Leading Polish security experts discuss future of NATO following Trump-Putin meeting

President Andrzej Duda at the NATO summit in Brussels. Radek Pietruszka/PAP

Where is NATO heading and what are the implications for Poland’s security?

These questions have taken on a new urgency in the wake of the NATO summit in Brussels on July 11 and 12, followed by the meeting between US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. They were the focus of a panel of leading Polish security experts, held at the Polish Institute for International Affairs (PISM) in Warsaw on July 17, entitled “NATO after the summit in Brussels and the Trump-Putin meeting.”

This year, NATO’s biennial summit took place at an uncertain time in Transatlantic relations, with Trump calling on NATO’s European members to spend more on defence. Poland is one of the few NATO countries to meet the Alliance’s defence spending target of 2% of GDP. In October 2017, President Andrzej Duda signed a bill gradually raising it to 2.5% by 2030.

In this context, the panellists emphasised the need to increase Europe’s defence potential within NATO, to resist – or ideally deter – an attack on the alliance’s eastern flank by Russia. Members must be prepared to spend considerable time and money on it, stressed Wojciech Lorenz, a senior analyst on PISM’s International Security Programme.

This echoed what NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at the summit, commenting on NATO members’ plans to increase defence spending: “So we have turned the tide but we need to do more. This is about fairness, this is about our credibility and, above all, this is about our security in a more unpredictable world,”

The panel also weighed up Russia’s tactics towards NATO, within the broader international context. “Russia is trying to weaken the West’s cohesion,” said Agnieszka Bryc, an assistant professor at Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń. “If it doesn’t have anything to play with, it plays with the cards it has, taking advantage of weaknesses in the West.”

Looking back at the past week, the panellists distinguished between the “political theatre” of the two presidents’ meeting in Helsinki and the concrete decisions made at the NATO summit, building on the previous summit held in Warsaw in 2016. 

These include the Alliance’s new “Four 30s” readiness plan, involving thirty mechanised battalions, thirty air squadrons and thirty combat vessels ready for use within thirty days. 

The initiative has been greeted by Poland, with Defence Minister Mariusz Błaszczak calling it “a very important project because it guarantees an effective response to a crisis situation.”

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