Canada’s decision to become the lead nation of NATO’s multinational battle group in Latvia has been promoting not only security, but also political and economic cooperation between the two countries, President Raimonds Vejonis said during a meeting with George Furey, Speaker of the Senate of Canada, today.
The Latvian president thanked Canada for its contribution to Latvia’s security as the lead nation by undertaking command of the NATO battle group in Latvia in accordance with the agreement reached at the Alliance’s summit in Warsaw.
“At a time when Russia is staging a major military training exercise at the Baltic states’ borders, we appreciate the enhanced allied presence in the region. The Canada-led NATO battle group has achieved full operational readiness,” President Vejonis said.
The Latvian president also noted increasing cooperation between NATO and the EU in countering hybrid threats and the significance of strategic communication, stressing the NATO mission’s deterrence message and praising Canada’s support to the Riga-based NATO Strategic Communications Center of Excellence (StratCom).
Vejonis also voiced satisfaction about the delivery on the new generation Bombardier CS 300 passenger aircraft to Latvia’s airBaltic national carrier whose upgraded fleet will allow for saving costs and ensure more environment-friendly operations.
The Latvian president also mentioned active political dialogue and economic cooperation between the two countries, noting that Latvia was the first EU member states to ratify the EU-Canada free trade agreement (CETA).
“Trade turnover with Canada has significantly increased in recent years, and CETA will provide new opportunities to entrepreneurs of both countries. We hope to develop closer economic cooperation by diversifying Latvian export of goods and attracting Canadian investment,” President Vejonis said.
Furey and his delegation are in Latvia on an official visit from September 12 to 16.
Polish Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz will travel to Paris today for talks with his French counterpart Florence Parly, against a backdrop of strained relations between the two countries.
The visit followed an invitation from the French defence minister, the Polish ministry said late Tuesday, adding that the two would discuss cooperation and other matters.
French and Polish officials have been trading barbs over President Emmanuel Macron’s proposal to overhaul a controversial EU rule on sending workers abroad.
Poland fiercely opposes any change to the so-called Posted Workers Directive, since it would make it harder for thousands of Poles to work elsewhere in the EU.
Last week, Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo accused Macron of “trying to introduce protectionism,” dismissing claims from wealthier European countries that the measure creates unfair competition on labour markets.
Poland is also facing the ire of the European Union over concerns about the country’s planned judicial reforms, which the EU says pose a “systemic threat” to the rule of law.
Poland has become an alliance-wide leader in NATO defense efforts and it is one of only a handful of countries meeting NATO’s 2 proc. defense spending target.
During the visit of President Donald Trump, Warsaw announced its decision to acquire Patriot missile defenses and the associated Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System (IBCS).
The Trump Administration and its NATO allies should follow Warsaw’s lead and make a major change to NATO policy by explicitly referencing Russia as the target of allied regional missile defense architecture in Europe – as writes prof. Matthew Kroenig, an Associate Professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University, and a Senior Fellow in the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security at the Atlantic Council.
Last month U.S. President Donald Trump visited Poland, a country that has become an alliance-wide leader in NATO defense efforts. Poland is the new center of gravity for any East-West conflict, it is one of only a handful of countries meeting NATO’s 2% defense spending target, and, during Trump’s visit, Warsaw announced its decision to acquire U.S. Patriot missile defenses and the associated Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System (IBCS).
The Trump Administration and its NATO allies should follow Warsaw’s lead and make a major change to NATO policy by explicitly referencing Russia as the target of allied regional missile defense architecture in Europe.
For years, the United States has been crystal clear that its strategic, homeland ballistic missile defense system is designed to deal with rogue states, like North Korea and Iran, and is not directed at Russia or China.
The purpose of NATO regional missile defenses in Europe, on the other hand, have been somewhat more ambiguous. The 2010 NATO Strategic Concept, for example, stated that NATO must be able to deter and defend “against any threat,” but the Obama administration’s “European Phased Adaptive Approach” (EPAA) to missile defense in Europe was designed to deal with threats coming from Iran.
Similarly, the 2012 NATO Deterrence and Defense Posture Review states that “NATO missile defense is not oriented at Russia.” As Brad Roberts, Obama’s Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear and Missile Defense policy, put it, “The Obama administration, like the Bush administration that preceded it, envisioned no role for missile defense in Europe against Russian missiles.”
But the threat environment has changed. In 2014, Russia invaded Ukraine and, since that time, Moscow has repeatedly made explicit threats against NATO and the rest of Europe.
Russian strategists plan for “de-escalatory” “pre-nuclear” and nuclear strikes against NATO targets in the early stages of any conflict. Moreover, Russia has a wide array of conventional and nuclear-capable cruise and ballistic missiles to carry out these threats.
