Top Polish Leaders to Visit White House, Hoping to Spur US to Help Ukraine More

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Joe Biden is hosting Poland's president and prime minister for White House talks on Tuesday with the Polish leaders looking to press Washington to break its impasse over replenishing funds for Ukraine at a critical moment in the war in Europe.

Ahead of the visit, President Andrzej Duda called on other members of the NATO alliance to raise their spending on defense to 3% of their GDP as Russia puts its own economy on a war footing and pushes forward with its plans to conquer Ukraine. Poland already spends 4% of its own economic output on defense, double the current target of 2% in NATO.

"The war in Ukraine has clearly shown that the United States is and should remain the leader in security issues in Europe and the world," Duda said in an address to Poland on Monday. "However, other NATO countries must also take greater responsibility for the security of the entire alliance and intensively modernize and strengthen their troops."

In a Washington Post opinion piece to spotlight his call for greater NATO spending, Duda argued that Russia was switching its economy to "war mode," allocating close to 30% of its annual budget to arm itself.

"This figure and other data coming out of Russia are alarming," Duda wrote. "Vladimir Putin's regime poses the biggest threat to global peace since the end of the Cold War."

The Biden administration suggested Duda's call to raise the defense spending target for NATO countries may be, at least for the time being, overly ambitious.

"I think the first step is to get every country meeting the 2% threshold, and we've seen improvement of that," State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said. "But I think that's the first step before we start talking about an additional proposal."

Biden invited Duda and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk for meetings to mark the 25th anniversary of Poland's accession to NATO, a historic step Poland took into the West after breaking free from Moscow's sphere of influence after decades of communist rule.

The visit also comes amid a standoff in Washington between Biden, a Democrat, and House Republicans on Ukraine funding. House Republicans have blocked a $118 billion bipartisan package that includes $60 billion in Ukraine funding, as well as funds for Israel, Taiwan and U.S. border security.

Speaking to reporters before boarding his plane in Warsaw, Duda said while the talks in Washington would celebrate an anniversary, they would above all focus on European security going forward and "about Russian imperial policy, which has returned."

The visit also gives Biden another opportunity to showcase how his view of NATO, a 32-member transatlantic military alliance, contrasts with that of the likely 2024 Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump.

Trump has said that when he was president, he warned NATO allies that he "would encourage" Russia "to do whatever the hell they want" to countries that are "delinquent" in meeting the alliance's defense spending target. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the visit by the Polish leaders was an opportunity to reflect on the countries' shared "ironclad commitment to the NATO alliance, which makes us all safer."

Fear is deepening across Europe about Ukraine's fate as its ammunition stocks run low and as Russia makes gains on the battlefield in Ukraine, reversing its weak military performance at the start of a war launched in February 2022.

Duda and Tusk, who are also scheduled to meet with U.S. lawmakers while in Washington, are expected to add their voices to calls for House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., to advance a Senate-passed aid package. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni have also visited Washington in recent weeks to emphasize the impact the country's impasse on Ukraine funding is having on Europe.

"The situation is really dire on the frontline," said Michal Baranowski, managing director of Warsaw-based GMF East, part of the German Marshall Fund think tank. "We are not talking about something that can be fixed by June or July but needs to be fixed in March or April."

During his State of the Union address last week, Biden said, "If anybody in this room thinks Putin will stop at Ukraine, I assure you: He will not."

It is the first time in a quarter-century for a Polish president and prime minister to be in Washington at the same time and the first for both leaders to be welcomed at the White House at the same time, according to Polish media. The gesture is widely seen as an acknowledgment of the seriousness of this historical moment, with Russian strength growing as that of Ukraine wanes.