At the beginning all participants commented on Trump’s speech at the Krasinski Square in Warsaw. Rudy Giuliani (presidential cybersecurity advisor) stated that it was a “great speech and the US got what it wanted”. All bases were hit – especially on the 2 per cent defence spending recommendation. “Somebody has got to kick NATO in the arse and wake it up. It was an endorsement of Western civilisation,” he added. Giuliani also stated that terrorism was a greater threat than Russia- President Putin is smart and Russia is negotiable.
Christine Warmuth of the Atlantic Council, noted President Trump’s comments on Russia. His comments could have failed to go far enough in Washington. The link with terrorism could lead the West to an accommodation with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. Rafał Trzaskowski, Civic Platform MP, agreed that western civilisation needed to be defended and added that Europe and the EU are almost the same thing. On energy policy he said that Nord Stream 2 could lead to European disintegration “energy is not just a business matter,” he stated.
The changes that we see cannot be reversed
Integration or fragmentation of the transatlantic market were the subject of the second panel. The seriousness of Europe’s culture wars was acknowledged. Daniel Danilau of the Romanian National Bank noted that the Three Seas Initiative was exaggerated and focussed instead on the plight of the losers in the globalised world. In this, he ran counter to the mood of the panellists, who seemed to be pro-integration. Danilau continued by wondering if there was integration fatigue setting in.
On both sides of the Atlantic Ocean there is great fear about the future. General James Jones of Jones Group International, stressed increased Euro-US integration. The Three Seas Initiative in this regard is a serious proposition. There is the potential for greater integration but where do we go from here?
Christine Wormuth drew attention to the skills shortages in the US “there’s an air of being left behind, the move from the rural areas to the cities, digitalization taking jobs, the education system failing to compete, and a lack of city colleges partnerships to produce cheaper, cheerful and applied education.”
There was foremost a consensus about stability for Europe in the Visegrad 4 Group. The panel consisted of ministers from this Group and they reiterated President Trump’s speech that the West is not just a geographic expression but an embodiment of values. Would the Three Seas Initiative lead to a division? The aim, according to Konrad Szymański, Poland’s Secretary of State for European Affairs, would be not to divide. Balazs Molnar, Hungarian Deputy State Secretary for EU Affairs, said that the initiative was not super national, while Ales Chmelar, the Czech State Secretary for European Affairs, said that it could be an added value.
Ivan Korcok, Slovak State Secretary for Foreign and EU Affairs, said that the last thing is to disunite Western Europe from Eastern one. The Three Seas Initiative is primarily an economic project and now there should be a focus on practical projects as there is no clear political alternative.
Szymanski added that there is no single European crisis – in the CEE there is a degree of freedom from the problems afflicting the western half. “CEE is stable and has earned the right to make its voice heard in Europe – and not just following a Franco-German lead,” he added.
Transatlantic world in an age of a Global Volatility
Poland’s Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski gave a presentation, a run-down of Poland’s foreign policy perspectives. “We live in interesting and volatile times,” the Minister opened, “Russia, the Middle East, North Africa and Islamic radicalism, climate change and Brexit. The Transatlantic alliance is the answer.”
Waszczykowski also stressed that the US-Polish ties have deepened. According to him Poland needs to strengthen its eastern flank and exceed 2 per cent of GDP on defence spending. “The trans-Atlantic unity needs to strive for unity and prevent rifts,” Waszczykowski added.
Let’s talk about Russia
Kersti Kaljulaid, Estonian president, stated that Russia has put itself “outside our way of thinking”. “Putin is an opportunist and,” Marek Magierowski, Poland’s Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister added, “unpredictable.” Ben Hodges, Commanding General of the US Army Europe, gave an overview of NATO commitments in the Cold War and said that the US-Russian relations had fallen “out of structure” meaning there was little formal procedure for problem resolution.
Russia and China are moving beyond western values and “they are moving towards Russian and Chinese values rather than those of the post-war Charter of Paris,” he said and added not to negotiate from the fear and never fear to negotiate.
Business over politics
Rumen Radev, Bulgarian president, said that there should be less talk and more action now and Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, Croatian president, agreed. Meanwhile General Jones asked “who do you call when you want to know about the Three Seas?”. The answer was simple – there is a need of a platform for the co-operation, business one rather than political one.
Although the cooperation in energy security connects both – business and politics, and is vital as an opposition to Nord Stream 2 and the weaning off of Russian gas supplies. The Croatian president stated that the US was a European power and with the planned connection of the Krk LNG terminal with Świnoujście in Poland, synergy will happen.
NATO and the 21st century
The last panel of the conference was about defence and strategic matters. Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz send a letter. He reiterated the alliance as the only way forward and that the West had forgotten the true nature of Russia. Unity is the strength and the west-east axis is a false one, as well as possible north-south one. Cybersecurity is ever more important and he supported Trump in his reiteration of the values that bind Europeans together.
Tomasz Szatkowski, Deputy Minister at the Defence Ministry, gave a presentation on the Polish strategic overview. Anti-Access/ Area Denial is the basic problem during a war – guaranteeing freedom of manoeuvre and defending against enemy air attack. Poland is working on creating a protective umbrella in this area. It is also restructuring its land forces (territorial defence brigades, an extra division and headquarters), and committing to quantity, as well as quality.
How should NATO adapt to the challenges of Enhanced Forward Deployment?
Advanced thinking and planning was the answer from Raymonds Bergmanis, Latvian Defence Minister. Cyberwar and weaponized information is a real danger and more education is necessary. “There are excellence centres in the Baltic countries,” he said, “with Estonia being a leader.” But General Salvatore Farina, NATO Joint Force Command, stated that the project had just started and the four battle groups were now in place and ready. A military Schengen Area for general logistics was necessary though. A graduated response plan has been drawn up that hopes to cater for all hybrid threats.
Ian Brzezinski, of the Atlantic Council, concluded that there has been no significant NATO reinforcement exercise and that compared to the Cold War there is a stiffness of command (lower-echelon commanders not being allowed to use their initiative in combating local threats). The Russian threat has increased in quality and quantity, and there is still a long way to go.
The Three Seas Initiative is a joint Polish-Croatian project, launched in 2016, with the aim of strengthening trade, infrastructure, energy and political co-operation among countries bordering the Adriatic, the Baltic and the Black Sea. 12 countries are part of the initiative: Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.