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The NATO Summit in Chicago: A Central European Perspective

The NATO Summit in Chicago: A Central European PerspectiveNATO summits have always been exceptional events. In fact, some of the most recent ones went down in history for both positive and negative reasons. The one to be held in Chicago will be no exception, especially as it will be the first NATO summit in the United States in 13 years. Central Europe, with the Baltic States included, is one of those regions in the transatlantic sphere that in particular awaits summit’s outcome. Indeed, being a hingepoint on the Euro-Atlantic fringe – with deep uncertainties about America’s long-term regional commitment in the face of politically unpredictable or military muscular neighbors – makes you long for clear declarations. Will the NATO summit in Chicago bring any security affirmations to the Central European states?

One can list six aspects which remain of crucial significance to Central Europe.

First, the entire strategic environment is undergoing a significant evolution. As the strategic centre of gravity is shifting towards Asia and the Pacific, with China and India gaining increasingly in importance, the U.S. clearly wants Europe to take on more responsibility for the continent and its neighborhood. In these circumstances, the NATO summit should underline the importance and durability of the transatlantic link as well as demonstrate that Europe and the USA can effectively tackle the challenges in the Euro-Atlantic area and beyond.

Second, NATO should remain a military-political alliance with a core mission to guarantee security of its members. Therefore, the importance of the collective defense clause contained in Article 5 of the Washington Treaty as well as the necessary military capabilities to cope with that task should be underlined. Moreover, Central Europe impatiently waits for the final decision concerning the form of the NATO military exercise Steadfast Jazz (a live exercise – LIVEX vs. a command post exercise – CPX) that will take place in the Baltic States and Poland in 2013. From the regional perspective, a live exercise – with troops and equipment – would give the armed forces from various states a chance to enhance cooperation and interoperability with the allies. Moreover, it would be an important sign of both the effectiveness of the Alliance as well as solidarity between its members.

Third, since there is no hope for increasing defense expenditures, the existing budgets need to be spent in a smarter way. For Central Europe the implementation of the “smart defense” initiative would bring not only tangible savings, but would significantly shore up its defense and security capabilities. In fact, “smart defense” could help some countries in the region to avoid being shoved out to a periphery of peripheries. However, one should note that NATO’s initiative should remain complementary to the “pooling and sharing” project undertaken by the EU. There is no room for a duplication of efforts when there is a dire need to save money.

Fourth, the missile defense project should be continued without any delays. Central Europe will be especially interested in implementing in a timely manner the schedule of the American part of the NATO-wide MD: the European Phased Adaptive Approach. Phases III and IV of this project have been vigorously contested by Russia. A NATO missile defense system will be built for purely defensive reasons and as transparent as possible. Therefore, the Central European states anxiously take note of Russia’s declarations that necessary military retaliation measures will be imposed. In fact, it is still not clear what will be the military purpose of the S-300 and S-400 systems to be installed in the Kaliningrad Oblast. Moreover, the creeping militarization of the Oblast raises serious doubts about the true intentions of the Russian Federation in the region.

Fifth, despite multiple tensions, NATO should seek possible methods to reestablish cooperation with Russia. Nobody knows it better than the Central European states that a true strategic partnership between NATO and Russia would bring tangible benefits to both parties. The stalemate in the negotiations over the MD system should not preclude other prospective fields of cooperation: fight against terrorism and cyber-terrorism, stabilization of Afghanistan, or confidence and security building measures. However, in order to make this partnership work, it should be founded on two principles: mutual active engagement and mutual accountability.

Last but not least, the NATO summit should reaffirm the future of the ISAF mission in Afghanistan and its end in the current formula by 2014. For the last decade, the Central European states have not been burying their heads in sand and have duly fulfilled their allied duties in Afghanistan. In fact, Estonia is the largest per capita military contributor to Afghanistan. There is no doubt that NATO will remain engaged in Afghanistan after 2014 and will continue to train and partially finance the Afghan National Security Forces. One should note, however, that the alliance will not play a leading role, as it should be handed over to the international community.

In 2009, Central European intellectuals and former policymakers wrote an open letter to the U.S. president Barack Obama administration in which they stated: “Despite the efforts and significant contribution of the new members, NATO today seems weaker than when we joined. In many of our countries it is perceived as less and less relevant – and we feel it”. As members of the younger generation, we feel that three years later, the Alliance has once again regained its relevance. It cannot be denied that it is still the greatest success story of military alliances in history. However, we still see the magnitude of challenges that it will have to cope with. The NATO summit in Chicago gives us hope that they will be properly tackled.

This article was written by Dominik P. Jankowski, Peter Pindják and Ansis Spridzāns.

Dominik P. Jankowski serves as Expert Analyst at the National Security Bureau of the Republic of Poland and is pursuing a doctorate at the Warsaw School of Economics.

Peter Pindják serves as Chief State Counselor at the Bilateral Affairs Section of the Ministry of Defense of the Slovak Republic. He received an M.P.I.A. from the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.

Ansis Spridzāns serves as Senior Associate at the law firm SORAINEN in the Republic of Latvia. He is a lecturer at the School of Business Administration Turība.

Authors are members of the Atlantic Council’s Young Atlanticist NATO Working Group.

The authors’ arguments are their own and do not represent the views or opinions of the National Security Bureau of the Republic of Poland, the Slovak Ministry of Defense and the law firm SORAINEN.



Dominik P. Jankowski

Dominik P. Jankowski is a security policy expert, diplomat, and think-tanker. Currently he serves as Political Adviser and Head of the Political Section at the Permanent Delegation of the Republic of Poland to NATO.