Center for Strategic Decision Research


New Members of NATO: New Challenges, New Functions

His Excellency Aleksander Kwasniewski
President of Poland


Over the past ten years, Europe has traveled an impressive distance—from a divided world frozen by fear and suspicion to a uniting community searching for a new order. This new order is a just one, and one that recognizes the aspirations and the security needs of every nation, from accepting totalitarian regimes to recognizing the norms of democracy to respecting human rights.

The struggle for freedom, democracy, and dignity that began in Central and Eastern Europe was at the root of the great transformation process that is underway in today’s Europe. The dramatic developments in Russia and the Balkans showed the scale of the new threats and challenges. It became evident that the new NATO could not limit its functions to the defense and security of its member-states. Moving NATO’s borders eastward seemed the optimal solution, since NATO is the only real choice for guaranteeing security in Europe.

The inception of the Partnership for Peace program was a true turning point. This program provides flexible instruments for international cooperation and a guiding philosophy for carrying out defense reform in Central and Eastern Europe. The prospect of joining Western structures has already had a positive impact on the development of the region, enabling Central and Eastern European states to benefit from security and helping Western countries overcome their fears of weak and unpredictable Eastern neighbors engaged in prolonged conflicts. Mutual confidence has replaced old divisions. The continent has begun to believe in character, maturity, and the irreversibility of the East’s democratic transformation. And the countries of Central and Eastern Europe have become convinced that their aspirations will not fall victim to geopolitical juggling. They believe that they will not become second-class citizens in the Alliance and that their national interests and expectations will be recognized.

Preparations by Poland

Poland’s participation in the Partnership for Peace program and its cooperative work with the nations of the Alliance helped Poland reach the preparatory stages of accession. Just as it has been helpful to Poland, as well as to the Czech Republic and Hungary, PFP should continue to contribute to the reconstruction of the whole Partnership area. The continuing work of the program is one of Poland’s national priorities.

The countries of Central and Eastern Europe are undergoing deep transformations, including profound economic, social, and political modernization. The scale and pace of these transformations of course depend on conditions in each individual state. Poland is undergoing administrative reform by giving new powers to local governments. New legislation, guaranteed by the Constitution, has also been adopted to establish an effective system of civilian democratic control over the armed forces. The new legislation leaves no doubt that the Parliament, the President, and the government are the authors and implementing bodies of defense policy.

Extensive reform of the armed forces has been started, described in detail in the government-prepared document “The Armed Forces of 2012.” The document outlines the conditions agreed to for NATO membership and details the mechanisms that are enabling Poland to adopt new structures and a new operational concept. The document needs some corrections, but its intent has been accepted by political leaders and NATO commanders.

The level of interoperability between our forces and our defense-related civilian institutions is also improving. We are cooperating widely with states within the Alliance, and are working intensively to create an integrated civil-military system for crisis response. Additionally we are making progress in training military staff according to NATO standards. There are also efforts underway to adopt the “target force goals,” the practical aspects of joining the Alliance, and to develop a related national strategic concept.


Today, we can state that Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary will become NATO members in less than a year. I can also state with complete conviction that the union of Poland and NATO looks to be a happy one from both a logical and a people-to-people point of view.

We in Poland are cognizant of the fact that we belong to the great family of Western Christian civilization, a civilization to which we are linked by history, common cultural roots, and the same system of values. History has taught Poles that in this part of Europe we are safe only when the center of Europe is not in a vague gray zone defined as “in between.” We also know that freedom and security are worth paying a high price for. This explains the continuous strong support by approximately 75% of our society for integration with NATO.

As a loyal and dependable member of NATO, Poland will assume its share of the responsibility for the actions taken by the Alliance. Poles understand that the cost of preserving peace in Europe can be high and may require sacrifices. Poles also know that freedom and peace are indivisible; the motto “For your freedom and ours” has been written on Polish banners for hundreds of years. When the question arose of Polish units’ participation in the international peacekeeping operation in the Persian Gulf, and the legislation of that time did not regulate Polish army involvement in operations abroad, it did not take long for such legislation to be enacted by Parliament At present, the problem is solved..

I am very proud of the political consensus achieved by Polish political groups over the last few years regarding NATO and European Union membership. While the right and left differ substantially, no important Polish political group questions NATO membership. All Poles speak in the same voice about NATO, which is giving us an historical chance to come out from under the shadow that has clouded our national aspirations and sovereign development during the past 300 years. A change of ruling parties will not alter our security policy. The decision to join NATO will be lasting.

