Letter to participants of the Global Forum
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Precisely a year ago, I was opening the conference accompanying the NATO Summit in Warsaw, which also was co-organized by the Polish Institute of International Affairs. I then had a chance to deliver a speech that presented new threats to the Alliance, with a special focus on its Eastern and Southern Flanks. During the conference itself, I argued that NATO has to be strong and coherent to secure the future of Europe. In the same time, we were working on historic decisions that lead to some breakthrough changes in the way the Alliance answers those threats. My today’s speech on the adaptation of NATO to new security challenges is a good occasion to review the implementation of these provisions and to think about the future.
A year ago, I began my speech by presenting the importance of Warsaw as a place where in 1920 Poles stopped the Bolshevik invasion. By doing this, they saved the European civilization. Today, a day after President Trump delivered a speech so rich in historical parallels, I will also avail myself to refer to the past. In 2017 and 2018 respectively, we celebrate centenaries of three very important events.
Firstly, on 6 April 1917, the United States finally abandoned the policy of non-interfering in European affairs which derived from the so-called Monroe doctrine. By joining the First World War, a year later they restored peace in Europe. As we all remember, during the Second World War, it was also the United States that led to the victory over the Nazi Germany. What is important, in neither of those cases were the USA as powerful as they are now. The more important it is for them to engage in maintaining peace and stability in the world today. Yesterday’s speech of President Trump shows clearly that the reasons for which America abandoned isolationism are still of fundamental importance 100 years later.
Secondly, on 7 November 1917, the Bolshevik revolution broke out in Russia. There are only a few events in the history of mankind that brought so much evil and suffering. More than 100 million people fell victim to communist genocide in Russia, China, North Korea and other states. Billions were cast into living in oppression and misery. We still bear the consequences of that evil. In some of the regimes mentioned, there were no political changes at all. In others, power is held and minds influenced by officials of former communist parties or secret services. These threats are not gone at all. In many cases they evolved, which makes them even more dangerous.
Thirdly, in November 1918 Poland regained independence which is the highest value of all to us. It was the work of many politicians and commanders, of which Józef Piłsudski and Roman Dmowski are the most often mentioned ones. However, we should remember (and I am saying this three days after the American Independence Day) that also the Blue Army of General Józef Haller played an important role. And many of its soldiers were Polish Americans. I cannot forget about the peace plan of President Woodrow Wilson presented in his speech to Congress on 8 January 1918. The 13th point of it stated that one of the goals of the US foreign policy should be free and independent Poland.
All these historical allegories are still important. The threats coming from the East and South have again become substantial and it becomes very clear that they have common roots. Historic and contemporary ties of Russia with terrorism, as well as open cooperation with Iran, the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Syrian regime, responsible for using chemical weapons, leave very little doubt about that. Contrary to wishful thinking of some, Russia from the Arctic and North Korea through Afghanistan, Iran, South America to Georgia and Ukraine clearly shows that its role is only destructive. Regardless of geographical latitude, the Kremlin is trying to make a frontline of confrontation with the Free World as long as possible by using well-proven and tested methods. It threatens with military power and by conducting offensive exercises, which we are soon to see during the ZAPAD 17 maneuvers. I am not sure if everyone in this room knows that during the past editions, a nuclear attack against Warsaw was simulated. It is not surprising at all because Russia treats its nuclear arsenal as a natural addition to conventional forces and not a weapon of special use. A good example here is the doctrine of de-escalation by tactical nuclear attack. Moreover, Russia uses energy blackmailing. Unfortunately, the conditions for that are often created in cooperation with some of our allies. One must have very little empathy not to understand our fears of the Nordstream 2 project which directly threatens Polish energy security. Russia also conducts operations of political influence and disinformation or the „active measures”. Enriched by cyber dimension, they were re-discovered by the West anew although the Russian intelligence has been using them permanently for decades. As a former director of military counterintelligence, I can assure you that exerting political influence, disinformation, forgeries and murders are fundamental for Russian politics. From the military point of view, Russia did not present anything new during the invasion of Ukraine, except better integration of technological achievements. In this sense, there is no such phenomenon as a „hybrid war”. There only exists a fairly constant doctrine based on deception, destruction of the unity of the adversary and integration of all efforts of the entire state to pursue its imperial policies. Ladies and Gentlemen, it is not that Russia changed, it is the West that forgot what Russia is.
