The workshop organized by the GMF Warsaw Office and the Embassy of Sweden in Poland on March 26th 2013 entitled: “Nordic-Baltic Security and the role of Poland as a regional actor,” was a follow up event on two reports issued by the Swedish Defense Research Agency (FOI): “Polish security today and tomorrow” and “The Security and Defensibility of the Baltic States”.
H.E. Staffan Herrstroem, Swedish Ambassador to Poland made the opening remarks by saying that Sweden is more engaged in discussing the regional security component following recent talks between Polish and Swedish Foreign Ministers. The presentation by Dr. Mike Winnerstig, Deputy Director of Research at FOI dealt with current Polish security, and challenges, regional cooperation strategies, security, and defensibility of the Baltic-Nordic States, and the Euro-Atlantic cooperation. The presentation was not only an excellent overview of the Polish and regional security developments, but also an introduction to a lively discussion that followed. Dr. Winnerstig said that NATO Alliance is now dealing with challenges concerning increased global insecurities, Russia rearmament, military cutbacks, and the U.S. re-balancing towards Asia. He argued that while Europe is now relatively secure, and many countries like Germany and France are decreasing their defense budgets, Poland remains committed to spending 2% GDP on defense and in the future could surpass Germany in terms of military strength. Sweden, on the other hand, is currently spending 1.14% GDP on defense, but has confirmed its commitment to support Baltic-Nordic efforts on countless occasions Dr. Winnerstig also said that regional challenges for Poland concern mainly the eastern countries like: Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova and though Poland is engaged within NATO Baltic Air Policing and high-profile exercises in the region, the Baltic basin is not Poland’s strategic priority.
BG (ret.) Kazimierz Sikorski, Director of the Strategic Analyses Department at the National Security Bureau of Poland disagreed with Dr. Winnerstig by arguing that Poland does not have much different security priorities from Nordic-Baltic states, but is now active within V4 and Eastern Partnership program dealing with its immediate challenges in the east. The Baltic region, however will always remain Poland’s high priority. Poland aims to modernize and ‘westernize’ its defense reforms in order to put more emphasis on coordinated costs in the defense budget as part of its ‘smart defense , and also to emerge as a stronger regional partner. Mr. Adam Bugajski, Director of the Department of Security at the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs added that modern approach to regional security should include at least three components of cooperation, covering: 1. Economic issues (mainly energy); 2. Eastern dimension (Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova); 3. Security – NATO.
Participants agreed that NATO will remain the core security component in the region, and the idea to establish a European military headquarters should not duplicate NATO’s role or its purpose. They also agreed that the role of the U.S. in the region is just as important now as it has been in the past. The U.S. military presence on the ground with developing AMD architectures is thus far a sufficient deterrent against Russia, though concerns over its future development remains. Over the last twenty years the Baltic-Nordic region has undergone a remarkable transformation and has now the potential to become a constructive leader in transatlantic and global security. It needs, however even more integration and cooperation in order to strengthen the alliance and retain U.S. and NATO involvement. On that note, Dr. Andrew Michta, GMF Warsaw Director concluded by saying that GMF Warsaw is committed to continue discussions on Nordic-Baltic cooperation and the role of Poland in future GMF seminars and workshops.