a deal to provide Ukraine with 50 billion euros ($54 billion) to support its war. -ravaged economy.

This “will make it possible to make Europe a security and defense power that is both complementary to NATO and pillar of the Atlantic alliance,” Macron said.

Trump’s remarks raised fears that if he were re-elected, he could encourage Russia to attack countries other than Ukraine. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg issued a statement Sunday saying Trump’s remarks put U.S. troops and their allies at greater risk.

NATO does not require its 31 members to pay their bills, but they are expected to invest a certain percentage of their own budget – ideally 2% of their gross domestic product – in defense.

Some countries, like Poland, have achieved this goal a long time ago. Other European countries increased their military spending after Russia invaded Ukraine almost two years ago.

Germany, with a post-World War II political culture of military prudence, was a frequent target of Trump’s ire during his presidency for failing to meet the 2 percent goal. But Berlin announced plans to increase its military spending after the full-scale invasion of Germany. Ukraine and plans to reach the benchmark this year.

France’s military budget has increased in recent years and reached around 2% of GDP.

Tusk returned to power as prime minister of his central European country in December after eight years in power by a conservative national government that often took an antagonistic stance with its European allies, particularly Germany. As a result, Warsaw’s influence in Europe declined.

The Weimar Triangle was created in 1991 as Poland emerged from decades of communism as a platform for political cooperation between the three nations.

Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski said Monday that he and his French and German counterparts “are meeting at a dramatic, but also solemn, moment.” Russian President Vladimir Putin “must not be allowed to win this war.” We must fulfill our obligations to Ukraine.”

French Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné said that “every minute counts to prepare Europeans to absorb the shock of a scenario well described by Donald Trump.”

Moulson contributed from Berlin and Gera from Warsaw.

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