Warsaw summit provides a good balance of decisions

Warsaw summit provides a good balance of decisions

Dominik P. Jankowski

Head of OSCE and Eastern Security Unit at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland

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Dominik P. Jankowski

Warsaw, Poland

Interview with Dominik P. Jankowski (Head of OSCE and Eastern Security Unit at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland)


How do you assess the outcomes of the NATO Warsaw summit?

It was a great summit, both in terms of the outcomes, but also from our perspective as a host nation and organiser. The general assessment is very positive. The main goal was to strengthen the Eastern flank – both its northern and southern part (if we can divide the Eastern flank at all). The core objective was to bring Allied troops to the region, which was achieved with the decision to establish an enhanced forward presence in Poland and the Baltic states. So currently we have the framework nations and we know when we are going to start the whole process of establishing the forces. This is the main achievement from the Polish perspective. The same goes for the Black Sea region – the key element is the Romanian proposal of a tailored forward presence (though not yet fully established). But at least it was decided at the summit that we want to move forward with the Romanian concept, which is already a step into the right direction. Now we have to wait for additional crucial elements of that decision.

Romania is a part of the Eastern flank from a NATO perspective. The Black Sea region is what connects the Eastern and the Southern flank. Let’s look for a concrete example: the decision of the US regarding the deployment of the Armoured Brigade Combat Team – the additional brigade that will be located on the Eastern flank. Romania is included in the rotational deployments of that brigade as of 2017. Therefore, in terms of NATO thinking and the threats that we see, Romania and Poland are almost the same, only the geographical location might be a little different. Russia is the main challenge and the forward presence posture was designed to tackle it.

When it comes to the Southern flank, the Mediterranean Sea and the partners around – Poland dedicated less attention because of its Eastern focus. But when you look at the summit outcomes in terms of the Southern flank, they are substantial, and they represent a step forward in a direction that was not envisaged at the beginning. For example, the decision to use the AWACS to enhance the reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities in the fight against Daesh is an important one. NATO, which is not a part of the Global Coalition, engages in a manner which is highly visible.

Thus, I think both flanks received what they wanted, so there is now a good balance of decisions. Of course the Eastern flank was more visible at the summit, especially with the decision for the rotational presence – it’s something that you wouldn’t have envisioned before 2014.


How do you see the division of the Eastern flank between North and South as having an impact on the Russian threat? It is a threat that extends and expands from the Baltic Sea, throughout the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea towards the Mediterranean. Do you see a NATO division in terms of language and strategic thinking as having an impact on how we address the Russian threat as an alliance?

Even though there is clearly a difference in language, I don’t think there is one in strategic thinking. Let me give you an example which is not included in the communique of the summit, but is of crucial importance for the Alliance: the Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) systems. When you look at how NATO sees this Russian threat, there is no difference between the Baltic and the Black Sea, though there is a difference in how NATO sees these systems in the Southern flank, for example in Syria. The Southern flank is far less deadlocked than the Black and the Baltic Sea. In fact, there is a common denominator of the NATO perception towards the Russian threats on the Eastern flank. The A2/AD systems are the same, though they might be used in a different manner. Obviously, Russia used force in the Black Sea region (Ukraine, Georgia), and not – at least for the moment – in the Baltic Sea region.


During the summit France made some worrying statements, as President Hollande mentioned that Russia is not a threat and was pushing for the Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) to be transferred from under solely US decision-making to shared NATO decision-making. To what extent did this impact the summit?

In the end France was very pragmatic. As you know, they have a very clear stance on the BMD, they are sticking to the decisions on missile defence taken during the previous summits in 2010 and in 2012. It’s very clear that even though we know that Russia has missile capabilities that pose a direct threat to many NATO countries, the NATO missile defence system is against threats coming from outside the European theatre. Basically, this means it’s not designed to counter threats coming from Russia. Once we understand that this is a position to which all Allies agreed back in 2010 and 2012, the current stance of France is nothing new. But, obviously, it doesn’t take into consideration the Russian posture both in the Baltic and in the Black Sea. That’s something clearly not covered in the current way of thinking about the NATO BMD system. In the end, negotiations are always difficult – there’s inevitably a trade-off between deterrence and dialogue. In the end, France will take part in the enhanced forward presence, by contributing troops to the Baltic States. France is clearly taking part in the implementation process of the Warsaw summit decisions. Last, Russia is obviously not the biggest daily challenge to French national security. Terrorism is.


