Security in Europe - How to Change the Negative Trend / New Direction
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Security in Europe - How to Change the Negative Trend

Defence Minister of Poland writes about Russia and the future of NATO : "Russia defines and achieves its goals in a different way. Russia does not accept any norms or values which were made up beyond its territory. Russia is now the biggest threat for the global security.”

Disturbed security in Europe

Within just two years, the security of Europe dramatically deteriorated. The Russian invasion of Ukraine in Crimea and Donbas in 2014 led to major violations of international law and international order. Then mass-scale migration crisis occurred, only partially related to the humanitarian disaster in the Middle East. So far, Europe was unable to find an effective solution to them. Unfortunately, more and more events suggest that this still may not be the end of problems, as the tensions in international relations are rising even above the Cold War levels. The NATO Summit in Warsaw should be an important step to tackle these challenges effectively.

First, we have to identify reasons for which all of this occurred. Sadly enough, it has to be stated that the analysts and policy planners either underestimated or ignored some of the dangerous processes that have been taking place for several past years. Before the present migration crisis started, Spain experienced the crisis of the cayucos in the Canary Islands back in 2006, whereas Italy has had permanent problems with Lampedusa since at least 2011. In the same time, the conflicts that caused the massive inflow of migrants in 2014-2015 were already brewing. Millions of refugees from Syria have been living in refugee camps in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan since at least 2011.

On the other hand, before the terrorists also known as "the little green men" invaded Crimea and led to the annexation of the peninsula by Russia, and to the outbreak of war in Donbas, Russia performed a mass-scale cyberattack on Estonia in 2007 and militarily invaded Georgia in 2008. We saw two mysterious air crashes: of the Polish Tu-154 in Smolensk in April 2010 and the Malaysian Airlines flight MH-17 in July 2014. Circumstances of both bear characteristics typical to acts of terror. For several years, the West experienced increasingly frequent provocative behaviours of the Russian military, especially air forces, as well as verbal threats, propaganda, disinformation and intensified espionage. In fact, the present crisis has been developing for years and what we see now is merely a consequence of the past negligence.

More to come

Spring 2014 marked an end to the fairly peaceful period of European history. Hybrid war launched by Russia and the subsequent annexation of Crimea brought to mind some of the most dreadful historical memories of Europe. It was frequently compared to Anschluss of Austria by Germany in 1938, Munich Agreement of 1938 and the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. Having said that, how can anyone deem any scenario impossible? If we already experienced a cyber and hybrid war, why would we disregard the possibility of a conventional one? We cannot close our eyes or turn our heads away from the manoeuvers of the Russian army that exercises the possible conflict with NATO, including preventive nuclear attacks. We cannot disregard the increasing Anti-Access/Aread Denial (A2/AD) means adopted by Russia. The deployment of missile systems in Syria, Kaliningrad and other places significantly reduces NATO defensive potential. What is more, the irresponsible provocations, border incidents and air space violations increase the tension to a hardly bearable level.

In the same time, the migrations from the East and South bring social changes to Europe that are difficult to analyse and predict. About a million migrants from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region entered the EU through Greece and Italy and another wave from Ukraine came to Poland only. Regardless of political correctness, which to a large extent is a reason of the present troubles, it has to be noticed that there is a strong correlation between the wave of Muslim migrants and the terrorist attacks and acts of sexual violence in Western Europe (Paris, Brussels, Germany). It also must be stated openly that not all the migrants are genuine refugees, that they are penetrated by radical Islamists, organized crime and that the entire phenomenon is used to achieve political purposes by the third parties.

What shall we do?

Europe has to realize that the threats mentioned above should be treated as one complex peril and challenge. They are interdependent and they are a part of a wider geopolitical scheme. There is one long frontline along the EU/NATO borders from Norway to Spain. The division on Eastern and Southern flank is not much relevant. Therefore, the foremost necessity is the unity of the EU and NATO members in designing an applicable solution to the problem. Internal conflicts between the members of the Western community may only decrease the resilience of them to the threat.  In particular, this Summit needs to show the world that we are united and stand as one.

Situation awareness is another factor of effective response to the challenges faced by the West. We need an increased intelligence cooperation which would help to paint a better picture of what is actually taking place around us. But we need also a realist analysis, taking under consideration all kinds of perils, even those that may not seem very probable at the moment. Hardly anyone could predict Crimea and the migrant crisis back in 2013. Just a year later they became reality.

However, there is one exception to that. The late President of Poland Lech Kaczyński and his party (Law and Justice, now ruling in Poland) argued during the NATO Summit in Bucharest in April 2008 that this kind of expansion of Russia could have taken place and that Ukraine and Georgia should become members of the NATO. As we know, this concept was rejected. The war in Georgia broke in August 2008.

The EU and the NATO have to cooperate in a complementary way. They have unique competences and capabilities that combined together may bring the necessary solutions to the problems defined above. The concepts of the EU Global Strategy and the 360-degree NATO defence will have to be effectively implemented.

Without cooperation of the two organizations, we will not be able to properly respond to the existing and emerging threats. The migration crisis can only be stopped by solving the problems that caused them. This requires both terminating the armed conflicts in the MENA region as well as the economic aid in reconstruction of countries affected by them. As far as the aggressive and hawkish attitude of Russia is considered, only the combination of economic sanctions and military deterrence may bring back stability and ensure security of Eastern Europe. Speaking of the latter – it has to include real reinforced presence of military force, not just declarations. This is why the NATO Summit in Warsaw is so important. It simply has to bring answers to the arising questions about the future of our security.


Antoni Macierewicz, Defence Minister of Poland



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