Inclusive cross-border regional collaboration has been and will remain one of the pillars of the EU integration and during the current tumult of EU financial woes it might be one of the solutions that brings tangible results, e.g., in defense matters. It might also constitute a way to counterbalance an alarming process in the EU consisted of both the rise of national egoisms (the renationalization of foreign and security policies) and particularistic approaches towards new challenges and threats. Therefore, a successful cooperation nowadays should avoid any signs of exclusiveness.
Which group of countries can be set as an example in the security and defense field for the Central European states? It is my contention that the Nordic collaboration, based on the 2009 “Stoltenberg report,” should be and could be repeated on a V4 level. How V4 cooperation might become as effective and attractive to the U.S. as the one between the Nordic states? One should offer a set of four rules which will be called V4 four commandments: visibility, flexible leadership, active engagement and daring thinking.
Visibility: In order to exist in a broader political awareness on both side of the Atlantic the V4 should wave its flag wide and high! This should be done both by national diplomacies as well as by the strengthening of the role of the Visegrad Fund and its Secretariat. In fact, a common declaration for the NATO Summit in Chicago (prepared under the Czech Presidency of the Visegrad Group) should be perceived as an action assuring the V4 visibility.
Flexible leadership: The V4 has wisely chosen to collaborate within a relatively small group of countries. Nevertheless, at some point even in a small group a need to choose a leader arises. In the defense domain Poland appears to be a natural leader due to the size of its military capabilities and financial potential. The first step by Warsaw has been done: it declared the willingness to become a framework nation in the V4 Battle Group. However, in different fields – also related to broader security aspects (e.g., cyber security) – other V4 countries could and should play a leading role. Flexible leadership also means that all projects are open to all interested V4 parties and countries are free not to join.
Active engagement: Przemysław Grudziński, the former Polish Ambassador to the U.S., in his book “An Intelligent State” outlined a 10-point foreign policy strategy for a medium size country. One of his points could be called active and timely engagement and could be best embraced by a slogan: “propose, act, propose, act.” The same rule implies to the V4. What does it mean in practical terms for defense aspects? A faster implementation of the pooling and sharing/smart defense programs as well as an assured and sufficient level of military spending. Free riding does not seem as a smart solution, does it?
Daring thinking: Is directly linked to a far-sighted vision. In fact, in the defense domain this would first and foremost include a possibility of establishing a joint V4 air policing to be initiated by filling in the emerging Slovak capability gap with fighters from Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary. Moreover, this could also mean a closer collaboration in the field of space (Poland and Czech Republic are already members of the European Defence Agency). The V4 countries would determine whether to invest into a joint communications satellite launched in geosynchronous orbit or a series of remote sensing satellites placed in polar orbit. Not only would such space systems save money that are being spent on the purchases of commercial products, but the Visegrad Group would also significantly shore up its defense and security capabilities.
And what happens if the four Central European states obey all four commandments? The V4 will end up with a proper boxing strategy what basically means: do punch according to your weight. It may not be widely known but the total value of the Visegrad Group GDP is approximately 1 trillion USD. In terms of the purchasing power parity, the V4 as a single entity, is 15th in the world, ahead of the economies of Turkey or Australia. Therefore, it cannot be denied that Visegrad cooperation has the right prerequisites to succeed.
This article is based on a speech delivered by Dominik P. Jankowski at the Center for European Policy Analysis’ U.S.-Central Europe Strategy Forum, September 20-21, 2012, in Washington, D.C.