Our decision to join the Western cultural and ideological community, however, does not free us from the duty of learning about contemporary Europe, which is sometimes perceived by Poles, because of the mass media and educational institutions, in a too romantic way. All of us need to learn not only the languages of our new allies but also their manner of work, so that we can work together in multinational teams. Poland wants to adapt itself to the Alliance, and through our efforts we hope the Alliance will come to appreciate us and learn more about us as well.

The Polish consciousness is also undergoing a real revolution. Our romantic view of patriotism—being ready to make great sacrifices and changes but with no true awareness of the enormous work needed to do this—is being supplanted by more realistic thinking. Poles understand that contemporary patriotism must be based on a respect for democracy and a market economy. It must also be based on joining the Alliance and on developing good-neighbor relations with states within close proximity.


The ratification debate within the Parliaments of NATO countries brought us very satisfactory results—a high assessment of the transformations being made by the states aspiring to membership and confirmation of member confidence in the new Allies. These parliamentary discussions also provided an opportunity to formulate important questions about the future of the Alliance and its position in the changing world. After a half-century, NATO may be facing the biggest challenge to the political and geographical scope of its responsibility. Discussions dealt with the question of whether or not it was ready to take on more responsibility and, if so, in what form. We are now discussing what the pace and scope would be of further enlargement; the relations between the Alliance and Russia and other countries that will not become NATO members in the near future; and the relationship between NATO and other European organizations. We are well aware of the fact that the answers to these questions will shape the future of the Alliance and the character of international relations in the 21st century. We wish to seek answers to those questions together.

NATO is a military alliance and a political community that believes that the expansion of cooperative efforts and a favorable international atmosphere are effective ways to remove threats to peace. Because of this philosophy, NATO’s military power is not a threat to anyone, and gives NATO the moral right to initiate actions, agreements, and treaties to bring stability to the entire hemisphere. Poland shares NATO’s philosophy and uses it as a basis for its own political actions.

It is the inalienable right of each nation to live in peace, guaranteed by a system of security. It is also the inalienable right of each nation to choose its alliances and allies. NATO cannot be a closed organization. Poland is particularly interested in not having its eastern borders be lines of division in Europe, or in classifying countries according to how they are meeting criteria by progressing in introducing democratic reforms.

It would be poor form to delight in our own achievement and simply forget about times when a helping hand was given to us. It is our duty to help other nations join NATO and to assist them. Those that aspire to achieve NATO membership and to meet membership criteria, particularly Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Bulgaria, Romania, and Slovenia, can count on Poland. We support the Alliance’s policy of keeping the door open to all nations that wish to join and that can meet membership requirements.


As the most powerful military alliance in the world, NATO bears a special responsibility for the security and stability of the entire European continent. Maintaining a strong defense capacity and operational mobility is conducive to peace and creating a new order in Europe. Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary will make special contributions to strengthening the Alliance’s defense potential. In crisis situations outside the area of NATO’s direct responsibility, the internal military infrastructures of the new members will play an important function. Poland’s armed forces are experienced in joint operations from their nearly 50 years’ participation in peacekeeping missions. You can be certain of our strong international solidarity and about our readiness to cooperate if necessary. The peacekeeping mission in Bosnia was not only a political and moral challenge to Poland but also a serious, practical opportunity to work jointly with forces of other countries. I am convinced that a proper political solution—and a military one, if it turns out to be necessary—will also be worked out for Kosovo.

Poland’s participation in NATO will help accelerate the process of Polish-German reconciliation. Poland is a neighbor and soon will become an ally of Germany. The evil we suffered is now a thing of the past. France built a partnership and then friendship with the nation of Goethe and Adenauer. Poland is following this example. Helping the process is our western neighbors’ great determination to make Polish-German relations significant. One symbol of the changes underway is the forming of the German-Danish-Polish Corps, with headquarters in Szczecin. Germans, Danes, and Poles are together, on the same side, and we do not point our weapons at anyone.

NATO’s friendly cooperation with non-NATO states and other European organizations is of fundamental importance. In addition to participating in Partnership for Peace and NATO’s bilateral agreements, these states and organizations can play important roles in regional cooperation programs. We believe that Russia and Ukraine will take NATO up on the agreements it offers.

Poland is willing and ready to contribute to NATO’s great undertaking of building stable European relations. As the biggest country in the region and one that adheres to a good-neighbor policy, Poland has political and moral duties toward both the Baltic Sea region and Southern and Eastern Europe. Together with NATO we have succeeded in not allowing the creation of a security-deficient sphere in the former Soviet-controlled area. We cannot afford to be disappointed in that regard, nor can we afford any new divisions or curtains. We will support the pro-European aims of the people living in neighboring countries and assist them in achieving Western standards. While we understand that the modernization processes taking place in the Central and Eastern European states are complex, Poland declares its readiness to share its experience with its regional partners.

