NATO: 1949 – 1999 – 2019. The 20 Years of Poland in the 70 Years of the Alliance

The panel discussion: NATO: 1949 – 1999 – 2019. The 20 Years of Poland in the 70 Years of the Alliance took place on the 3rd day of the 29th Economic Forum in Krynica, POLAND. The panel itself was a part of a greater project, under the same title that saw the Insitute for Eastern Studies  coordinating and then publishing a series of articles related to the anniversary of NATO existence and the role of Poland in it, written by varous think tanks and research centers from all around the world.

Meeting in Krynica, the authors of thse articles as well as representatives from their mother-organisation had a uniqe opportunity to discuss their take on the future and the past of NATO in Krynica during the Economic Forum – the largest conference of its kind in Central and Eastern Europe.  Project was co-financed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland in the framework of the grant programme: “Cooperation in the field of public diplomacy 2019”.

The debate was moderated by the Programme Direcor of the Insitute of Eastern Studies and the originator of the entire project – Kinga Redłowska, Ph.D from Poland. The honourable spekers of the panel incuded: Peter Doran – the President of the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) from the USA; Krsevan Antun Dujmovic from the Institute for Development and International Relations (IRMO)  from Croatia; Martina Heranova who is the Program Coordinator of the Prague Centre of Transatlantic Relations – CERVO Institute , Czech Republic; Ledion Krisafi from the Albanian Institute for International Studies – Albania and lastly Liudas Zdanavicus from the General Jonas Zemaitis Military Academy from Lithuania.

Speaking first, Peter Doran spoke about a decline of suport for the Transatlantic Alliance being clearly visible in the United States and amongst the broader public in Europe too. Peter has identifield key reasons for this fall in poularity  and summarised them all by refering to  NATO as the vicitms of its own success. Why? Because thanks to its existence there has been peace in Europe for over 70 years now. The state of no-war was the first and only aim of the Alliance and it has been completely achieved – continiously for over half a century now. Yet, precisely because of that prolonged peace, people started viewing it as somethign natural and obvoius, that does not require an Alliance to protect  or ensure it anymore. These NATO-sceptics have failed to see that NATO is a n actual guarantor of the same peace they treasure so much. And that without it – the possibility of a conflit in Europe would grow expotentialy.

Martina Heranova spoke about the controversial topic, well recognised by both international politicains and the broader public – the mandatory 2% of PKB being spent on defence  and the difficulties in achieving it by s omany member nations. Czechia is amongst the group faling to spend this much PKB on NATO and Ms Heranova has attepmted to pinpoint the key resons behind this situation. Clearly, Czechia  and Czechs do care about their securty but, without having a direct border with Russia, the feeling of threat amongst the broader population is significanlty lower than in countries directly nieghbournng Russia such as Poland and the Baltic States which, on the daily basis feel the agressive actions of its neighbour such as disinformation and military exercises close to the borders.

Ledion Krisafi spoke about the role of NATO in the Balkan Region – predominiantly for the state of Albania. Albania was activelly seeking the outside protector – a security guarantor who will ensure that Albania does not fall vicitm to the agressive policies of its neighbours. Th itegrity of the state following its establishemnt in the 90s is the most important aim for all subsequent governments of this country. NATO allows Albania to push these fears away at its security will be guaranteed by all member states of the Aliiance. This in turn allows Albanian politics to enter a new phase where fear and the need to protect its borders is not a major, key issue on the agenda and where other problems – economic and social can take to the stage.

Krsevan Antun Dujmovic from Croatia rightly so noticed that Croatia is not in an easy situation politically either, similary to what is happening in Albania right now. The Balkans differ from state to state in their policies, goals and views on the new, independent Balkans. Because of that there are nations there that suport NATO, some do not percieve it as a true guarantor of security but also see no other alternative and there are some states that see Russia, rather than NATO as the best possible guarantor of security in the region. Croatia has always seen NATO as the only Alliance that can ensure its security in the region therfore the commitment of Croats to the transatlantic Alliance always was and will remain very strong.

Liudas Zdanavicius from Lightuania spoke about the structure of NATO and the comitment of various member states to the collective security idea. According to Mr Zdanavicius it is the United States of America that was and that will remain the key security provider  in the area of the Baltic States. The ammount of money as well as military hardware and manpower that the US commits to states such as Latvia and Lithuanaia is key. Both from a military and social perspective as the inhabitants of Russia’s neighbours feel safer thanks to US Army and Air Force being stationed in ther states. Other countreiees such as United Kingdom  and Poland also paly a key role in the Alliance but more needs to be done by the remaining memebers to strengthern the collective security of NATO’s eastern flank  and remove some burden of responsibility fromt he couple of states that contribute the most. NATO has a large numer of members yet only a handful of these commit as much as the above mentioned countries.

We invite you to read our paper in here.