What kind of NATO do we need? A Polish view

By Amb. Prof. Jerzy M. Nowak

The situation that has developed after the Russian intervention in Crimea and the intimidation of Ukraine caused serious concerns and feelings of insecurity in the region, and in Poland in particular. Priority has been given to political and diplomatic efforts to solve the crisis. However, keeping in mind that the North Atlantic Alliance continues to be the foundation of Polish security, a question is oft-raised: what kind of NATO do we need in view of the Ukrainian crisis, should it escalate in an uncontrollable way? The following provides answers from a Polish perspective:

First and foremost, Poland needs to ensure that Art. 5 of the Washington Treaty is implemented properly.  It needs to guarantee that if Poland or one of the three Baltic states is attacked, assistance from other allies comes without slightest delay and automatically for the purposes of defending strategic positions, command centres, airports, bases and warehouses, the infrastructure, sea and river ports, etc. Everything possible should be done, so that in the moment of truth or "zero hour", the North Atlantic Council will not turn out to be just a coffee shop, a constantly debating body with no decision-making powers.

Second, we need the Alliance to be trustworthy in implementing Art. 5 and to have sufficient defence capabilities, including in the area of territorial defence. This requires: a credible deterrence system, the correct functioning of updated contingency plans, and defence planning in case of a threat to the Alliance that necessitates acting in accordance with Art. 5. NATO must continue observing suitable military exercises and sustain the viability of Defence and Deterrence Posture Review (DDPR). This means pursuing a proper evolution of the integrated air and missile defence systems, efficient NATO Response Force (NRF), and other territorial defence forces. Considerable weaknesses may be observed in NATO's exercises in these areas. As NATO undertakes it’s so-called “slimming operation”, Poland would insist that it continue investments in defence infrastructure, assistance capabilities in the case of aggression, and the right kind of military exercises and training.

Third, it should be an alliance that will keep the USA interested in Europe and NATO in particular, which is heavily stressed by Polish external security policy.

Fourth, Poland needs a military alliance that would make the various security levels of its members theoretically and practically equal; it means inter alia eradication of formal, informal and psychological differences between "old" and "new" members. It also needs an alliance that cooperates closely with the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) and with the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) as a kind of "military arm".

Fifth, Poland needs an alliance that would ensure implementation of the effective, common double-track policy towards the Russian Federation: its inclusion into Europe, while simultaneously strongly opposing its neo-imperialist tendencies. Such an alliance must  take into account the nature of the strategic situation of Poland and other states in the region, together with the need for Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia to get closer to NATO in the context of their potential membership.

Sixth, it is in the interest of Poland and other states in the region that they adequately take part in the NATO policy decision-making process, especially in regard to a common policy towards the Russian Federation.

Whether or not NATO is shaped in this way depends to a certain extent on the activity of Polish diplomacy, assuming the position of a subject, designing smart internal coalitions to pursue constructive goals, playing the role of the advocate of the states in the region and Ukraine, and Polish experts being appointed to influential positions in the NATO International Secretariat on a larger scale.

It is feasible to realise the Polish vision of NATO as a strong, successful collective and cooperative defence partner, empathetic towards the security needs in the Central European region, operating effectively as a political body with international partners and having institutions deliver on their promises. Polish security policy needs to make sure these goals are achieved, build internal public support for the Alliance, and strengthen its defence and deterrence capabilities as integral contribution to NATO's defence capabilities.

04. Oct 2017 by Intern

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