How do you see the debate on Russian A2/AD systems inside the Alliance today? Are we ready to address this threat in a comprehensive way? From a political perspective, the will seems not to be there. Also, from a Polish perspective, how is the threat that stems from Kaliningrad affecting the Baltic politico-military system and especially the Suwalki gap?

There are decisions already taken that NATO should look very deeply into the A2/AD systems and the challenges that those systems are posing to NATO forces’ ability to move around the NATO theatre. There is a unanimous understanding on the military side that those systems both in the Baltic and Black Sea are posing a direct threat to NATO forces – our ability to deploy and reinforce. But the A2/AD is a challenge we cannot pursue in a vacuum, it is linked with other Russian instruments (which reinforce the A2/AD dimension): escalation dominance (Russians can easily escalate the conflict politically and militarily) and the force-on-force ratio. NATO is moving, I think, towards developing a strategy for dealing with the A2/AD dimension through SHAPE and ACT.


So, this was not resolved at the Warsaw summit.

No, because the enhanced forward presence has to be taken into consideration in that strategy. Also, because in order to develop a strategy you need to exercise first in the A2/AD environment, and this needs to be done on the NATO level through training and exercises.


Could you explain the significance of the Suwalki gap in this context?

With the enhanced forward presence we are more able to defend our own territory. But the A2/AD systems in the Baltic Sea region are very developed, including high tech elements. So the threat is real. It is based on navy and air force capabilities, missiles as well as electronic warfare capabilities. One of our concerns is how we are going to protect the enhanced forward presence against this threat, as well as how we are going to ensure – in a situation of a real conflict – that the reinforcement troops are going to come to Poland. We are not able to tackle this challenge alone, and it is also a challenge for the countries that are on VJTF standby. So if the North Atlantic Council decides to move the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) into Poland or the Baltic states, it needs to take into account that those forces might not be able to enter because of the A2/AD systems, if Russians decide to use them. Obviously, we have to modernize our own forces taking into account the A2/AD dimension – developing electronic warfare capabilities, missile defence, and intelligence. But our main concern is whether the NATO reinforcement troops will be able to enter the region, and this is something we need to resolve in NATO with our allies.


It seems that the current debate isn’t taking into account the need for more capabilities to address this threat. Do you see the Alliance going into the same direction as the problem it had in the past, related to the capability gaps, that was never resolved? It seems that only the US is able to provide tangible hardware and deterrence against A2/AD.

European countries have to – and I think this is an element Donald Trump would be interested in – invest into capabilities that are useful for the entire Alliance. We need more counter-A2/AD capabilities, but also heavier capabilities. We know that the capability gap exists, but this is why there’s the NATO Defence Planning Process (NDPP), within which every country needs to show how it’s going to provide capabilities for NATO. In the next cycle of the NDPP the Alliance will be requiring capabilities, which are necessary to tackle A2/AD threats. Obviously, in the end, we might see that we have bigger capability gaps than we had before. In that case, from our perspective – that of countries investing into capabilities – this will be a clear signal that you need to put your capabilities where your mouth is. There are also some capabilities that are not that expensive, but still needed when it comes to tackling the A2/AD dimension, for example electronic warfare.


The Baltic region has become a model for regional cooperation between Baltic and Nordic states, both in terms of common capability development and software (hybrid warfare counter-action, etc.). What would you say are the main objectives achieved in terms of regional cooperation that we could learn from in the South, in the Black Sea region?

