Warsaw NATO Summit: One Step Forward, One Step Back

The true paradox of this summit is that the NATO policy moves a step forward and a step back, at the same time. While being truly insightful about the geopolitical threats outside NATO, the final summit document introduces solutions giving non-NATO institutions access to vulnerable information. Meanwhile, Europe is a continent steeped in history that has its own dynamics. It is good to remember that before any cooperation between NATO and EU institutions is tightened.

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By Maria Juczewska | July 12, 2016

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At first glance, the Warsaw NATO Summit that took place on 8th and 9th July, is a step in the right direction, in terms of security. Although, debates on the future NATO policies were partly eclipsed by discussions regarding possible repercussions of Brexit, the communiqué issued at the end of the summit offers a comprehensive analysis of security challenges in the North Atlantic region. The tone of the document is firm and decisive but not belligerent. It clearly states the defensive nature of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization but asserts its nuclear military potential. It does not hesitate to call the reality in Europe for what it is, with threats originating both from the east and the south of the continent.

The communiqué clearly lists all the concerns related to the bellicose behavior of Russia. It emphasizes the right of the Ukraine to self-determination and independence. It enhances the multinational military presence of the Alliance in the countries of the eastern NATO flank.  Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and Poland will host on the rotational basis Canadian, German, Lithuanian and American troops respectively. What is more, a new NATO headquarters, closer to the eastern border of NATO, will be created in Poland. Two Scandinavian countries are tightening their cooperation with NATO, namely Sweden and Finland. NATO is also going to be more active in the south, in the Black Sea region, with Romania supporting the presence of a multinational NATO training brigade within its borders. It is, therefore, obvious that the situation of the member states in the eastern and southern ramparts, in the immediate vicinity of Russia, has been, indeed, taken into account and played an important part in shaping the final summit provisions.

The problems of the Middle East and North Africa are also discussed. The document analyzes the situation in Syria and calls for more humanitarian forms of warfare as well as fair political transition process. It supports and advocates for peace and nation-building efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya.  The communiqué confirms NATO’s commitment to the most loyal American allies in the Middle East, especially Jordan. It also points to the rise of irregular forms of warfare, such as terrorist, cyber, or hybrid attacks, and condemns the countries and organizations that resort to them, for instance the so-called Islamic State. Cyber attacks are defined as a rising challenge to security, which can turn out as harmful to societies as conventional attacks. Other strategic issues in the NATO border lands are also mentioned, such as future accession of Georgia to the alliance as well as the developments in the Balkans.

The view of the political and military situation appears frank and bold, with the proposed measures adequate to the changing geopolitical conditions.

However, as usual, the devil is in the details. The details, which in many cases, ignore the present political dynamics in Europe. The resolutions of the communiqué seem to assume that the European Union is a stable political organism, in spite of the impression that the Brexit referendum has made on the summit members. More than once, the document stipulates closer cooperation of NATO and the EU, which is to go as far as sharing intelligence and exchanging knowledge on cyber threats via special platforms. Given two serious terrorist attacks organized within the area of the European Union in 2015 and 2016, mostly overlooked development of Islamist underground in Belgium, or Russian infiltration of higher political echelons in France, those far-reaching information exchange projects seem rather imprudent. Open pro-Russian leanings of more than one NATO member are another reason for concern when exchange of strategic intelligence and military information or dispatch of military troops to the vulnerable NATO ramparts comes into play.

The true paradox of this summit is that the NATO policy moves a step forward and a step back at the same time. While being truly insightful about the geopolitical threats outside NATO, the final summit document introduces solutions giving non-NATO institutions access to vulnerable information. Meanwhile, Europe is a continent steeped in history that has its own dynamics. It is good to remember that before any cooperation between NATO and EU institutions is tightened.


Maria Juczewska is an MA candidate in International Affairs at the Institute of World Politics in Washington, DC where she is a research assistant to the the Kościuszko Chair of Polish Studies. Ms. Juczewska is a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis.