NATO needs more efficient command structure - Polish defence minister

Polish Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak (Center) Adam Guz WŁAS PAP

The North Atlantic Alliance needs a more efficient command structure in order to be able to face threats, Polish Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said on Sunday. he added that Poland supported closer cooperation between NATO and the EU.

The classic threats have not disappeared. To improve NATO's deterrence and defence capabilities, the Alliance needs a more efficient command structure, it is also necessary to prepare more detailed defence plans, Błaszczak said during a sitting of the Defence and Security Committee on the second day of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly Spring Sitting underway in Warsaw.

In his address Błaszczak stressed the role of parliaments in building the security of NATO states, as it was parliaments that decided about defence spending.

The minister pointed out that a deep and intense parliamentary debate among allied and EU partners made it easier to achieve agreement on the national level. According to Błaszczak, such debates could confirm that there was no alternative to NATO.

Referring to continued "classic threats," Błaszczak assessed that despite efforts, it was not possible to build a "pan-European order" based on cooperation between countries. "The main reason for this is the attitude of Russia. Following the collapse of the USSR, there was only a moment of hope that (Russia - PAP) would embark on a path of democratic change. The last ten years have definitively killed these hopes. Russia has proved it is ready to change borders by violating the sovereignty and integrity of states," said the Polish MoD.

Błaszczak pointed out that in recent years Russia has been constantly developing its military capabilities, while "the West was cutting down on tanks." According to Błaszczak, NATO forces were technologically superior to the Russian army, but the Russians were more prepared to lead a "classic war." He added that NATO "was still only preparing to defend the Baltic States and Poland."

The defence minister also expressed hope that the NATO summit in Brussels in July will contribute to the improvement of the Alliance's "deterrence and defence" capability. "This requires a more efficient NATO command structure, including a new army-level land force command."

According to Błaszczak, NATO also needs "more combat forces with a higher degree of readiness, which should be more closely affiliated to commands." "We need to create more detailed defence plans, modify training and exercises to restore the army's ability to conduct defence operations." To achieve this, there is a need for appropriate decisions at the NATO level and "consistent actions at the national level."

In his address, the minister noted that another important challenge for NATO besides threats from Russia was terrorism "rooted in radical Islam". He assessed that it was necessary to combat it primarily in countries in which it was born, such as Iraq or Afghanistan. "We must also counteract the effects of terrorism, above all migration," he added.

Błaszczak also expressed hope that NATO will maintain its readiness to enlarge by such countries as Georgia or Ukraine.

The minister declared that Poland was in favour of closer cooperation between NATO and the EU. "In our opinion, it is particularly important for this cooperation to enhance the development of military capabilities, rapid crisis detection and response, as well as cooperation with partner countries," he said.

He also pointed out that resistance to various kinds of hybrid challenges, including those coming from Russia "could only be built in close cooperation between the two organisations."

Minister Błaszczak added that Polish forces were being prepared to operate within the NATO framework in alliance with the forces of other NATO and EU member countries. In this context he assured that although the Polish Armed Forces' priority was the defence of Poland's territory, they were "also ready to defend other countries and carry out tasks outside the treaty area."

Błaszczak added that last year Poland was able to provide "solid, formal" foundations for the long-term financing of its armed forces. He noted that in tune with a 2017 law, Poland's defence outlays, which "have already reached the NATO-expected level of 2 percent GDP, will continue to grow." He added that Poland's defence spending was to reach 2.1 percent by 2020 and 2.5 percent in 2030.

During his speech, the minister noted that Poland not only promoted but also participated in NATO undertakings to strengthen the Alliance's eastern flank. In this connection he recalled that Poland hosted a NATO Battalion Battle Group and the NATO Multinational Division North-East, and pointed to Poland's significant contribution to a similar Battalion Battle Groups in Latvia and Romania.

Błaszczak also reminded that Poland was involved in operations far from its borders. "We continue our involvement in the NATO mission (...) in Afghanistan, we support the global coalition against the so-called Islamic State (...) with F16 aircraft that fly reconnaissance operations and special units that train local forces," he said.