Center for Strategic Decision Research


The Evolution of the Alliance to Combat New Threats

His Excellency Aleksander Kwasniewski
President of Poland

After the unprecedented terrorist attacks on the United States, many commentators stated that the 21st century had just begun. People have known for a long time that it is not the astronomical calendar that marks the course of centuries, but great and tragic events-historic breakthroughs. Prior to September 11 it was thought that, unlike the 20th century, the 21st century, so joyfully welcomed, would be a time of no wars. These hopes turned out to be in vain. The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon resulted in the greatest consequences of an act of terror in the history of mankind. 

Today the war on terror is being conducted on different continents and involves many countries. While we do not know how long it will last, we do know it will be a long fight. The result of this war will depend on Euro-Atlantic solidarity. Whether or not this century will be defined as the century of terror will depend on the effectiveness and efficiency of the Allies and other participants in the international coalition. 


We can say openly that the North Atlantic Alliance was not adequately prepared to face the events that took place on the 11th of September in the United States. This was because, though threats had been perceived, Allied defense planning had not been based on them, and had focused rather on countering aggression in the traditional sense. The attacks on the U.S. had a new quality. They showed us that threats of world destabilization and to national and international security are now made not only by states but more and more often by transnational organizations. NATO mechanisms and procedures are relevant to combat these organizations only in a limited way. 

September 11 changed the perception and the hierarchy of issues crucial for security. It also influenced NATO's agenda. Today we need to work out new concepts for the Alliance, and then meet in Prague to discuss NATO's future. 


NATO is the European security pillar. It is gaining more and more significance in global stabilization. It also remains the center for defining national security for non-NATO countries-both those aspiring to membership in NATO and those that cooperate with the Alliance bilaterally or multilaterally. Poland sees NATO as a stabilizing factor in all Euro-Atlantic areas and in the countries that lay within the Alliance's zone of influence. 

Poland supports an evolution of the Alliance that will not weaken its traditional defense functions. We are concerned about the continuing bad trend in relations between the U.S. and Western Europe. On the one hand we see growing unilateralism with U.S. policy. On the other hand we see growing disagreement by some European Allies with American actions despite Europe's spontaneous expression of solidarity with America after the September 11 attacks. 

But it is imperative that we maintain transatlantic relations and counter any trends that may cause the weakening of this link. Plans such as those to separate American and Allied commands, including decreasing the significance of SACLANT, will deepen the technology and economic gaps between the U.S. and other Allies, weaken Allied defense planning, result in different perceptions of present threats, and reinforce the dangerous return to nationalization of European security policy. 


The North Atlantic Alliance must remain able to effectively respond to modern threats and challenges. It must also be capable of conducting operations other than the passive defense of Allied territories. To ensure this we must consolidate NATO's command structure as a whole and improve its military decision-making mechanisms. The Alliance must review and revitalize the Defense Capabilities Initiative to decrease the number of tasks although these tasks will be more demanding militarily and financially. This will allow us not only to more quickly achieve needed Allied defense capabilities but also stimulate the modernization of European armed forces. Neither NATO nor Europe needs bigger armed forces, but they both need modern forces ready for rapid deployment throughout the world. 

We Europeans must ensure that European military capabilities are compatible with America's. Only a Europe that offers high-level military options will be a desirable military partner for America. The same goes for the EU's European Security and Defense Policy. The EU can only partner with the Alliance by closely cooperating with NATO and by reinforcing its European pillar. 

The Allies are also considering the possibility of becoming involved beyond the immediate areas of responsibility determined by the treaty. We face asymmetric threats, and even small conspiring groups can cause enormous losses. Attacks can be planned anywhere. The enemy can strike unexpectedly and may be openly or covertly supported by individual states or large amounts of money. We must be able to defend ourselves against all of these possibilities, as well as strike back. We must also have peace plans for when the gunshots die out. 

This requires deepened cooperation with other international organizations, such as the United Nations, the European Union, and OSCE, as well as some countries located beyond the transatlantic area. From the Polish point of view it would be good to strengthen the NATO trends towards deeper involvement in the Mediterranean, the Balkans, the Middle East, Transcaucasia, and Central Asia. In some of those areas my country can play an important role because of its strong traditional bonds and good relationships. 

Finally, it is important to restate that NATO is the most important guarantor of an American military presence in Europe. I don't believe it is necessary to explain the significance of this presence to past and future decades. 


From its very beginning, NATO has been an organization based on common civilized values and in support of democracy and prosperity for all its members. The new threats, including terrorism, strike against these values. By enlarging the Alliance the organization will be strengthened and consolidated, blurring old divisions. It will also benefit Russia, which will be able to cooperate with the Alliance based on new rules of partnership. NATO enlargement is part of its evolution, and will work to maintain the organization as a security guarantor. Enlargement will also contribute to stabilization on the Continent and mitigate potential tensions between nations. It perfectly fits in with the recent transformations in Europe. 

Poland supports the idea of NATO enlargement " from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea, " a concept that was presented by President George W. Bush in April 2002. But we also believe that we must objectively determine if the candidates meet membership criteria to avoid weakening the cohesion and effectiveness of NATO operations. New members must be contributors to as well as consumers of security; this will make it easier for member-states' parliaments to support enlargement. Therefore I encourage candidates to stress not why they want to join NATO but what they can contribute to NATO. 


The process of NATO enlargement complements and parallels rapprochement with Russia. This "cooperation of 20" is mutually beneficial while allowing the Allies to maintain their freedom of action. 

It is in the interest of Poland to appoint a new body-the NATO-Russia Council-whose members would work on an equal footing on defined issues of international security. This council would be a mechanism for consultation, cooperation, joint decision making, and undertaking joint actions. The states participating in the council would bear the responsibility for implementing the decisions made together. After Alliance enlargement, increasing the number of council members should be taken into consideration. 

The establishment of the new council will be a significant achievement. However, we will be able to talk about real and necessary success only when this instrument brings about concrete joint actions. To this end, Russia should speak differently about NATO, in particular to its people. Their belief that there will be benefits from cooperating with the Alliance will be the best safeguard for ensuring the continuation of the new relationship. 


In addition to a new relationship with Russia, it is also necessary for NATO to work out new forms of partnership with Ukraine, a country whose large defense potential would be able to reinforce the military capabilities of the Alliance in a significant way. Ukraine is a very important Alliance partner, and the quality of our relationships in our part of Europe depends on this country. I highly value our cooperation with Ukraine and think that Ukraine's membership in NATO can be discussed some time in the future. Including Ukraine in our European space would no doubt be in our common interest. 

It would also be worthwhile to look into new forms of cooperation within the frameworks of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) and the Partnership for Peace. EAPC should be an attractive platform for relationships with countries interested in cooperating with the Alliance. However, dialogue with the European Union, in particular concerning crisis response, including civil emergencies, will require a special approach. Intensified efforts will also be necessary to respond to other probable asymmetric threats to security. 


The main challenge we face today is to boldly overcome new barriers. The decision to accept Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary into the Alliance three years ago was an historic opportunity for Europe. We did not waste it then, and we cannot waste our opportunities now. We must support all efforts to broaden the zone of stability and security in Europe and in the world. We must strengthen the North Atlantic Alliance internally and enlarge it by accepting new countries. The post-September 11 world is a totally new reality that makes us realize that the political landscape of the 20th century is history. 

It is my hope that the peoples of the world will stand together to face the challenges of the new century. The consistent, joint actions we take that meet our allied commitments will directly influence not only the security of Europe and America but the whole world. I hope that we do not lose our chance for a secure future. Let us make sure that we take the chance to guarantee our common security. 


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