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Od 25 maja 2018 r. obowiązuje w Polsce Rozporządzenie Parlamentu Europejskiego i Rady (UE) 2016/679 z dnia 27 kwietnia 2016 r. w sprawie ochrony osób fizycznych w związku z przetwarzaniem danych osobowych i w sprawie swobodnego przepływu takich danych oraz uchylenia dyrektywy 95/46/WE (ogólne rozporządzenie o ochronie danych, zwane także RODO).

W związku z powyższym przygotowaliśmy dla Państwa informacje dotyczące przetwarzania przez Wojskowy Instytut Wydawniczy Państwa danych osobowych. Prosimy o zapoznanie się z nimi: Polityka przetwarzania danych.

Prosimy o zaakceptowanie warunków przetwarzania danych osobowych przez Wojskowych Instytut Wydawniczy – Akceptuję

Return to the Roots

NATO recognized Russia as the most significant and immediate threat, formally invited Sweden and Finland to join the Alliance, and set to reinforce collective defense mechanisms. All this confirms that the post-Cold War chapter in world history can be considered as closed.

Robert Pszczel, at the time the spokesperson for NATO Headquarters, in November 2010 was practically ready to leave for Moscow and assume the position of the head of the local NATO Information Office. The mission of that institution was to familiarize the Russian public opinion with the work and tasks of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. NATO’s decision-makers had been satisfied to notice that the matters of common security raised a lot of interest in Russia. However, before his arrival in Moscow, the diplomat stopped over in Lisbon, where a NATO Summit was taking place at the time. Today, Robert Pszczel, now an expert at the Kazimierz Pułaski Foundation, recalls: “The leaders of the member states approved a new strategic concept at that particular summit. The conclusion that could be drawn from the meeting was that, simply put, there was no existing direct threat that the Alliance would have to face, and if such a threat was to present itself, NATO would have enough time to react accordingly.”

Only 12 years have passed since those events, though now it seems like an eternity ago. The Moscow office does not exist anymore. In November 2021, Russians decided to shut it down, and their military expert, Igor Korotchenko, stated that for some time the institution had been acting like a Trojan horse. “The main goal of those missions was implementing the orientation towards NATO, discovering Russia’s potential weak points, and cooperation with young personnel that would be capable of taking over the key positions in our national government structures,” he told the RIA Novosti agency. Several months later, Russians attacked Ukraine and until this day they have been waging a bloody war there, making it clear at every step of the way that they are in fact fighting with the West. NATO has also changed. Its response to the Kremlin’s actions was a new strategic concept. This time, it clearly states and defines the greatest threat. It is Russia. The hitherto post-Cold War chapter of world history has officially ended.

New Modus Operandi

Wojciech Lorenz, PhD, an analyst at the Polish Institute of International Affairs (PISM), has no doubts: NATO is returning to its roots. “The Alliance was created as a defense pact. However, after the dissolution of the USSR the paradigm changed,” he explains. “Of course, NATO was to maintain its collective defense capability, but the main focus was placed on building a security system which would not be limited to NATO member states. Russia was also supposed to be an element of that new architecture,” adds the expert. That project ultimately fell through, though. “Most Russian elites never accepted such a vision of the world. Their representatives think in the categories taken straight from the times of the USSR and are very keen on reversing the unfavorable, in their opinion, changes that have taken place in the world in the last few decades,” emphasizes Lorenz. The result: annexation of Crimea, starting a war in Donbas, and now a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. “NATO’s reaction was a return to collective defense. Its leaders now put a lot of emphasis on the importance of Article 5,” says the PISM expert. The mentioned article says that an attack against one ally is considered as an attack against all allies, and other members should assist the attacked member.

