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Biden to visit Poland, a complex ally on Ukraine’s doorstep

WARSAW, POLAND (AP) – United States (US) President Joe Biden’s visit to Poland as his final stop in Europe this week offers a chance to underscore the US commitment to protect a key North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) member on Ukraine’s doorstep and to thank Poles for their generous welcome to refugees fleeing Russia’s invasion.

But Poland is also a complicated ally whose populist leaders are accused by some European partners of riding roughshod over democratic norms, and many liberal Poles will be seeking a sign that the US remembers its role in promoting democracy.

The two-day visit starting yesterday follows a trio of emergency war summits in Brussels. It brings Biden to a country that has accepted the lion’s share of the more than 3.5 million Ukrainians who have fled the month-old war. More than 2.2 million have entered Poland and many propose to stay there.

Poland also hosts thousands of additional US troops, beyond the thousands deployed on a rotational basis since Russia first invaded Ukraine in 2014.

Polish assistance to Ukrainians has won praise near and far. Not only have shelters and schools opened their doors to refugees, with 90,000 children registering to attend classes, but many regular Poles have welcomed Ukrainians into their homes. In some cases, they’re taking in friends and in others, complete strangers.

President Andrzej Duda, who is allied with a right-wing political party accused of eroding democratic norms, is set to welcome his American counterpart to Rzeszow, a city some 70 kilometres from the border with Ukraine. Biden plans to be briefed there on the humanitarian efforts to help Ukrainians and to meet with US troops.

United States President Joe Biden speaking in Brussels. PHOTO: AP