Before the NATO Summit in Warsaw (July 8-9, 2016), there were signs pointing to a massive debate on the future and role of the Alliance. Not only was an East-South dispute becoming obvious, namely the direction of the Alliance’s threat-based priority of action under a geographical perception – namely toward Russia’s assertiveness at NATO’s eastern border or toward combating instability in the South, with its epicentre in Syria, Iraq and Northern Africa, generator of massive inflows of refugees in Europe –, but disagreements between the major allies in what concerns the future of the Alliance or the nature of strategic options were also expected. Thus, interest in the Summit grew rapidly, the impact of the recent Brexit being added to the determining factors of this enhanced attention. How will United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union be reconciled with its status as a major NATO actor? Will the British electorate’s choice have a significant impact on the Alliance’s decisions, especially since the UK is one of the important contributors to NATO actions?
Now, when we have in front of us the Warsaw Summit Communique undersigned by the Heads of State and Government of the 29 member states of the North Atlantic Alliance (Montenegro, the recently admitted 29th member state was a guest at the summit), we can answer many of the questions left unanswered before the summit hosted by Poland’s capital. The fundamental trait of this exceptional allied document, which will strategically guide NATO’s activity over the following years, is the unshaken confidence in the Alliance’s future as an instrument of security and stability in the Euro-Atlantic space and in neighbouring regions, the document’s 139 paragraphs being clear and lacking niches of ambiguity or contradiction. It has to be added that this trait was imprinted as the Summit’s message through the consensus of all NATO members, the document referring to a veritable statement of unity of the West and of its allies and partners in the face of the threats of the world of tomorrow. Thus, the statement made is that NATO’s essential mission remains unchanged, representing an “unparalleled community of freedom, peace, security, and shared values including individual liberty, human rights, democracy, and the rule of law,” united “in our commitment to the Washington Treaty, the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations (UN) and the vital transatlantic bond.”
The arch of insecurity and instability that NATO faces on its borders and beyond – from Russia’s assertiveness to the instability in the Middle East and North Africa, from military force to terrorism and cyber-attacks, which “have damaged Euro-Atlantic security, and threaten our long-standing goal of a Europe whole, free and at peace” – was answered through a set of appropriate measures, agreed and unanimously assumed by the allies. By initiating these measures, NATO has proved that it remains the essential framework of the transatlantic world in order to implement, when needed, the collective defence stipulated by the founding Treaty of Washington (1949), but also for allied consultation and decision any time the issue of defending their territories and populations in face of an attack will be raised (Article 5).
The listing of these measures reveals a symphony of future action destined to materialise: the strengthening of the transatlantic bond (a visionary statement of joint NATO and EU action was adopted on the first day of the Summit), but also the elimination of the terrorist danger represented by Daesh “through a global coalition”; an appropriate reply to Russia’s assertiveness on the alliance’s eastern border through a conjugation of deterrence (deployment of armed forces on this border, from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea) and dialogue based on the jointly agreed fundamental principles “of the global and Euro-Atlantic security architecture,” listed in the documents of 1997 (Russia-NATO Agreement and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Document) and 2002 (Rome Declaration); the mutual enhancement of military transparency and the lowering of risk in order to optimise security and stability in the Euro-Atlantic space by constructively engaging with Russia talks on modernizing the Vienna Document within the OSCE; supporting an independent, sovereign and stable Ukraine, a key mission for the Alliance, firmly committed to supporting this state’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, to implementing the Minsk Agreement reached in February 2015; the alliance’s indivisible security prompts NATO to carefully monitor developments in the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea, to strengthen cooperation with Finland and Sweden, to continue “regional efforts by the Black Sea littoral states aimed at ensuring security and stability” and “strengthen our dialogue and cooperation with Georgia and Ukraine in this regard.” No less important is the mentioning, in this context, of the Alliance’s commitment to support the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Republic of Moldova.
The listing of such directions of action could continue, just as the final communique of the Warsaw Summit does, including by referring to the directions of action that are in process of being implemented, having been adopted at the previous summit in Wales (September 2014).
Among them, one has to really emphasise those that concern the Alliance’s strategic (nuclear) capabilities, which represent a supreme guarantee of the allies’ defence, as well as the implementation of the NATO ballistic missile defence in the register of credible deterrence. In what concerns the latter, the Summit declared the attainment of NATO BMD Operational Capability, pointing out that “the Aegis Ashore site in Deveselu, Romania, represents a significant portion of this increase in capability, and the command and control (C2) of the Aegis Ashore site is being transferred to NATO. We also welcome that Turkey hosts a forward-based early-warning BMD radar at Kurecik and that Poland will be hosting an Aegist Ashore site at the Redzikowo military base. We are also pleased that additional voluntary national contributions have been offered by Allies, and we encourage further voluntary contributions, all of which will add robustness to the capability.”
As could be noticed above, NATO has taken into consideration not only its fundamental mission to defend the values of its own members, but it has also designed a series of measures based on and meant to tackle the variety of threats that exist and are forecast to emerge in all areas of military confrontation – it has declared the cyber domain and the attack against allies in this domain an aggression of a military type – in diverse geographical regions, referring both to the Arctic as well as the Enlarged Middle East, North Africa and the Indian Ocean etc. NATO’s global dimension thus becomes increasingly poignant, and the multiplication of regional defence cooperation frameworks, such as partnerships, cooperation dialogues or initiatives, appears to be a promising strategic direction.
Romania had a notable presence at this Summit, standing out as an important actor on the Alliance’s Eastern border, having projects and initiatives – the South-East Multination Brigade deployed in Romania, a naval cooperation framework in the Black Sea, among others – meant to strengthen NATO’s deterrence and thus to ensure high levels of collective defence in this region. Just as the Romanian President’s meeting with his Polish counterpart immediately following the end of the Summit proved, the implementation of the measures meant to consolidate reassurance and deterrence on this North Atlantic Alliance border of continental size has already started and will undoubtedly continue at a sustained rhythm. It has to be underscored – in the spirit of the Alliance decisions adopted in Warsaw – that this Romanian-Polish cooperation will take place by co-opting interested neighbours, NATO members or partners.
Just as Carl Bildt, Sweden’s ex-premier and a tireless militant for the strengthening of Euro-Atlantic security, wrote on his Twitter account shortly after the Summit ended on July 9, “no one should doubt NATO’s resolve if the security of any of its members were to be threatened.” His note is a quote from the Summit’s final communique, outlining the spirit that consensually animated the entire summit in Warsaw.