The Institute for Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Embassy of the Republic of Poland organised the ‘Countdown – 30 days to Warsaw Summit’ conference on 7th June, 2016.

The first section started with the opening remarks of Mr. Márton Schőberl, Director-General of the Institute for Foreign Affairs and Trade who stressed the importance of both the role of nationhood from a global and regional security perspective and the role of Hungary in NATO.

Thereafter, H. E. Mr. Roman Kowalski, Ambassador of the Republic of Poland delivered his welcome notes. He stressed the importance of the NATO conference taking place in Warsaw as a strong signal of the growing importance of the Central European region in the alliance system.


H. E. Ms. Colleen Bell, Ambassador of the United States of America made a speech about the importance of NATO which is an alliance of 28, and soon 29 members (with Montenegro). Members all share the same commitment and values along the principles of democracy, solidarity, peace and the policy of the “open door”. It is also crucial to uphold the commitment to reverse the trend of declining defence budgets and raise them over the coming decade, a move that will further strengthen the transatlantic bond. Hence it is necessary to share the budgets in a transparent way which is a strong sign of collective trust and mutual commitment. In addition to this, H.E. Ambassador Bell warned us that particular attention should be paid to continue the dialogue with Russia with the aim of contributing to the creation of a common space of peace, security, unity and solidarity. As a conclusion, she echoed the words of President Obama ‘stand together for now and forever, your freedom is ours’.


H. E. Mr. Iain Lindsay OBE, Ambassador of Great Britain encouraged Hungary and the V4 alliance to maintain their contribution to international missions, to NATO, as well as to multilateral exercises which is a great way to improve cooperation and tackle future challenges regardless of their source. In Warsaw it is important to focus on alliance unity and NATO needs to show that it has delivered on the Wales commitments, it is modernising its deterrence, including collective defence and continues to modernise through institutional adaptation and deeper partnerships particularly with the EU. He concluded that a unified NATO with a common approach and a common will serve the same goal; a secure, strong and capable alliance.


H. E. Mr. Rastislav Kačer, Ambassador of the Slovak Republic argued that this is a crucial time for the alliance, as the tectonic plates of Euro-Atlantic security have shifted both in the East and the South. We are already implementing the biggest reinforcement of our collective defence since the end of the Cold War. In Warsaw, we will chart the course for the alliance’s adaptation to the new security environment, so that NATO remains ready to defend all allies against any threat from any direction.


The second part of the conference provided a platform for keynote speeches. Dr. István Balogh, Director, Department for Security Policy and Non-Proliferation, Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Hungary, H. E. Mr. Tomasz Chłoń, former Plenipotentiary for the NATO Summit, member of the Team for Summit Preparation, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Republic of Poland and Mr. Zsolt Rábai, Public Diplomacy Coordinator for Partners across the Globe and Contact Countries, NATO, made their lively, timely and thought-provoking speeches. In sum, they all stressed the centrality of credibility and unity as guiding principles of the upcoming NATO summit. For Hungary, this summit provides an excellent platform for further strengthening of the transatlantic relationship. Hungary has to further work on the so called “360 degrees approach” which aims to strike a balance between the south and the north and has a particular focus on the east. Hungary should keep contributing to the implementation of the readiness action plan which is an important way of demonstrating our commitment towards collective defense. They also highlighted the importance of strengthening the dialogue between Russia and NATO.  For more than two decades, NATO has strived to build a partnership with Russia, developing dialogue and practical cooperation in areas of common interest. Cooperation has been suspended in response to Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine, which the allies condemn in the strongest terms. Political and military channels of communication remain open.  Finally, all three keynote speakers articulated the importance of providing support to the Afghan government in security sector reform, including mentoring, training and operational support to the Afghan National Army (ANA) and the Afghan National Police (ANP).


The third section of the conference included an expert roundtable discussion which was moderated by Mr Márton Ugrósdy, research fellow of IFAT. The experts of the discussion touched upon several key issues that are expected to come up during the Warsaw Summit.

The discussion commenced with the speech delivered by Ms. Anna Péczeli, research fellow at the Centre for Strategic and Defence Studies. She reflected on the so-called “hardware” and “software” side of NATO undertakings, on the current status and opportunities of the two sides. Concerning the hardware side, she pointed out that the overall amount of non-strategic weapons is not likely to be changed. On the software side, the numbers of exercises increased over the past 2 years. She also mentioned the importance of burden sharing between the European allies and the U.S.

Ms. Péczeli brought up very interesting observations regarding the Russian nuclear strategy. When taking into consideration the past 2 years of official statements of Russian officials, we can see an increasingly strong rhetoric on the Russian side which can be explained with the changing global Russian deterrence strategy which is a very different nuclear strategy from what Russia pursued in the recent years. According to Ms. Péczeli, it is difficult to work together with Russia as every initiative was rejected by them that NATO offered. Furthermore, it is also not easy to resolve the current problems because at the regional level there is a huge disparity between NATO and Russia in terms of strategic and non-strategic weapons. Russia has modernized these non-strategic weapons and uses them in their missile defence system. Those non-strategic weapons are playing a crucial role in the regional strategy. She elaborated on the idea that there are very clear rules of this game: non-strategic missiles are used for political manipulation and pose a direct threat which is related to the Russian nuclear posture and political rhetoric. She stressed that NATO also possesses such kind of missiles but the withdrawal of these weapons is not an option right now because, under the current security architecture, the moment for that has already passed. 5 years ago it could have been realistic, especially after Barack Obama took office, but now there is no momentum for the withdrawal considering the current Russian strategies.