There is more, though. “NATO leaders, along with defining the threat, presented a new model of functioning of the allied forces,” indicates Robert Pszczel. Above all, they announced significant reinforcement of high readiness forces. Currently, the Alliance has a 40,000-strong NATO Response Force (NRF). After implementing the changes, the number of soldiers ready to be redeployed immediately to regions of threat will grow to 300,000. The Alliance is also increasing its presence on the eastern flank. International battalions stationing in Lithuania or Estonia will be expanded to form brigades. On top of all this, there are also plans of the USA itself. President Joe Biden, who was a guest at the summit in Madrid, declared that Americans will locate two F-35 squadrons in Great Britain, send an additional land forces brigade to Romania, increase the number of destroyers at the Naval Station Rota in Spain from four to six, and place permanent headquarters for the US Army’s V Corps in Poland. “This last gesture has not only a practical, but also a symbolic meaning. During the Cold War, the V Corps was responsible for the protection of the Fulda Gap [an area in Hesse, Germany], across which the forces of the Warsaw Pact were to march to the West,” remarks Pszczel.

According to experts, the decisions made in Madrid can safely be called historic, but, as they say, the devil is always in the details. “We still don’t know the particulars of some of these decisions,” points out Damian Szacawa, PhD, a political scientist at the Maria Curie-Skłodowska University and the Institute of Central Europe. “For instance, we still don’t know what share each of the member states will have in the 300,000-strong high readiness forces,” he adds. The time of executing particular obligations is of essence. “Strengthening the eastern flank is often connected with expanding the infrastructure. For small countries, such as Lithuania, it’s a significant logistic and financial challenge. Therefore, the date of deploying a NATO brigade there was set for 2027. The same goes for increasing the capabilities of individual armies. Decisions are made quickly, but their implementation usually takes months or even years. Meanwhile, the threat is here and now,” emphasizes Szacawa. Robert Pszczel seems to think in similar categories. “The paradox is that authoritarian states will always have some advantage over democratic states, and even more so over alliances created by such states,” he emphasizes. “At the beginning of July, Vladimir Putin switched Russian industry into the war mode with a single gesture, after which he called in his deputies to the Duma to validate his decision. In the West, the first person to raise a similar matter was Emmanuel Macron, President of France, who talked about the necessity to develop the military sector. However, in democratic states it is a complicated and time-consuming process, in which the politicians have to consider the sentiment of the society,” adds Pszczel.

Nevertheless, the experts remain single-minded about one thing: NATO made a move in the right direction. Besides, regardless of any conditions concerning military or economic potential, NATO invariably beats Russia hands down, and soon, this disproportion should become even larger due to Sweden and Finland knocking on NATO’s door.

The Power of Scandinavians

“It is a true revolution,” admits Katarina Tracz, the Director of Stockholm Free World Forum (Frivärld), a think tank dealing with matters of security and Sweden’s foreign affairs. “Neutrality had been one of the foundations of the Swedish identity for almost 200 years. The attitude we had been practicing for decades, changed within a few months,” she adds. Of course, there have been some deviations from this uniform policy. The most important one happened in 1995, when Sweden joined the EU. “During the Cold War, the Swedish intelligence also cooperated with the US intelligence, but those operations were obviously top secret. The majority of society was still against joining NATO,” explains Tracz. It did not even change after Sweden tightened its relations with the Alliance after the collapse of the Warsaw Pact. At that time, the Swedish army began to participate in various joint exercises within the Partnership for Peace, and its soldiers went on a mission to Afghanistan. The real changes came only now, with the Russian aggression in Ukraine. Reason: the neighboring Finland started to seriously consider joining NATO. “Swedish politicians decided that, due to strategic reasons, we shouldn’t remain alone. The majority of citizens were of similar opinion,” explains Katarina Tracz.

“Finland’s decision to start the quest for NATO membership can be considered a phenomenon of a kind,” thinks Jyri Lavikainen of the Finnish Institute of International Affairs. “The idea itself didn’t come from the government, but the common citizens. The authorities didn’t have to persuade the people it was the right thing to do. It was the representatives of the public that started to exert pressure on the politicians,” he explains. Up until now, the Finns had assumed that if Russia was to start a conflict in the Baltic Sea region, ad-hoc coalitions of states sharing similar interests would be created to repel the threat. On the other hand, staying outside NATO, Finland would not have to engage in a war involving the Alliance. “The decision to stay outside NATO was always strictly pragmatic, never ideological. That’s why it wasn’t hard to change it,” explains Lavikainen. Just like in the case of Sweden, the decisive factor was the Russian attack on Ukraine. “It confirmed that the full-scale war in Europe doesn’t have to be a question of a distant future,” emphasizes Lavikainen.

