The NATO Warsaw Summit 2016 made history, breaking new ground on pressing questions over defense, deterrence and ways to protect stability beyond the alliance’s borders. The 8-9 July gathering strengthened NATO unity while ensuring consensus that increasing the operational efficiency of multinational forces is the most pressing task facing NATO. These were among the conclusions of CEPA’s conference, “Warsaw Summit 2016: What’s Next for NATO,” held 4 November in Warsaw and supported by both the U.S. Mission to NATO and the organization’s Public Diplomacy Division.
More than 20 speakers from the United States, Europe and Russia discussed topics from strategies for strengthening the eastern flank to prospects for Russia-NATO relations. In the audience were security experts, government officials, defense executives, analysts, journalists and emerging leaders from NATO member states and partner nations.
In his opening remarks, CEPA Executive Vice President Marcin Zaborowski explained that the Warsaw summit’s provisions—namely the growing military presence along Europe’s eastern flank—are just now taking shape. Yet despite the greater sense of security these steps have engendered, he said, “Poland and the Baltic states still do not feel secure situated alongside a revanchist Russia.”
John C. Law, deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw, told participants that from the U.S. perspective, the summit’s most important achievement was bolstering the alliance’s unity, which was often doubted before the summit. The challenge now, he said, is to preserve and strengthen this unity. Beginning in 2017, he said, some 5,000 U.S. troops will serve along NATO’s eastern flank, allowing the Pentagon “to be able to respond to threats where and when these responses are needed.”
Gerlinde Niehus, head of the engagements section at NATO’s Public Diplomacy Division, said the summit reaffirmed NATO’s strength; even after the end of the Cold War, the alliance is still faithful to its founding mission, the ability to maintain deterrence and defense. Niehus noted that parallel to strengthening defense capabilities, NATO must remain ready for a dialogue with Russia.
Much has been said about defense capabilities among the eastern flank states. Imants Lieģis, Latvia’s former defense minister, said his country is serious about Article 3, which obligates NATO members to maintain a certain level of defense capabilities. Following up on that issue, Merle Maigre, security policy adviser to the president of Estonia suggested that the last meeting of defense ministers offered concrete plans and aims for improving defense.
Yet Ian Kearns, co-founder of the European Leadership Network, warned that Russia is ready not only to hinder NATO expansion by, for example, exerting pressure on Montenegro and neighboring countries, but also by destabilizing the European Union.