Armed Forces

“Strategic Adaptation” - NATO Plans Regarding The Warsaw Summit. What about the NATO bases?

Polish Minister of Defence, Tomasz Siemoniak, along with the chief of the National Security Bureau, Stanisław Koziej, presented the plans made by the Polish authorities in relation to the next year’s NATO Summit in Warsaw. Not only do these plans assume that a permanent presence of the NATO forces in Poland is expected, but they also provide for the increased capabilities of the whole structure of the NATO forces, not only the Quick Reaction Force elements. The opposition MPs covered the problem of the German denial on creation of the permanent NATO bases in Poland.

During the meeting of the National Defence Commission, Tomasz Siemoniak, Minister of Defence informed the MPs that one of the main goals, which is going to be realized during the 2016 NATO Summit in Warsaw, is to enhance the alliance’s capabilities within the scope of defending the territories of the member states, including Poland. The Polish authorities are going to drive NATO towards re-achieving the balance between the Article 5 collective defence provisions and the missions executed beyond the treaty-defined territory.

The goal which is going to be pursued by Poland at the NATO summit in Warsaw is to bolster the NATO forces as a whole. Secondly we are willing to maintain permanent NATO forces presence within our territory.

Tomasz Siemoniak, Minister of Defence

Poland plans to implement – during the 2016 NATO summit – the initiative of NATO strategic adaptation, covering the areas of improved capabilities (including conventional capabilities) of all of the NATO armed forces, not only those selected to play their role within the NATO Response Force structures. The assumption is that the above action is going to significantly expand the scope of capabilities needed to execute the collective defence operations.

Tomasz Siemoniak noted that Poland is going to drive NATO towards maintaining “permanent” presence of the NATO elements in Poland. Moreover, the Polish authorities will postulate that NATO operations shall be concentrated on Mid-Eastern Europe, particularly within the scope of expanding the allied infrastructure, including the infrastructure which would be utilized in order to accommodate the forces of the alliance, should a threat arise, along with command structures or distribution of the allied forces.

Nonetheless, NATO summit in Warsaw cannot be treated as a summary for the Newport decisions, thus we have undertaken actions, the aim of which is to continue the strategic adaptation of the NATO forces, shifting the center of gravity of the NATO activities to the operations and tasks related to the Article 5 of the Washington Treaty.

Tomasz Siemoniak, Minister of Defence

Minister of Defence admitted that disproportions within that scope were present, referring to the Mid-Eastern European states. During his statement Siemoniak also recalled the activities, the aim of which was to implement the Newport summit provisions, including expansion of the quantitative profile of the NATO Response Force which had been realized by raising the number of the affiliated troops up to 40,000. Secondly, Siemoniak recalled the fact that a quick reaction force element had been established, and thirdly, that readiness of the Multinational Corps Northeast, based in Stettin, had been raised. United States announced that the Pentagon is going to deploy equipment for an armoured unit to Poland before the 2016 NATO summit.

On the other hand, head of the National Security Bureau, Stanisław Koziej, noted the importance of maintaining permanent NATO forces presence in the Mid-Eastern European region, including the Baltic republics. Only such solution would constitute a proper means of deterrence, not only against the potential conventional aggression, but also against the operations below the threshold of war. In similar situations, decisions related to introduction of the NATO forces in the given region may turn out to be difficult.

Chief of the National Security Bureau also endorsed the “Spearhead” doctrine which would assume that the forces should be deployed within the territory of the threatened state even before the open conflict begins. A similar solution was proposed by the NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmusseen and by the NATO Commander in Europe, General Philip Breedlove, in the Washington Post article published back in 2014.

The discussion also covered the area and issues related to establishment of the potential permanent NATO presence within the territory of Poland. Secondly, the issue of decision-making process referring to the use of the NATO forces – also within the context of using the Multinational Corps Northeast in order to command the QRF – was also scrutinized. 

MP Ludwik Dorn noted that the Polish postulates did not inflict pressure on NATO, when it comes to formation of permanent alliance bases in Poland, and this move was “quite aware”. Dorn stated that expansion of the “heavy forces”, referring to the whole of the NATO forces which would be involved in a collective defence operation, is going to be treated as a “functional substitution” for the above.

MP Dorn also suggested that the Polish authorities shall also examine their options within the scope of increased endorsement of the postulates which state that Poland should be a place, where NATO shall maintain its permanent presence, in exchange for increased involvement of Poland in the problem-solving processes within some other areas. The above was exemplified by supervision of the Libyan coast which is required to stop the inflow of the illegal immigrants. This kind of operation probably will not be possible with the UN mandate, since the organization is not going to take a relevant decision.

MP Dorn also referred to the German initiatives, the aim of which is to raise the Berlin’s status in the NATO alliance (as a framework nation) and in the UN (since the Germans are willing to become a permanent member of the Security Council), suggesting that Poland could, conditionally, start a dialogue covering the needs of the allies. In such case, the allied consent would be needed referring to the activities undertaken by Poland in order to raise the level of national security (i.e. maintaining permanent NATO presence in the Mid-Eastern European Region).

On the other hand, MP Michał Jach referred to the reports published by the “Rzeczpospolita” daily, according to which no decision regarding the permanent NATO bases is going to be undertaken during the NATO Summit in Warsaw, due to the objections of the German government. The view above echoed the statement made by John A. Heffern, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs.

Responding to the above, Tomasz Siemoniak stated that the decision, according to which US military bases would be located in Poland, would have to be made in a sovereign way, regardless of the opinions and concerns raised by the third countries, including Germany, since no member or any other state has a “veto right” within the above-mentioned scope. Minister of Defence additionally noted that the United States government is often acting in two ways – as a part of NATO and as an independent state. The problem of defence spending was also covered, especially in the context of the declarations made by the countries of our region, which are willing to increase the spending in the light of the provisions made during the Newport summit. 

However, we may assume that the German objection or objection submitted by any other European country, bears some significance, even though it may not exclude such solution. It should be recalled that despite the operations, the aim of which is to bolster the involvement of the US Forces in Europe, within the scope of the European Reassurance Initiative, the level of the US involvement in Europe is limited, partly due to the Pivot to Asia, and partly due to the US involvement in the Middle East.

Should a compromise be reached by NATO, within the area of establishing permanent presence of the allied forces in the Mid-Eastern Europe, this could be realized on the basis of the independent combat units (not the combat units which are the front-line ones, when it comes to the joint exercises), which could maintain their permanent, rotational presence. Similar solution is proposed by Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia – with a single battalion deployed within the territory of each of the countries above.

Solution like that would involve a greater number of the NATO members, however it would surely be supported by the Americans. On the other hand, the United States government, at least the current administration, is not willing to undertake independent decisions regarding permanent deployment of large units. The above would result in costs related to the process of constructing the bases and the proper change of the limited US Army structure, still suffering from the personnel cuts. Should a compromise be reached, and should other allies be involved, the US government would probably decide that it would be a part of such presence.

What is more, reinforcement of the NATO alliance as a whole, postulated by the Polish authorities, is required regardless of the decisions related to potential permanent deployment of the NATO forces within the territory of Poland. Throughout last couple of years, the Armed Forces of Europe have gone through a series of cuts which limited or completely eliminated some of the capabilities (e.g. the Dutch armoured forces or the rocket artillery), while selection of the “Spearhead” elements was done at a cost of other units, e.g. in Germany. In their current shape, the European armies may not be fully capable to implement their alliance commitments, should the threat arise within several areas. Taking a decision which would reverse the effects of the cuts during the Warsaw summit would be highly desirable, from the Warsaw’s point of view.