The decision to admit both states to NATO was ultimately made during the summit in Madrid. The procedure is being executed at an express pace, although there is still doubt as to the interpretation of the provisions included in the trilateral memorandum signed by the two Nordic states and Turkey, and the ratification of the accession treaties by Ankara. However, if everything goes according to plan, Sweden and Finland should be able to join the Alliance before the end of 2022. What can they offer? “Both states can boast quite an impressive military potential,” says Szacawa. It is true that Finland has less than 20,000 soldiers in active service, but within the first month of war it is able to mobilize almost 280,000 trained reservists. “If the conflict lasts between three and six months, the Finns can deploy even 900,000 troops – and we are talking about a country with a population of 5.5 million,” points out the expert. On top of that, they have an extensive and incredibly efficient crisis management system, including shelters for two-thirds of the citizens. “The shelters in Finland have stocks of food, medicines, fresh water, even dog food, which are regularly renewed,” says the political scientist. “Russians know that Finns would not be able to protect their entire border of 1,300 km. But they also know that if they ever went deeper into Finland’s territory, the resistance would be lethal,” he adds.

The situation of Sweden is a little more difficult. “After 2008, the country limited its defense budget. Now, it is slowly rebuilding its potential,” says Szacawa. Sweden has a strong navy with five submarines and five advanced Visby class corvettes. “It can also boast a modern defense industry,” adds the political scientist.

Accepting the two new members will also significantly influence the strategic situation in the region. “NATO will be closer to Saint Petersburg, the second largest city in Russia, as well as Primorsk Port, with a large oil terminal,” reminds Szacawa. “The Alliance will also strengthen its presence on the Baltic Sea and in the Arctic. Possible defense of these regions as well as implementing NATO’s deterrence policy there will become easier,” remarks Lavikainen. Of course, there are also questions to be answered. For instance, we do not know the strength of forces NATO will want to engage on the north flank. “Sweden has already made it clear it doesn’t want any nuclear weapons deployed on its territory. Finland, however, has made no such stipulation,” emphasizes Szacawa.

Challenge from the Far East

Meanwhile, NATO, although focused on the threat coming from Russia, is looking with growing interest beyond allied territories. Its new strategic concept, for the first time in history, makes a reference to China. “China is not our adversary, but we must understand how significant of a challenge they represent,” emphasized in Madrid Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary General of NATO . A similar entry was included in the official document, which immediately caused rage in Beijing. “NATO claims that other countries pose challenges, but it is NATO that is creating problems around the world and is a source of instability,” stated the representatives of the Mission of China to the EU.

However, experts indicate that calling China a challenge, and not a threat, is a bit like giving it a wink. The West is counting on drawing Beijing away from supporting Moscow. “China is in fact acting much more rationally than Russia. It supports Putin, but at the same time doesn’t go against the West. China is standing by to see what happens. Contrary to Russia, it is a power of global meaning, dependent on world processes. The food crisis that Russia is trying to create in Africa by blocking and destroying grain from Ukraine, can become a huge problem also for them,” says Robert Pszczel.

This is where the diplomatic subterfuge ends, however. “China is becoming an increasing problem for the West. It’s the only power that can pose a danger to the global leadership of the USA. NATO, although it’s by principle a regional organization, has to take this threat into account, even if only for the sake of making sure that in the future no US president questions the validity of American engagement in the activity of NATO,” thinks Lorenz. Besides, as the expert adds, the challenges of the modern world have long gone beyond the borders of the Alliance. NATO’s domains of operation now also include cyberspace and space. “Its leaders agree that Article 5 can be invoked also in the event of an attack in these two domains,” emphasizes Lorenz.