Ms. Péczeli forecasted that, during the Warsaw Summit, on the hardware side no major changes are expected to occur, the developments will proceed as planned. However, on the software side, there are some improvements likely regarding more exercises and a bigger involvement of the Eastern flank countries.


Mr. Marcin Kazmierski, the head of the International Security Policy Department of the Ministry of National Defence of the Republic of Poland continued the expert panel and pointed out that Poland expects the Warsaw Summit to come up with a framework to reply effectively to the recent challenges concerning the Eastern flank of NATO. Those challenges would be truly crucial; however, there are other threats coming from the Southern flank that NATO should not forget. He added that these Southern challenges also have military dimensions but they are more complex than the typical Eastern flank pressures since NATO is not the only key player to address these challenges at the South. Mr. Kazmierski underlined that Poland and other NATO allies should cope with these new trends in a different way than usual. NATO should consider and use all arrangements that it has already worked out but it also has to continue the work after the Warsaw Summit. According to him, arrangements that have worked at the Eastern flank do not necessarily meet the challenges that occur at the Southern flank. Therefore, NATO needs to respond to these challenges differently. Most importantly, it should strengthen its partners’ resilience. He stressed that during the summit, NATO will probably not propose a new framework for relations with Russia. Mr. Kazmierski shared his views with the audience about the two different narratives of NATO and Russia that are important as long as Russia continues to destabilize Crimea which further leads to the destabilization of the whole region. He also added that NATO signals that the allies are not ready to turn back to business as usual.

During the summit, intra-alliance understanding regarding the question how NATO should approach Russia as an alliance will also be at the focus. He maintained that if NATO wants to strengthen the resilience of its partners such as Georgia and Ukraine, the alliance shall consider further initiatives in which they could be included. There is a significant chance to improve the EU-NATO relationship which is important for the Euro-Atlantic regional security architecture. During the summit, Poland will focus on issues related to the Eastern flank but it is important to note that Poland recognizes the need for a “360 degree approach” to which Poland is ready to contribute. 


The expert panel continued with Mr. Przemysław Pacula’s speech, who is the head of the Allied Security Division at the Strategic Analyses Department in the National Security Bureau of Poland. Mr. Pacula emphasized two very important features of the summit. Firstly, the outcome of the conference shall be effective in the field of decision-making since the summit has a comprehensive agenda. The biggest challenge for all parties will be to try to secure progress on all the areas. He stressed that cohesion and unity of the alliance are the preconditions of any good decision which should be based on the enhanced unity of the Euro-Atlantic community. He added that NATO recognizes now that it needs to take this path to use a “360 degree approach”. Mr. Pacula reinforced the statement of Mr. Kazmierski regarding Poland’s approach to the Southern flank. He also added that Poland understands all the fears and doubts that are coming from the Southern partners, and Poland is ready to take part in actions against ISIS. Considering the Eastern flank, however, he mentioned that Poland does not seek to isolate Russia, the country does not want to enter into a new Cold War, it wants to avoid conflict, however, the current situation is not business as usual. He argued that dialogue with Russia shall be performed within the scope of international law and diplomatic standards. In order to reduce the risks in the Eastern neighbourhood, transparency is a key factor regarding NATO activities.

Mr. Pacula highlighted the special interest of Poland in the cooperation with Finland and Sweden which opportunity carries a lot of potential in itself for the future. While on the Southern shores of the Mediterranean Sea instability grows constantly with a potential to spread to other regions, NATO shall target the “islands of instability” and cooperate with these countries to tackle crisis situations. He further pointed out that the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy is also expected to take part in the summit which reflects that the EU and NATO are the two most important pillars of regional security, however, still a lot can be done to enhance the cooperation of the two entities with each other. Finally, Mr Pacula concluded with a few ideas about the transatlantic bond in NATO and emphasized that there is no NATO without a strong U.S. presence.


The next expert, Mr. Lajos Bozi from the Department for Security Policy and Non-Proliferation at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary touched upon two issues during his remarks. He stressed that the core functions of the NATO - such as cooperative security and crisis management - are able to project stability to NATO’s neighbourhood. A very good example for that is the crisis management in Afghanistan. According to Mr. Bozi, the International Contact Group discussed the prevailing situation in Afghanistan at last week’s session in Istanbul. At the Warsaw Summit, it is expected to renew the commitment concerning the mission with an extended scope of development assistance and reconstruction because despite great achievements made during recent years, the mission in Afghanistan is far from finished. Mr. Bozi argued that changes have been immense in Afghanistan since NATO’s Resolute Support Mission started but there is a need to continue it beyond 2016.

In terms of cooperative security, it is important to project stability on the neighbours of NATO and to give assistance for countries who are facing security challenges in order to enable them to defend themselves and build capacity for themselves.


Overall, the conference highlighted the multifaceted challenges faced by the trans-Atlantic alliance over the years to come. Nonetheless, the room for expert debate and general political consensus over the necessity of NATO signal that it will remain a key regional security player in the longer term.