The meeting began with the opening speech by Antonia Colibasanu PhD in which she presented and assessed current security challenges facing Romania. Thereafter, the experts expressed their thoughts and remarks. Participants of the meeting addressed issues and potential approaches to the security challenges facing the Southern and Eastern NATO Flank. Furthermore, the issue of the Intermarium potential regional Alliance was raised and discussed at the meeting. The discussion was conducted under the Chatham House rules.
Romania is facing serious security challenges from both the South and East of Europe. Russia, due to its economic decline is becoming increasingly aggressive in its foreign policy. Furthermore, the current migration crisis is another challenge, which not only affects Europe as a whole, but is also rising to a high security threat in Bucharest. This crisis has to be resolved by the European Union on an institutional level. Moreover, the participants of the meeting highlighted the current situation in the Balkans as well as Turkey perceiving itself as a Southern European country rather than an Eastern European one as further concerns for Romania.. Lastly, it has been underlined that the United States continue to play the most significant role in Romania, even if it is perceived that there is a visible increase of German influence.
The participants agreed, that the Intermarium Alliance is a key factor in responding to the security threats which the Southern and Eastern Flanks must tackle. The experts underlined that strategic partnerships are necessary for securing and defending national interests of Poland and Romania, mainly because they provide a broader opportunity for future cooperation. Nevertheless, a number of issues remain unanswered, for example how to strategically connect countries of the Baltic Sea states and Black Sea, to take advantage of full operational capability or how do countries perceive achieving a fully operational Intermarium? These questions must be answered in the near future, while countries must define their common interests. Finally, a significant question remains of how countries should address Moldova and Ukraine, in terms of their potential participation in the Intermarium Alliance and whether Turkey should be treated as a connector or disruptor of this project?
Experts also assessed the position of Turkey and its main internal policies, which are problematic when it comes to the Intermarium. For instance, the issue of the Kurdish minority remains unresolved, while Turkey proceeds with its harsh politics towards the West. However, there were voices during the meeting that Ankara also recognises Russia and Iran as its main security challenges, therefore it is in its own interest to find common ground for the sake of cooperation with the West. The experts agreed that Turkey’s main concern is Russia’s role as a “peacekeeping nation” in the Caucasus region. Ankara could use NATO in order to block Moscow’s actions in the region. One of the experts mentioned that Tukey’s authoritarian direction is a significant problem as it creates destabilisation in the country rather than stability and predictability, therefore it would be difficult to include Turkey in the Intermarium initiative.
The discussion brought voices evaluating the possibility of changing the approach to core states forming the Intermarium. Some experts believe that the coalition should incorporate states from Norway to Turkey, in other words from the “Arctic to Aleppo”, including strategic partnerships with Finland, Sweden and the Ukraine, which would play a significant role in the initiative.
Nevertheless, there were negative voices regarding the Intermarium initiative, as some experts perceive the project as not realistically operational (in terms of hard security) and believe that Poland should focus on the Northern countries.
The next conclusion from the meeting is that there is a significant potential for a further strengthening of cooperation, mainly in terms of hard security and “high politics”, between Poland and Romania. The potential must be turned into real capabilities and capacities in upcoming years. Poland is spending over 2% of its GDP on defence of which 25% on modernisation while Romania is continuously increasing its military budget and undergoing significant modernisation processes, improving defensive capabilities. Thus, for instance, an important window of opportunity is surrounding the air space as both countries purchased F-16’s, which seems to be a natural field of future cooperation. The main objective of this cooperation, should be the reduction of Russian influence in both Poland and Romania. These states have to play a greater role in reducing the Russian narrative of dependency of European states on Moscow. Lastly, experts underlined the challenge in terms of cohesion within the framework of the “Bucharest IX format” which must be resolved for the successful future cooperation.
Invited guests, also discussed upcoming US Presidential elections and how will that influence on the security of Europe, in particular Poland and Romania. Experts discussed the possibility of, so the called, “U-turn” in American foreign and security policy as well as the potential consequences of this change, for instance it might generate serious security threat to the European states as Russia could exploit this moment. Experts agreed that Poland and Romania must put all their efforts to further attract the US in order to intensify potential future political and military cooperation and US presence in the region. They also agreed that the new US reset policy with Russia is currently rather impossible to achieve. Poland and Romania should focus on the coming elections in France and Germany rather than the US elections. Elections in France and Germany may bring unexpected results which may change foreign and security politics of both countries.
Lastly, experts agreed that Greece may be a problem mainly due to its current economic state as its compliant to the Russian influence. Moscow can use and already has tried to use this situation to undermine the unity of the European Union and NATO by dividing European states. Regarding the Visegrad Group countries, participants agreed that the V4 states should at least present “passive support” in terms of regional politics towards security challenges, while not disrupting the current Polish and Romanian efforts to achieve security objectives.
Last but not least, in the perception of experts, Southern security challenges are not existential while Eastern Flank security challenges are existential, thus there exist differences within NATO members, which must be tackled and addressed during the Warsaw Summit.
Mateusz Krupczyński – NCSS Analysis Division
Adam Kowalczyk – NCSS Analysis Division (Director)