The World Has Changed Irreversibly

For the time being, the main question is how Moscow will react to the decisions taken in Madrid. “For some time now, the Russian army has been engaging in a number of provocations aimed against us. Their aircraft and ships are operating close to Swedish borders, violating them from time to time. We’d been expecting that the number of such incidents would increase after Sweden had announced its intention to join NATO, but it didn’t. I assume Russia is currently too engaged in the war in Ukraine to intensify operations elsewhere,” thinks Katarina Tracz. Jyri Lavikainen admits that this is also the reason why a Russian military action against Finland is now unlikely. “It will be years before Russia is ready to engage in another operation of such scale. Of course, we need to be ready for such a possibility, but for the time being, cyber attacks or various type of hybrid activities – such as triggering a migration crisis at Finnish borders – seem more likely to happen,” emphasizes the analyst.

According to Robert Pszczel, the problem with Russia is that it operates illogically. “Analyzing the possible moves of the Kremlin is harder now than in the Soviet times. Today, it seems, there is no power in Russia capable of opposing Putin, who seems to be more and more cut off from reality,” thinks the expert. “Russia is stuck in Ukraine. It turned out that its army is more up to the 20th than the 21st century standards. However, it can still cause a lot of damage. The West has to prepare, unfortunately, that Russians can attack at any time. Such a possibility was actually included in the documents from Madrid,” he adds. Therefore, the Alliance will undergo changes – it will continue to arm itself and prepare for operating in the realities of the new cold war. Will it welcome new states into the Alliance? “In my opinion, not any time soon. The speculations in the media on Japan joining NATO should be shelved alongside fairy tales. The Alliance was meant to be a North Atlantic treaty and I think it will stay that way,” emphasizes Lorenz. “The Open Door Policy will remain in force, but countries such as Georgia and Moldova will have to be very patient. NATO will now focus on strengthening collective defense mechanisms,” he concludes. According to Szacawa, the Alliance will keep supporting Ukrainians, but it will not want to risk an open conflict with Russia. One thing is for sure, though – after February 24, 2022, when the first Russian missiles fell on Kyiv and Kharkiv, and Putin’s tanks crossed the Ukrainian border, the world changed irreversibly.

COMMENTARY

Mariusz Błaszczak
Deputy Prime Minister
Minister of National Defense

The reaction of NATO – the most powerful defense alliance in history – to Russia’s unprovoked attack on an independent country was crucial to Europe and the world.

The war in Ukraine has remodeled the global security system. The threat that appeared at NATO’s eastern flank is not only military. Russia’s actions go much deeper. Economic blackmail, diplomatic pressure, global disinformation, hybrid activities similar to those on the Polish–Belarusian border – these are just several elements of the imperialist and aggressive policy of Moscow.

The NATO Summit in Madrid was the answer of the free and democratic world to Vladimir Putin’s actions. The decisions taken during that summit determine the perspective for the upcoming years. It is very important from our point of view, as NATO’s border state. Increasing the numerical strength of NATO’s high readiness forces from 40,000 to 300,000 troops is a clear signal of consolidating allied capabilities. Numerous, excellently equipped and trained, highly mobile forces, are the basis of NATO’s deterrence and defense doctrine. Also, NATO opened its door to Sweden and Finland. The Alliance is growing, becoming stronger, and it is doing all that unanimously. The invasion in Ukraine was an eye-opener for many people, particularly in the West, to the scale of threat coming from Russia.

The key factor that will increase the security of Poland is the creation on the territory of our country the permanent headquarters for the US Army’s V Corps. It will be a structure responsible for commanding the US land forces on NATO’s entire eastern flank. It is Poland’s success and it emphasizes the importance of security in our region. Today, permanent allied relations and systematic development of our national defense capabilities by increasing the numerical strength of our armed forces and their deep modernization, create the basis for Poland’s security and an effective defense doctrine.

Łukasz Zalesiński

autor zdjęć: INTS KALNINS/Reuters/Forum, NATO

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