In 1990, Minister Krzysztof Skubiszewski paid a visit to NATO Headquarters, and a few months later the government of Tadeusz Mazowiecki established official relations with NATO. At a summit in London, heads of state and governments of the alliance adopted a declaration that promises the transformation of NATO, expressing their will to develop partner relations with the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Shortly thereafter, on 31 March 1991, the military structures of the Warsaw Pact were dissolved. In July the WP ceases to exist.
In the same month a visit was held by President Lech Walesa at the headquarters of NATO. The Polish president said that Poland wants a safe Europe, which is guaranteed by NATO. A similar declaration was also made in the exposé of Prime Minister Jan Olszewski in December 1991, which marked a significant change of emphasis in Polish statements, which had so far been cautious in terms of joining Poland’s future to NATO.
The alliance’s answer gave hope. In March 1992, NATO Secretary General Manfred Wörner said during a visit to Poland that “the door to NATO is open.” This was an important declaration, signalling the beginning of changes in the alliance’s approach to the prospect of enlargement. In April, defence ministers and chiefs of staff from countries in the region participated for the first time in a meeting of the NATO Military Committee—the most important military authority and the oldest body in the structure of the Alliance.
Another milestone on the road to NATO was Poland’s accession to the Partnership for Peace program. This was a proposal by countries of the Alliance presented at the summit in Brussels in January 1994. The PfP program created the possibility of joint exercises, participation in operations and consultations with NATO partners in case of a threat to their security. While the Partnership did not yet guarantee the country’s entry into the Alliance, in February Poland decided on accession and was very active during its implementation. This activity was expressed in numerous proposals for joint undertakings. Poland was the first PfP country to adopt an individual partnership program. The first military exercises within the framework of the PfP were held in Biedrusk outside of Poznan, with participation by 13 Member States and partner countries.
In July 1994, during his first visit to Warsaw, Bill Clinton said that NATO enlargement was not a matter of "if" but "when and how". In 1995, the US House of Representatives adopted a resolution providing for the expansion of NATO to include the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary. At a speech in Detroit, President Clinton gave for the first time a specific date for the enlargement of NATO—not later than by 1999, on the 50th anniversary of the Alliance.
The NATO summit in Madrid in July 1997 decided to invite Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary for talks on membership in the Alliance. The negotiations started in September 1997. The talks were held in four rounds and touched on such areas as defence cooperation and financial issues related to Polish membership. At the end of the year the North Atlantic Council signed the accession protocols for Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary. At this stage, representatives from Poland were included in the work of most NATO bodies. The first Polish ambassador to NATO was Andrew Towpik.
In January 1999, NATO Secretary General Javier Solana issued a formal invitation for membership in the Alliance. Poland’s road to NATO ended on March 12, 1999 in the US city of Independence, Missouri, where Poland’s foreign minister Bronisław Geremek presented the US Secretary of State the act of Poland’s accession to the North Atlantic Treaty. At that moment Poland formally became a party to the Washington Treaty and a member of NATO.