As in the past, the answer to these threats today may only be the Transatlantic Unity. It has to be the base of adaptation to new challenges. A credible enhanced Forward Presence of NATO on the Eastern Flank would not have been possible without the determination of the lead nations: the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Germany as well as those that supported them. Let me express my gratitude to all of them: Albania, Belgium, Croatia, Czechia, Denmark, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Slovenia and Spain. Dividing our community and attempts to separate Europe from America will end in a failure. A lot is said recently about Europe accelerating the integration in the areas of defense and military industry in order to gain independence from the United States. It is an entirely wrong understanding of the geopolitical situation - the West may exist only as the Transatlantic Unity. An internal separation will lead to its downfall. And NATO is the foundation of this unity. Such internal EU mechanisms as PESCO will be effective only if they are complementary with the Alliance. If they were to be an alternative, eventually they would lead to the destruction of the security system in Europe. It cannot be so that the most important provisions regulating the military industry will favor only the strongest states like Germany, Italy or France. The European Union, even after Brexit, will consist of 27 states, and each of them will have the right to a sovereign control over its most vulnerable spheres of existence. Both defense and migration policies belong to them. Not all EU members possess a potential for military procurement, however apart from the states already mentioned, we have to remember that Czechia, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and Sweden have to take care of their markets as well. It is their obligation towards their citizens and an issue of national interest. We understand very well that for the Southern NATO members, the inflow of millions of migrants is an enormous problem. We are ready to show our solidarity and help, including militarily. However, we consider the means proposed by the European Union as counterproductive and only worsening the situation. A forceful relocation to the states where the migrants do not want to stay would mean that we should detain them. Poland cannot accept that also due to humanitarian reasons. Not to mention the legal aspect, according to which only a small part of the migrants are really refugees. These, as long as they can prove their status, Poland always accepts. Not many people know that more than 1.2 million Ukrainian citizens stay in Poland. Before the Russian invasion in Crimea and Donbass in 2014, there were only 200 thousand. A separate issue is the shocking news about control deficiencies or negligence of immigration services. The terror threat is increasing because the criminals and terrorists can easily penetrate the EU and Schengen zone.
The earlier mentioned eFP is a good manifestation of the Transatlantic Unity. It is important to prolong the mandate of the eFP as far into the future as possible in order to demonstrate to the possible aggressor that in is not an ephemerid. We also very much appreciate the bilateral involvement of the USA, including the Armored Brigade Combat Team (ABCT) deployed in Poland and operating on rotational basis alongside the Eastern Flank. This kind of long-lasting and permanent presence may break the vicious circle of wars and genocide that Central Eastern Europe and the rest of the continent fell victim to in the past. It is worth remembering that both initiatives were among the most important decisions of the NATO Summit in Warsaw. The fact that we implemented them in just one year demonstrates how much we can achieve united. I also think that we should simplify the terminology for both enhanced and tailored Forward Presence (e.g. the multinational division in Romania) since they are in fact the same phenomenon. We should start using one definition for both of them.
In a broader regional context, a change of geographical axis of politics is important too. Thinking in the East-West categories is favorable to our adversaries but does not reflect the specific character of Central Eastern Europe. The Three Seas initiative that grew up on an earlier Intermarium doctrine proposes an entirely different perception – a North-South Axis. Our cultural, historical, economic and strategic bonds can play a positive role in stabilizing the entire Eurasia. The block of states from Scandinavia to Ukraine, the Balkans and even Turkey (despite the complicated situation in this country) represents a significant potential and vast experience in bilateral and multilateral cooperation. I think that the North-South partnership could be a geopolitical safety button for the East-West cooperation. The Three Seas is an pro-integration initiative, allowing for the completion of the harmonization with the EU. It is rather the Two Speed Europe in security field and easing the Transatlantic bonds that are disintegrating and jeopardizing Europe’s security. Without the USA, the only state that can counter Russian nuclear capacities, the defense of the continent will not be possible.
Let me emphasize that Poland is not only counting on help with facing these challenges. We are an active and loyal NATO member. Our soldiers are deployed in Latvia and Romania. Our Air Force participates in Air Policing missions on regular basis over Romania and the Baltic States, and our Navy serves in the Mediterranean missions. We are actively struggling against terrorism in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. We fulfill the NATO defense spending criteria with a surplus and we plan to increase our defense spending to 2.5 % GDP. We created a new branch of armed forces (which we are going to double by the way) – the Territorial Defense. Apart from the Article 5, we remember the Article 3 or the pledge to develop our own defense capacities.
However, the NATO Summit last year went much further than just classic military threats. I already mentioned some of them. We are aware of the intensity of the struggle in cyberspace and information domain. Just a few weeks ago, we could see how the Pety.a virus harmed the economy of Ukraine. What is worse, it was probably only a test and the potential of our adversary is much stronger. Every day we are bombarded with fake or manipulated news that shape our conscience and decisions that we make. And although the disinformation as such has been known for a long time, it is even of greater importance in the present age of mass information. We have to be vigilant and to perfect ourselves, communicate our aims and policies in a coherent and well-considered way. We cannot let lies poison our minds and souls.
Last but not least, I would like to refer to yesterday’s speech of President Trump. Our determination to fight and the belief that our freedom and values are worth fighting for to the end will be decisive. The experience shows that not many people in Poland and many Central Eastern European nations that suffered so much from totalitarian regimes that emerged in Russia and Germany need to be convinced about that. However, we would very much like our Western Allies to share this view. If we do not stand up to the Axis of Evil that challenges the West, we will perish. We can survive only by cherishing our culture, traditions and morality that grew out of the Old and New Testament. As in the past, the confrontation has its moral, spiritual and ideological dimension. It is claimed that during the Second World War Winston Churchill opposed the minister of war asking for cuts in culture by saying “then, what are we fighting for?”. We have to ask ourselves this fundamental question today. Once we realize how priceless our identity is, we will find strength and motivation to defend our civilization as the abovementioned Churchill stated “whatever the cost may be and we shall never surrender”.