On the eve of his first meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, President Trump vowed Thursday to confront "new forms of aggression" targeting the West and called for Moscow to stop fomenting unrest around the world. Yet he pointedly stopped short of condemning Russia for meddling in the US election. Buoyed by an electrified crowd chanting his name at Warsaw's Krasinski Square in Poland, Trump also said in his speech that Europe no longer faces the threat of communism but that the West is now battling new "dire threats."
"The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive," he said, employing a similar life-or-death language to the one he used in his inauguration speech. "Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost? Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders? Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilisation in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?"
Trump added that the United States and its European allies have suffered frequent acts of terror. He vowed that "we will confront them and we will win." The president specifically used the phrase "radical Islamic terrorism," the label for extremists that he has used frequently but declined to say in front of a gathering of Arab leaders in Saudi Arabia during his first foreign trip in May.
He said that extremists groups threaten the West's "way of life" and obliquely defended the administration's travel ban that restricts immigration from some Muslim majority countries.
Trump also sought to show he wasn't overlooking Russian actions that have elicited global consternation, especially from nearby nations in eastern and central Europe. He warned that Western interests were being tested by "propaganda, financial crimes and cyber warfare," forcing NATO to adapt.
"We urge Russia to cease its destabilising activities in Ukraine and elsewhere, and its support for hostile regimes including Syria and Iran, and to join the community of responsible nations in our fight against common enemies and in defence of civilisation itself," Trump said.
It was a critique that the president did not appear to extend to Russia's actions last year during the presidential campaign. In a news conference before his speech, Trump questioned the veracity of American intelligence about foreign meddling in the U.S. election, arguing that Russia wasn't the only country that may have interfered.
Opening his second overseas trip as president, Trump also warned North Korea that he's considering "some pretty severe things" in response to the isolated nation's unprecedented launch of a missile capable of reaching the US Though he declined to offer specifics on the US response, Trump called on all nations to confront the North's "very, very bad behavior."
He also stated unequivocally that the US stands "firmly behind Article 5," the NATO provision requiring the US to defend other member nations if they come under attack. On his inaugural trip to Europe in May, Trump declined to affirm that commitment, to the dismay of US allies who said it cast doubt on his allegiance to the alliance.
As US investigations into Russia's meddling forge ahead, Trump is under intense scrutiny for how he handles his first face-to-face session with Putin. US intelligence officials say the unpredictable Russia leader ordered interference into the 2016 election that brought Trump to the White House.
Trump and Putin plan to sit down on Friday in Hamburg, Germany, on the sidelines of the G20 summit.