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The Warsaw NATO Summit and Its Implications for the Polish–American Bilateral Relationship

a_macierewiczPoland’s Minister Of Defense, Antoni Macierewicz, speech at the Atlantic Council, July 22, 2016

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Warsaw Summit took place in a very special time and space. The Western World is facing challenges that may permanently decide about its future. New threats related to the Russian expansion in the East, particularly the invasion of Ukraine, as well as the growing problem of migration and terrorism in the South, require a firm and coherent answer. I believe that the decisions made during this Summit will help to strengthen the Western World and its reconstruction, basing upon the common values that we all share.

Also, the place of the Summit was exceptional. In 1920, the Polish army defeated the Bolsheviks near Warsaw, which was one of the most important battles in the history of mankind. It prevented Europe from being conquered by the communist hordes and postponed suffering from the horrors of the Soviet occupation. Two weeks ago we managed to find solutions to growing perils from the East and South in the same place, although this time we used diplomacy and deterrence.

I dare say that the NATO Summit in Warsaw was of historical importance. For Poland, it is second only to the accession to NATO itself. The enhanced Forward Presence, composed of troops of the Western Allies on the Eastern Flank and the provisions that we made regarding the Southern Flank, constitute a new reality. We may finally feel fully-fledged members of the Alliance. I am very grateful to the governments which decided to embark themselves with the obligations of becoming framework nations for Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. I bow to the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany and the United States respectively. From now on, Russia cannot decide which countries we want to invite to deploy their troops in our territory. We welcome the new quality of deterrence that the enhanced Forward Presence embodies. We also welcome the tailored forward presence that was established for Romania and Bulgaria.

The decisions made in Warsaw increase the Alliance’s capabilities in dealing with challenges and threats from all strategic directions. In the same time, we improved the security of the NATO citizens. These were our aims before the Summit. I am very glad that we achieved them. We reinforced the deterrence and defence policy of NATO, adapting them to the changing international environment.

Poland is aware that the implementation of these decisions requires an increased effort on behalf of all of NATO. We realize how much it is relevant to our country. We are located in the center of a vulnerable flank while providing strategic depth to the NATO forces in the entire region. We know what the expectations of our Allies are. Proportionally to our capabilities, we are ready to take greater responsibility for the Alliance and the security of the Eastern and Southern Flanks. We have been and we will remain engaged in all NATO activities improving our collective security.

And these are not just words. For years, we have been participating in the Baltic Air Policing Missions. This summer, we will begin the same kind of mission over Romania and Bulgaria. Our company of motorized infantry is serving on a rotational basis in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. During the Summit, we made a decision to support Canada as a framework nation for Latvia. On 24 May this year, together with the Ministers of Defense of the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, we decided to provide rotational presence of V4 military forces in the Baltic States. As Romania offered to send their troops to Poland, we also made a decision to deploy ours in their territory.

Together with the USA, the UK, Greece and Estonia, we are one of only five NATO members who fulfill their obligations related to the level of military expenditures. Right now we spend 2% of our GDP on defense but we plan to increase that to 3%. This will make us second only to our American friends.

The Summit brought important decisions in other fields as well. We reinforced the cooperation between NATO and the EU. We made a breakthrough resolution to consider cyberspace an operational domain. This will also increase the competences of NATO in countering cyber threats.

All these decisions show that the NATO is an alliance that is strong and demonstrates solidarity, aptly reacting to the changes in its environment. However, they will not have any importance if we do not start implementing them quickly. To achieve that, we will need a very practical involvement and financial contribution on behalf of all the Allies. And still, new threats and challenges are emerging.

In this context, we are very concerned about the recent unrest and attempted coup d’etat in Turkey—the key player to rebuild stability in the Middle East. This kind of turbulences may only serve the interests of Russia.

Now, let me emphasize the role of Turkey within NATO. It is a country with the second greatest land army in the Alliance, with the Allied Land Command located in its territory, and also the one that holds the frontline against Syria and direct threats from the Middle East. It would be very bad if the potential of the Turkish armed forces and their morale decreased. The migrant crisis might escalate again. Should this happen, we would have to face the need of a serious adaptation of our strategic doctrine. Other states would have to be reinforced in order to hold the Southern flank. The Eastern Flank would become considerably more vulnerable. States like Poland and Romania would have to build up their defence capabilities. Political and military cooperation in Central Eastern Europe would reach a new dimension. NATO would probably also have to look for new allies elsewhere. The role of Ukraine and Georgia would become pivotal.

I would also like you to pay special attention to all the issues related to the latter two. The first of them is crucial to understand and design all kinds of the Allied strategies. Ukraine is at war and it bears the burdens of protecting all of Europe from Russian expansion. They need us and we need them. Crimea and Donbas have to return to Ukraine, as well as South Ossetia and Abkhazia to Georgia—the first victim of Russian imperialism in the 21st century. Without restoring elementary international order and respecting the fundamental principles of international law, reconstruction of order and peace in Europe will not be possible.

Now, how will all of this affect Polish–American bilateral cooperation? Firstly, let me observe that we have a very long history of Polish–American brotherhood of arms, coming back to the 18th century and the Polish generals Tadeusz Kościuszko and Kazimierz Pułaski. Later we had Merian Cooper and American pilots who helped us in the creation of the Polish Air Force. We fought arm-in-arm during the World War Two. After the war, Polish émigrés helped the USA in shaping their armed forces and intelligence, and Col. Ryszard Kukliński, codename Jack Strong, passed invaluable intelligence information to the CIA.

More recently, we fought together in Iraq and Afghanistan. I know that both Polish and American soldiers mutually consider themselves the most trustful allies in the battlefield. We are also very grateful for the opportunity of studies that our young officers enjoy in American military academies in Annapolis, West Point and Colorado Springs.

Let me also mention the excellent cooperation we have had with American generals and commanders, who have always been the most welcome guests in Poland. My personal gratitude goes to generals Phil Breedlove, Ben Hodges, Mark Milley or most recently, Curtis Scaparotti.

We are sure that the best is yet to come. We are glad that the USA took the responsibility of becoming a framework nation for Poland. We are also very thankful for the decision to deploy an Armored Brigade Combat Team (ABCT) starting February 2017. The engagement of the United States will be of crucial importance to the future of the enhanced Forward Presence. It will create a solid framework for the Polish–US defense partnership. We are now preparing to host US troops on Polish territory, and we will be ready exactly as the Polish proverb says it: Gość w dom, Bóg w dom—When you host a guest in your home, you are hosting God.

If I were to sum up the results of the NATO Summit for the Polish–US bilateral relationship, I would use this one sentence which has been the essence of our common military tradition: To Our Freedom and Yours.

Thank you.

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