First of all, we need to enhance the current format encompassing the whole Eastern flank, where Poland and Romania are making sure we are taking into consideration all the voices on the flank. When it comes to regional cooperation and NATO, the cooperation with the Baltic States is more important to us than that with V4, as the point of departure differs. What is necessary is training together and, of course, exercises within the assurance measures, but also beyond them. I’m not sure how feasible this is in the Black Sea, but I understand that Bulgaria and Romania will have to join forces for the purpose of exercises. Nevertheless, when we look at how NATO operates, training is crucial, as well as reconnaissance and surveillance – another element that can be done jointly. This is something we are trying to do in the region and share the intelligence with NATO. Intelligence is a sensitive element, but sharing it means also showing regional consensus on some basic level of threat assessment. And obviously, there is the element of cooperation with the non-NATO states. Your situation is even more challenging, as you have in the Black Sea region Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia. Sweden and Finland are at least EU member states, so that makes us more open for practical ways of cooperating. Nevertheless, showing that we can engage non-NATO partners in this equation is something that should be done in the Black Sea. We cannot expect that partners are going to solve our problems, but they can help us to understand how we can solve a problem in terms of a joint NATO action in a potential Article 4 or Article 5 situation.


Can you tell us more about the role of the so-called emerging irregular forces?

In Poland, we are establishing the territorial defence forces, a type of paramilitary force coordinated by the MoD and trained by the MoD. The same kind of forces exist already in the Baltic States. Their role differs, but they are also paramilitary, in the sense that they are not purely professional forces. Our goal is to deploy our forces on the Eastern flank of Poland, to make them available under an Article 4 or Article 5 scenario (e.g. against other paramilitary forces). Their aim is to assist in a situation of an escalating conflict to help the military forces, which are deployed in the region. Another aim is to provide additional military training for the Polish citizens.


Poland has been doing a lot for voluntary forces and Romania is just starting to. For instance, we have a law to create a volunteer based reserve force starting with 2017.

It’s going to be an important element in the region, as we are trying to tackle hybrid threats, and it might become a mean of further cooperation between Poland and Romania.


Do you see any cooperation between Poland and the Baltic states on irregular/paramilitary forces?

By definition, once we have those forces in Poland, we are going to train together with the Baltic States. Also, we need to coordinate our efforts with Lithuania when it comes to the Suwalki gap.


To what extent was the Black Sea really on the radar of the summit, as the decisions included into the summit’s communique related to the Black Sea were very limited?

There’s an understanding that the Black Sea is a region of growing challenge from the Russian side, even though the decisions compared to the Baltic Sea will be different in size and mode of operation. There isn’t and probably won’t be any enhanced forward presence in Bulgaria and Romania because there’s no direct border with Russia. At least, that’s the way of understanding from the military side of the house of why we established both an enhanced and a tailored forward presence. But I think that, with what is happening in Turkey right now, the Black Sea will be an essential point of interest in NATO, and it will still be an element of equation when it comes to A2/AD threats (Crimea). It’s still going to be an element of air policing missions, development of the joint Romanian-Bulgarian brigade as well as the presence of the American rotational forces. So, even though you might say the Black Sea was not a top priority for NATO, the decisions on the table ensure that this region is not going to be forgotten. There will be concrete decisions regarding that region also in the future, for example on A2/AD. Coming back to the bilateral relationship, Poland and Romania need to make sure that both priorities (Baltic Sea and Black Sea) are taken seriously in NATO. The Polish-Romanian cooperation on these topics is something that can in fact smoothen a larger Black Sea strategy in NATO.


A few years ago you wrote an interesting paper for the Center for European Policy Analysis in Washington, explaining the concept of Polish fangs and the steps Poland was taking in developing and modernizing its forces (integrated air missile defence and other investments). Could you update us on this process today, including the A2/AD counterbalance?

The main decisions have not been taken yet, but missile defence remains a priority, in the sense that IAMD is a crucial element for protecting against A2/AD threats. Nevertheless, some priorities will be adjusted taking into account the development of the Russian A2/AD posture in Kaliningrad (electronic warfare, surveillance and reconnaissance systems), but the main projects of the national deterrence system are not going to change drastically. The territorial defence forces and how we are going to equip them is going to be one of the factors which might change our way of thinking about deterrence here. Because in the end, we are going to deploy those paramilitary brigades on the Eastern flank, we need to make sure they are well equipped and armed.


Interview conducted by Iulia Joja and Octavian Manea

December 30, 2016

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