Polish-Ukrainian cooperation is something special to us and a source of satisfaction. Our far-reaching common political goals and the excellent climate in which our cooperative work takes place have helped us to overcome the painful past and to reach numerous positive agreements. Together we have formed the Euro-regions of Carpathians and Bug, as well as a Polish-Ukrainian Battalion. The Consultative Committee of the Polish and Ukrainian Presidents also holds regular meetings.

Lithuania is another close partner of Poland. Together we are fulfilling mutual obligations and are creating the foundation for a promising future. Joint economic, political, and military activities have been undertaken, including the formation of a Polish-Lithuanian Battalion.

Charters signed by the Alliance with Ukraine and by the U.S. with the Baltic States concern us directly. They offer a vision of international cooperation that is supported not only by political, economic, and military factors but also by moral ones. For all those reasons, Poland firmly supports those documents and aims to actively support their ideas and programs. As a Central European state aspiring to NATO membership, we are aware that the more actively we participate in the European Union, the sooner we will achieve our goals. The EU will be more willing to help us and to include us in its structures when we are able to guarantee that we are a stable state and that our region is making economic and political progress.

Poland, like all the NATO and EU countries and the Czech Republic and Hungary, is watching the sociopolitical processes taking place in Belarus and Slovakia. As we wish the Slovaks and Belarussians success on their road to joining Europe, we hope they will make a sovereign choice regarding the development of democratic institutions and processes in their countries. Such a choice will surely open up new prospects and areas of activity. Poland is ready to begin long-term cooperation with those countries. We want to lend them a helping hand and share our experience with the integration process; we expect that the Czech Republic, Hungary, and NATO and EU countries will do the same.

CEFTA should be a fine instrument for carrying out this offer of cooperation and mutual assistance. As the Partnership for Peace program acted as a catalyst for cooperation in defense and NATO integration processes in the region, so CEFTA can and should act as a catalyst for a partnership encompassing welfare and regional cooperation matters.

Thanks to the policies that Poland is putting in place in the region, I believe that we will eventually prove our credibility to our allies and contribute to the flourishing Atlantic-oriented post-bipolar political philosophy of the region as well as to the entire Northern Hemisphere.


Europe and the U.S. form a community of states and nations united by values, respected democratic standards, and political and economic achievements. The presence of the United States in Europe is a guarantee of the continuing existence of this community. The U.S. is also an inalienable element of cooperation and stabilization in Europe. Europe and the United States are linked by a strategic partnership, and by the loyalty and friendship of their allies. Poland wants to strengthen those ties. We also think it would be groundless to contrast NATO’s European pillar with its American one, because in view of the changing number of NATO members and the profound reform of its structure, the Alliance will surely change. However, any changes to the Alliance’s concept must not downgrade the effectiveness of its decision-making process or violate the treaty on which it is based. Its defense potential and operational efficiency must only improve.

The events of the past decade have changed the types and the hierarchy of the threats and challenges to the Alliance. The threat of a global conflict has nearly vanished, and we are learning how to meet the new threats that confront us. Now NATO’s defense system is being strengthened by three new members—and will be strengthened by more members in the future—who will surely help to work out a flexible and efficient system of response to all crises and threats, including threats of war, natural disasters, and social and economic crises.

The Alliance’s new Strategic Concept must reflect the new conditions in Europe and NATO’s new role within the European security architecture. It must also offer a new political and strategic vision for the Euro-Atlantic region. The Concept should include all the alliances and the unions of partners and cooperation offered by NATO to all the states of this region. The realization of this vision should be guaranteed by preserving NATO’s military might to effectively discourage all those who would violate the security it provides.

In other words, the new Strategic Concept should offer clear indicators of the Alliance’s defense capabilities, its military plans, and its defense position. It should also contain a message addressed to the international community about the Alliance’s position regarding the preservation of peace and security both within and outside Europe. This statement should help to overcome the fears of those who do not understand, or do not want to understand, the real role and the goals of the new, enlarged NATO.

Poland will help to realize the Alliance’s new vision by continuing to adjust its defense, political, and economic systems. Such a course will change both the direction and the contents of our armed forces training. I am convinced that Polish units soon will join the Rapid Reaction Corps. Poland’s new national strategic concept will also reflect NATO processes encompassing civil and military mechanisms.

I am completely convinced that NATO, through its restructuring, will become more modern and effective and therefore more able to make peace a reality throughout the continent. Poland, along with the other newly accepted countries, will be an efficient and credible member. Formal acknowledgment of our efforts and our way of thinking—Poland’s as well as Hungary’s and the Czech Republic’s—will take place when we formally become members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. This will be a crucial moment for us all. For the first time in history, alliances will be signed between Central Europe, Western Europe, and North America.


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