NATO summit. Alliance renews its marriage vows-1

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* The alliance should renew its vows in Warsaw – loudly and clearly enough to be heard in Moscow.

The history of modern Poland used to be a story of annexation and perennial partitions — a subjugated nation that time and again has fallen prey to more powerful neighbors.

Poland was sometimes regarded as a geopolitical trouble spot. At the Yalta Conference in February 1945 — a summit that unfortunately saw Great Britain and the United States concede our country to Josef Stalin – U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt even said that Poland had been a headache to the world for more than five centuries.

But now, it is a headache no longer. Since Poland signed up for NATO in 1999, since becoming a full member of the alliance and the European Union, we have been a robust and reliable partner. Our troops have stood strongly shoulder-to-shoulder with Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Poland and the United States are now more than strategic partners: We are close friends and allies with shared values and interests. Regrettably, Poland’s previous leadership neglected relations with the United States, but the new Law and Justice government wants to rebuild them and, as equal partners, bring our countries even closer together.

We all cannot escape difficult geopolitical reality:

  • We are witnessing a dramatic deterioration of the security situation in Europe’s eastern and southern neighborhoods, including directly on Poland’s doorstep.
  •  So we are pressing our allies to take a more dynamic approach to NATO, one that recognizes the menace posed by a restless and intrusive leadership in Moscow.
  •  It is not the time for passivity or complacency.
  • NATO’s Eastern flank must be strengthened to ensure real security for Poland and the region. We have to send a powerful message in defense of democracy and respect for the sovereignty and integrity of international borders.

As Russia flexes its muscles on Poland’s – and NATO’s – eastern border, the only rational response is to tighten transatlantic solidarity. To paraphrase President John F. Kennedy: “History has made us friends. Economics has made us partners, and necessity has made us allies.”

Poland and the United States have been long-term allies since the Polish and American general Tadeusz Kościuszko, friend and advisor of George Washington, built West Point and helped win the Revolutionary War. Now we share not only the same norms and values but also a special interest in European security. That is why both sides of the Atlantic need to be concerned that institutions set up to defuse regional tension and foster dialogue – such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe – are being sidelined.

Their soft power is ignored and discounted while our hard power and resolve are constantly being challenged. This is creating a vacuum that is being exploited by the Russian leadership. It is increasingly drawn to the politics of force. Poles — but not only Poles — well remember the misery inflicted on 20th century Europe by such policies.

Poland is not in the business of causing political migraines. NATO remains the cornerstone of Polish and transatlantic security. Warsaw has demonstrated its credibility as a reliable, active member of NATO, having raised military spending to the benchmark of 2 percent of GDP. But it has earned the right to give its friends and allies a bit of a shake.

What we are telling our friends is that the alliance does not in itself guarantee security. What Europe and the United States need is a more active, energetic NATO that takes practical steps to ensure the real safety of its citizens.

And the place to start is the alliance’s Eastern flank. Only a substantial investment in infrastructure, the deployment of military units on the ground – reinforced by precise contingency plans in the event of attack – can give Poland and its neighbors the security we need. These measures are not meant to provoke anybody. Rather, they are important steps toward reducing the risk of conflict. Build up defenses and we eliminate the temptation to test NATO’s cohesion.

The founding principle of NATO is to deter an external aggressor, share military capacities, and demonstrate the solidarity to make that deterrence credible. It means re-invigorating NATO’s basic tenets. It means the United States sticking to the idea that it shares a common worldview with its European partners — and Western Europeans recognizing the geopolitical reality by extending more support to their allies on the vulnerable eastern fringes of NATO.

The deployment is an important step toward greater security of the region and the whole continent and goes a long way in strengthening NATO’s Eastern flank.


* * *

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  1. Summit meetings are often held at key moments in the Alliance’s evolution – they are not regular meetings, but important junctures in the Alliance’s decision-making process.

  2. The Warsaw Summit, which will take place on 8-9 July 2016, will be a key milestone for the Alliance. Allied leaders will take the next steps in ensuring the Alliance’s collective defence. Strengthening and modernising NATO’s defence and deterrence posture will be at the heart of the Summit. Allies will also assess the long-term implications of the crisis on NATO’s relations with Russia and consider the next steps.

  3. Many NATO partners are also involved in Syria (US, France, the United Kingdom and Turkey). Germany also contributes there. We support the coalition with Tornado reconnaissance aircraft. In Iraq we support the Kurdish Peshmerga with equipment and training.

  4. From a German perspective, it is important to stress that Poland’s security is also our security. Bilateral co-operation with Poland has reached unprecedented levels. A German Infantry Battalion is subordinated to a Polish unit. There is a Polish Tank Battalion subordinated to a German brigade.

  5. In my view it makes little sense to continue the ongoing discussion as to whether NATO combat troops should be stationed on a permanent or rotational basis, as the decision by the US to send an armoured brigade to Eastern Europe effectively ended that debate.

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