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A very Polish NATO summit

Global Europe

A very Polish NATO summit

NATO heads of state and government in Warsaw observe the fly-past of military aircraft. [NATO]

The 8-9 July NATO summit in Warsaw was clearly a success for the alliance, in light of rising tensions with Russia. However, Polish politicians are set to use it as another pretext for infighting, exacerbating internal divisions within the country. EurActiv Poland reports.

The Warsaw NATO Summit had to face an unprecedented array of challenges in strengthening deterrence and defence capacities against a resurgent Russia. Still, US President Barack Obama’s criticism of the constitutional impasse in Poland didn’t go unnoticed by the international media. Only Polish broadcasters seemed to have not heard him.

“In good times and in bad, Europe can count on the United States,” Barack Obama reassured NATO allies.

However, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that NATO does not want another Cold War, nor another arms race, and that all measures decided on were aimed at “deterrence and defence”, not provoking Russia.

Moscow ridiculed the idea of being treated as a threat to NATO. “It is absurd to talk about any threat coming from Russia at a time when dozens of people are dying in the center of Europe and when hundreds of people are dying in the Middle East daily,” Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday (8 July).

Stoltenberg confirmed NATO wishes to continue a constructive dialogue with Russia, as it is NATO’s biggest neighbour and “it is here to stay”.

Eastern flank

First and foremost, the NATO summit approved the strengthening of its eastern flank by deploying four “robust” multinational battalions that will ensure capacity to implement the famous Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty.

The battalions will be stationing on a rotating basis in Poland and three Baltic states: Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, with command of, consecutively by the US, Germany, Canada, and the UK. Altogether, some 4,000 troops will be deployed.

Obama said the US would send  1,000 troops to Poland as a part of a scheme, which will begin in 2017.

New maritime mission

NATO leaders agreed to launch a new maritime security operation in the Mediterranean. Operation Sea Guardian has a wide-reaching and includes building “situational awareness, countering trafficking and terrorism, upholding freedom of navigation and contributing to regional capacity building,” according to the NATO website.

Stoltenberg added that NATO wishes to “work closely with the European Union’s Operation Sophia in the Central Mediterranean, building on our swift and effective cooperation with the EU to cut lines of international human trafficking in the Aegean”.

NATO-EU Joint Declaration

The need for close NATO-EU cooperation was often expressed at the Warsaw summit. It was symbolically stamped by an NATO-EU Joint Declaration signed by European Council President Donald Tusk, EC President Jean-Claude Juncker and Stoltenberg.

“We want to respond and coordinate our actions. We want to prevent attacks, intensify intelligence sharing,” said Tusk, also mentioning multiplying common dangers, such as hybrid warfare, cyber attacks, and the hijacking of banking systems.

Defence budget

Though in 2015  defence expenditures of the NATO states rose, only 5 countries met the target of 2%: the United States, Greece, the United Kingdom, Estonia, and Poland. This year, overall defence spending is to exceed last year’s record, but Stoltenberg encouraged further rises.

Poland’s dirty linen

The US President said he had expressed to President Andrzej Duda his concerns over the impasse around Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal.

Poland seeks to reassure allies over rule of law as NATO summit starts

Poland’s government rushed an amended version of its constitutional court reforms through parliament yesterday (7 July), apparently in an effort to reassure its Western allies over the issue hours before a NATO summit opens in Warsaw.

“I insisted that we are very respectful of Poland’s sovereignty, and I recognize that Parliament is working on legislation to take some important steps, but more work needs to be done. And as your friend and ally, we’ve urged all parties to work together to sustain Poland’s democratic institutions. That’s what make us democracies — not just by the words written in constitutions, or in the fact that we vote in elections — but the institutions we depend upon every day, such as the rule of law, independent judiciaries, and a free press.  These are, I know, values that the President cares about.  These are values that are at the heart of our alliance, which was founded, in the words of the North Atlantic Treaty, “on the principles of democracy, individual liberty, and the rule of law.”

This part of Obama’s speech was a major treat for international media. However, in  the Polish pro-government public media, this very part was omitted. This omission – clearly censorship – again made news around the world.

NATO Summit participants also took in an exhibition about the Smolensk crash, coordinated by the Ministry of Defence, commemorating the tragic death of Poland’s president, and almost a hundred highest dignitaries on 10 April 2010, near Smolensk airport. The tragic event, considered by experts as being due to incompetence, is often presented by the governing Law and Justice party as being due to a plot attributed to Vladimir Putin and Donald Tusk.

Law and Justice banks on Smolensk conspiracy theories

Following the Law and Justice (PiS) party’s victory in the 2015 elections, conspiracy theories resurfaced in Poland about the 2010 Smolensk crash, which killed President Lech Kaczyński, the brother of the new ruling party’s chief, Jaroslaw Kaczyński. EurActiv Poland reports.

Journalists also received a leaflet: “The death of the Polish President in Russia – 10 IV 2010,” putting together Putin and Tusk’s names, but stopping short of direct accusations.

Ministry of Truth

There was one more problematic subject. And another exhibition – “Poland in NATO” – this time presenting the Poland’s road to NATO and further, omitting major accession actors: then-President Aleksander Kwaśniewski and Bronisław Geremek who signed the treaty. The politicians highlighted include the ex-premier Jan Olszewski, the late president Lech Kaczyński, and the incumbent president Andrzej Duda.

The rearrangement of credits continued in the speech of the Law and Justice president Jarosław Kaczyński, after the summit. He considered the summit as a great success, which would not be possible under the former, scandal-torn Civic Platform government. He attributed the success mostly to the Minister of Defense, Antoni Macierewicz, initially forgetting even about President Duda, not to mention former president Bronisław Komorowski who invited the NATO summit to Warsaw.