When NATO leaders converge on Warsaw for the alliance’s biennial summit, they will have plenty to discuss.
The summit, held at Warsaw’s National Stadium from July 8-9, will serve as both a coming-out party for Poland as a key NATO member and an opportunity for the alliance to ratify its modern goals and strategies two years after Russia’s invasion of Ukrainian territory.
So what are countries looking for from Warsaw? Unsurprisingly, many nations are going in with their own agendas, driven primarily by regional focuses.
Norway, for example, is looking for a focus on the High North region of Europe that could be imperiled by Russian naval forces. Øystein Bø, Norway’s state secretary in the Ministry of Defence, said at a May 19 event in Washington that “the maritime domain, in our opinion, needs a particular attention.
… NATO and its allies need to invest in high-end maritime capabilities. We need to improve and control arrangements. And we need to update contingency plans for the maritime plans.”
“These are key deliverables to ensure that NATO remains politically and militarily credible,” he said.
While not a NATO member, friendly nations such as Sweden are also watching the summit closely. Swedish Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist, one of the Swedish officials invited to Warsaw for the meeting, said the “most important” issue for his nation is a platform for regular discussions with NATO about the local security situation.
“Many of these countries that are around the Baltic Sea are members of NATO,” he told Defense News on June 7. “We are not a member but we are in the same environment, it is the same geographical environment, so we have common interests.”
The US, meanwhile, wants to see a greater commitment to burden sharing, as previewed by US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter in a June 20 speech.
“We’re encouraging our fellow allies to do more as well,” Carter said. “We’ve seen some progress from NATO allies on spending — since the 2 percent pledge made at the 2014 Wales Summit, the vast majority of allies have stopped making cuts, and most allies have also committed to at least small increases in defense budgets — but there’s still more to do. And that will certainly be discussed in Warsaw as well.”
The good news for Carter is there appears to be an agreement among those nations closest to Russia that more equitable burden-sharing is needed.
In his May comments, Bø called for Europe to “step up to the plate. We must invest more in our own security and ensure more balanced burden-sharing across the Atlantic.”
While local concerns will drive each country, there are some overarching themes that NATO observers are carefully watching.
The first is the need to project a strong, united NATO in the face of Russian aggression, something Philip Breedlove, the recently retired four-star US Air Force general who served as the top uniformed official in NATO, highlighted in June 8 comments at the Atlantic Council in Washington.
The nations must “very demonstrably” talk about the unity of the alliance, in part by following through on commitments made at the 2014 Wales Summit, Breedlove said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, attends a military exercise in the Orenburg region of Russia on Sept. 19, 2015. (Photo: Aleksey Nikolskyi/AFP via Getty Images)
“We have almost completely, structurally, finished the work that Wales gave us” Breedlove said. “But we need to show sustainment in what we started” and not lose track of that progress.
For Adam Thomson, UK permanent representative to NATO since 2014, that means a focus on “modern deterrence,” making it clear to Russia that invading NATO territory would be unwise without relying on a Cold War-style military buildup.
NATO “needs to be really clear that it is capable of meeting its treaty requirement to defend all its allies, and that requires Warsaw to set out both a model for modern deterrence and clear commitment to doing it,” Thomson said in a May interview. “And I think NATO will do that at Warsaw.”
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