Tuesday

12th Nov 2019

Nato makes show of solidarity in Poland

  • The summit is taking place in a football stadium in Warsaw city centre (Photo: nato.int)

Half of Warsaw city centre was closed to normal traffic on Friday (8 July), while police sirens wailed back and forth and helicopters criss-crossed the sky ahead of a Nato summit designed to show solidarity against Russian aggression.

The Polish security operation involved more than 6,000 police officers as part of summit preparations costing €40 million.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Nato head Stoltenberg (l) with Polish president Duda in Warsaw on Thursday (Photo: nato.int)

US president Barack Obama arrived for the event shortly after midnight on Friday, with his “beast” limousine driving from Warsaw’s Chopin airport to the Marriott hotel down roads where individual police officers stood, in fluorescent yellow jackets, at 20-metre intervals along the entire route.

Obama, as well the British, French and German leaders, are among the 39 heads of state attending the event from the 28 Nato countries, as well as from “partner” states, such as Afghanistan, Georgia and Ukraine.

In other facts and figures, the summit organisers hired 4,000 hotel rooms in the city and accredited some 2,000 journalists to cover the event.

The Western alliance is to finalise plans to deploy 4,000 soldiers in the Baltic states and in Poland to act as a “tripwire” for a rapid reaction force of up to 40,000 men in the event of a Russian attack.

The summit will declare that Nato’s anti-missile shield, parts of which are based in Poland and in Romania, has attained operational readiness.

It will see the alliance upgrade relations with Finland and Sweden, whose leaders are to take part in a Nato dinner on Friday, and to agree closer cooperation with EU military structures.

It will also see Montenegro’s leader, Milo Dukanovic, join his 28 Nato counterparts for a first-ever family photo as his country awaits membership pending national ratifications.

Russian backdrop

The summit is taking place amid a backdrop of Russian covert warfare in Ukraine, simulated invasions of the Baltic states, Nordic countries and Poland, and a build-up of troops and nuclear-capable missiles in Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave.

It is also taking place after the UK’s shock decision to leave the EU and amid EU complaints that the Polish government is eroding democratic standards at home.

Speaking to press on Thursday ahead of a bilateral meeting with Obama, the Polish president, Andrzej Duda, said the new Nato battalions amounted to new Nato bases in eastern Europe.

He said there would be a “permanent” presence of Nato troops, amid plans for national contingents to “rotate” in and out of the region. He also said the presence of US soldiers to operate and guard the anti-missile shield facility amounted to a permanent US deployment.

Russia has said that new bases violate a 1997 Nato-Russia treaty, but Duda said “everybody knows” that Russia tore up the agreement by its attack on Ukraine.

“Russia showed its imperial ambitions and decided to realise them. We can’t let Russia break international law. If it is respected, there will be peace. But we have the right to react if it is broken”, he said.

He played down fears that Germany is lukewarm on Nato’s Russia strategy after Germany’s centre-left foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, recently criticised a Nato drill as “warmongering”.

Duda noted that Germany is sending troops to a new battalion in Lithuania and described the German ministers’ remarks as “games within the [German] ruling coalition” ahead of next year's elections.

Brexit

He added that Brexit is likely to see the UK strengthen its role in Nato, saying it would be “natural” that, as its influence in the EU waned, “it will try to strengthen that influence in other forums”.

The Polish government earlier on Thursday forced through parliament a new law on the country’s constitutional tribunal that, critics say, will help it to exert political influence on the court.

In other pet projects of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, the corridors of the summit venue, in a football stadium in Warsaw, are to be lined with photos of the Smolensk tragedy - a plane crash in 2010 that killed dozens of Polish officials, including the then president Lech Kaczynski, and that PiS leaders claim was a Russian plot.

Duda said that if Obama asked about the judicial dispute, he would tell him that Polish people elected PiS democratically and that all of its subsequent decisions have “taken place on the basis of democratic standards”.

Speaking also on Thursday, Polish prime minister Beata Szydlo called the Nato event “the most important moment in Polish history since we regained independence” after the fall of the communist regime in 1989.

Polish defence minister Antoni Macierewicz, a Russia hawk and a leading Smolensk plot proponent, said: “After so many decades, Poland can finally feel safe”.

Truth wins out

The British prime minister David Cameron, in line with Duda’s remarks, also on Thursday announced that 500 British soldiers will take part in the Estonia battalion, while 150 others would be stationed in Poland.

“Actions speak louder than words and the UK is proud to be taking the lead role, deploying troops across eastern Europe. It is yet another example of the UK leading in Nato”, he said.

Some Russian commentators have described the Nato meeting as preparations for an assault on Russia, while Polish pundits said Nato’s new battalions would not be strong enough to stop a Russian attack.

Speaking to Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza on Thursday, Nato head Jens Stoltenberg said the new battalions are defensive in nature and that the best response to Russian propaganda is “the truth … our response [to false Russian claims] should be facts. The truth wins out in the end”.

The former Norwegian PM also said that Nato deterrence kept his country safe from Russia during the Cold War.

“I come from a country, Norway, that neighbours Russia. Our security was for decades based precisely on this [Nato solidarity]. We knew that if we were attacked, Nato would come and help”, he said.

Poland tries to appease EU critics before Nato summit

The parliament passed a bill meant to address foreign critics on judicial reform. NGOs and opposition parties said it did not square with EU demands, but those demands are being kept secret, weakening their hand.

Nato's Russia-deterrent takes shape in Warsaw

Canada, Germany, the UK and the US to take the lead in defending Europe from potential Russian aggression. France to also send troops, despite saying Russia is its "partner".

Bosnia wants explanation for Macron's 'time-bomb' remark

Bosnia requested an interview with the French ambassador to Sarajevo, after Emmanuel Macron described the country as a "ticking time bomb" and one of the greatest concerns for Europe due to the "problem of returning jihadists".

Up to 750 European children trapped in north-east Syria

Between 700 and 750 children from different EU member states are trapped in camps in north-east Syria with parents who are suspected Islamic State fighters. Many are under the age of six, victims of war and conflict.

News in Brief

  1. Three new commissioner-designates pass legal scrutiny
  2. ECJ: EU countries must label Israeli settlement products
  3. Belgian asylum centre set on fire
  4. Xi Jingping in Athens promises new investment
  5. Farage's Brexit Party will not stand in Tory-held seats
  6. British founder of Syrian 'White Helmets' found dead
  7. Eight member states ask for EU aviation tax
  8. EU allocates €55m humanitarian aid to Sudan

Column

These are the crunch issues for the 2019-2024 EU commission

These developments will largely determine who will be running the world in the coming decades and perhaps generations. If the Europeans can't find an answer over the five years, they will be toast. And we haven't even mentioned climate change.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  3. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  4. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  5. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  7. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  11. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work

Latest News

  1. Pro-Israeli group scores own goal on EU retail labels
  2. New commissioners clear 'conflict of interests' hurdle
  3. Israeli labelling ruling lets consumers make choice
  4. What does Macron really want on Western Balkans?
  5. Far-right Vox celebrates, as Spain left without majority
  6. EU 'climate bank' won't rule out carbon capture
  7. New hearings for the von der Leyen commission This WEEK
  8. Bosnia wants explanation for Macron's 'time-bomb' remark

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  6. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  7. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  9. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  11. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  12. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us