Trump borrows the far-right’s rallying cry while in Europe: The West must have the “courage to preserve our civilization”

Donald Trump gives a nod to the far-right's thoughts about the preservation of "Western civilization"

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published July 6, 2017 11:46AM (EDT)

 (Getty/Win McNamee/AP/Evan Vucci/Muhamed Huwais)
(Getty/Win McNamee/AP/Evan Vucci/Muhamed Huwais)

President Donald Trump spoke ominously about the threat of Islamic terrorism, mass immigration and growing government bureaucracy in his first major speech ahead of the G20 summit in Germany. Echoing the worldview of his top White House advisors, the president ripped a line from Europe’s far-right playbook to paint a picture of an impending clash of civilizations.

"On both sides of the Atlantic, our citizens are confronted by yet another danger — one firmly within our control,” Trump said during his visit to Warsaw, Poland, on Thursday. “This danger is invisible to some but familiar to the Poles. The steady creep of government bureaucracy that drains the vitality and the wealth of people."

In front of a friendly crowd in Warsaw's Krasinski Square, the site of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising against the Nazi occupation, Trump echoed a right-wing Polish narrative of World War II to draw parallels to modern-day threats facing the continent. (Polish Jewish leaders had criticized Trump for not including a stop at a monument for the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in his two-day visit to Poland.)

"A strong Europe is a blessing to the West and to the world," Trump said. "We have to say, there are dire threats to our security and to our way of life. You see what's happening out there. There are threats. We will confront them and we will win.”

He also cited Poland's resistance under the Nazi and Soviet occupations as an example of the West defending its traditions and values. “As the Polish experience reminds us, the defense of the West ultimately rests not only on means but also on the will of its people to prevail,” Trump said.

And in the most overt return to the animating animus of the Steve Bannon/Steve Miller wing of White House advisors, Trump added: “The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive.”

Urging the crowd to all "fight like the Poles,” Trump called for unity in defending and preserving Western civilization. "America and Europe have suffered one terror attack after another. We are going to get it to stop,” he said. “We are fighting hardly against radical Islamic terrorism and we will prevail." 

His speech in Warsaw comes just before he travels to Germany for the G20, where he will meet with other world leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin. On Thursday, Trump also took the time to "urge Russia to cease its destabilizing activity in Ukraine and elsewhere," however, he also said that "nobody really knows" if Russia or other countries meddled in last year's U.S. election.

By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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Far-right Poland Russia Steve Miller Steve Bannon Western Civilization