he GLOBSEC Defence Forum organised by the Central European Policy Institute (CEPI) was an opportunity to assess where NATO stands between the Wales and Warsaw summits. The debate reflected two main challenges that the Alliance has to face: one from the South and another from the East.
The challenge coming from the South is a complex one, encompassing difficulties such as religious hatred, uncontrolled migration flows, failed states and elements of total war. The Allies did not address it sufficiently at the Wales summit nor have they launched a serious debate on how to tackle it. NATO does not see it as a direct threat and therefore its response has been intuitive rather than based on a clear strategy.
The challenge coming from an aggressive Russia is intellectually easier as NATO knows it better and is already on the right track to implementing the measures adopted in Wales. The main responsibility is to continue in the implementation of the Readiness Action Plan (RAP) – restoring military balance throughout Europe – so that NATO remains credible.
There are still some outstanding tasks to complete in order to make new tools effective, such as adjustments of national decision-making and legal frameworks for crisis situations: it would take much longer to deploy NATO’s Spearhead Force than within the required two days. There is also a need to upgrade the Szczecin headquarters, draw up contingency plans for the defence of the Baltic countries and adopt a systematic policy of large-scale Article 5 exercises. National implementation of the RAP is lagging also due to funding problems (both in real and GDP terms), which heavily effect modernisation.
Besides looking back and evaluating the implementation of the Wales decisions, NATO leaders should use the Warsaw summit to discuss the next steps. With the benefit of hindsight it is known that Russia’s aggressive behavior against Ukraine was not an anomaly, but the new normal – it is to be expected that Russia will pose a serious military threat to NATO in the years to come. The idea behind the RAP was to reassure allies in Central Europe; now we need to think of measures to deter an increasingly aggressive Russia. The Warsaw summit should keep the dynamics of adaptation by commissioning a review of NATO’s Strategic Concept.