President Donald Trump’s first stop on his European tour last year was Poland. Now, Polish President Andrzej Duda returned the gesture with a trip to Washington DC.
Things seemingly went well for the two. Duda proposed a permanent US military installation in Poland—named Fort Trump—and Trump vowed to consider the offer for strategic and financial reasons. As with most visits by foreign dignitaries, the official White House photographer took many photos.
To commemorate the visit of President Duda and First Lady Agata Kornhauser-Duda, Trump posted a selection of those pictures on Twitter. He captioned the Tuesday afternoon post:
“Today, it was my great honor to welcome [Polish President] Andrzej Duda of Poland to the [White House]!”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 18, 2018
The photos chosen show a variety of activities the two leaders engaged in, such as a joint press conference, meetings with Trump’s administration and a symbolic signing behind the Oval Office’s famed Resolute Desk. But one photo created backlash for Presidents Duda and Trump back in Poland.
This is the photo.
At the end of their Oval Office meeting, the two Presidents signed a symbolic pact vowing to boost defense, energy, trade and security ties between their nations. By Wednesday morning, the story of the photo appeared across Poland on every major news site.
It is all in the positioning. Trump appears to scowl at the camera as he sits in his chair at the center of the desk. Duda must stand at the corner and bend over to make his signature, but still smiles for the camera.
Polish radio correspondent Pawel Zuchowski posted on Twitter:
“It’s nice of President Trump that he moved a bit, because otherwise our president would have had to sign the document on his knees.”
Miło ze strony prezydenta Trumpa, że się trochę przesunął, bo nasz prezydent musiałby dokument podpisać na kolanie. Straszna żenada ze strony Białego Domu. Nie sądziłem, że tak można potraktować gościa w Białym Domu, gdzie wszystko wydaje się być dopracowane. @RMF24pl pic.twitter.com/FDEziZmCmP
— Paweł Żuchowski (@p_zuchowski) September 19, 2018
Polish newspapers went to scholars in diplomacy for their take on the photo. International diplomacy expert Janusz Sibora called it an “offense.” He stated:
“The message is clear: Americans do not respect Poles. If we sign such an important document in that way, we should ask ourselves whether this wasn’t detrimental to the honor of Poland.”
Poles made comparisons with other signings with world leaders, such as Trump with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
President @realDonaldTrump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Tuesday signed a ‘comprehensive’ document after a series of meetings in Singapore where the U.S. pushed for Pyongyang’s nuclear disarmament. https://t.co/DcyiETW4s3 pic.twitter.com/LeMXu8r1Ox
— Fox News (@FoxNews) June 12, 2018
Photos of that event showed the two men seated equally at one table, not one seated center of his own desk while the other hovered at the edge.
However, there may be extenuating circumstances.