It is violating its commitments under the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty by testing and deploying a new ground-launched cruise missile and it has conspicuously deployed its Iskander missile in Kaliningrad, on the borders of NATO.
This growing Russian missile capability poses a real threat. It enables Moscow to coerce NATO members in peacetime and in crises and it could also have a devastating wartime effect.
NATO maintains only a token trip-wire presence in the Baltics, so in the event of Russian aggression, the United States and NATO would need to project forces forward from Western bases. But these reinforcements would be highly vulnerable to Russian “de-escalatory” strikes, which might not only shock NATO into suing for peace, but could physically prevent NATO from providing an adequate defense of its members.
To counter this threat, NATO needs a regional missile defense architecture designed to defend against Russian missiles. A broad area defense of all of European territory would be costly and is unnecessary, but point defenses of critical military assets are badly needed.
The United States and allies in Europe should develop missile defenses to protect critical bases, forward-deployed forces, air and seaports of debarkation (APODS and SPODS), as well as key command and control nodes.
Such missile defenses would greatly improve NATO security. With the possibility of a limited strike on military targets removed, Russia would be forced to threaten the direct targeting of population centers or an attempt to overwhelm defenses with larger-scale barrages. Both are riskier, and, therefore, less credible, propositions.
Unfortunately, NATO’s current missile defense posture is not currently geared toward this challenge as the Obama administration repeatedly explained.
Fortunately, however, the outlines of what could become a future NATO regional missile defense posture are beginning to form. Poland’s purchase of Patriot and IBCS is an important step forward. The latter system will allow the tying together of radars and interceptors of multiple current and future air and missile defense installations to create a more effective overall system.
These programs should continue, but they are only the beginning. Broadly, the United States can provide higher-end defenses with European allies purchasing systems for point defenses in their countries.
Wealthier NATO countries, such as Germany, should consider deploying existing assets to vulnerable allies, such as the Baltics. Such an approach also demonstrates a concrete manifestation of the alliance burden sharing demanded by the Trump administration.
A regional missile defense architecture in Europe will greatly contribute to Western security, but getting it right depends on accurately identifying the source of the threat. NATO must stop tiptoeing around this obvious truth and explicitly recognize Russia as the primary missile threat to Europe.
Matthew Kroenig is an Associate Professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University, a Senior Fellow in the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security at the Atlantic Council, and a former strategist in the U.S. Office of the Secretary of Defense.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Baltic Post.
On Tuesday, August 29th, the Undersecretary of State in the Ministry of National Defence Tomasz Szatkowski hosted the US delegation headed by Robert Johnson, Senator of the Republican Party. Senator Johnson is, among others, the Chairman of the National Security Committee and a member of the Budget and Foreign Affairs Committee.
Undersecretary Szatkowski thanked United States for its commitment to strengthening European security. He appreciated the enhanced US military presence on NATO’s eastern flank, including territory of Poland. He also expressed the expectation that this commitment will have a long-term nature and at the same time he stressed the actions taken and planned by Polish side aimed to ensure the best conditions for the Allies stationing in Poland.
The interlocutors also discussed other areas of bilateral cooperation between Poland and the US, including planned acquisition of the PATRIOT missile system by the Polish Armed Forces. They discussed also issues related to European security, including the Russian-Belarusian exercise ZAPAD’17.
Senator Johnson expressed his appreciation for Poland’s high spending on defense and the ambitious program of the Polish Armed Forces modernization. He also appreciated Poland’s involvement in the international security area, participation in the NATO mission in Afghanistan and in the coalition against the so-called “Islamic state”.
Senator Johnson, during his visit to Europe, will also visit Greece, Serbia, Turkey and Kosovo.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg praised Poland for making important contributions to the Alliance during a visit to Warsaw on Friday (25 August 2017). He highlighted Poland’s contributions to NATO operations in Afghanistan and Kosovo, training in Iraq, and thanked Poland for hosting key NATO commands and capabilities. Mr. Stoltenberg also welcomed Poland’s leadership on defence spending, by meeting the NATO benchmark of investing 2% of GDP in defence.
In Warsaw, Mr. Stoltenberg recalled the importance of the decisions taken by Allies at NATO’s 2016 summit in the Polish capital, which led to the greatest reinforcement of the Alliance’s collective defence since the end of the Cold War. “We have tripled the size of the NATO Response Force, established new headquarters in the east of the Alliance and enhanced our forward presence here in Poland, as well as in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania”, Mr Stoltenberg said.
Commenting on Russia’s ZAPAD military exercise, scheduled for September in Belarus and western Russia, Mr Stoltenberg said NATO would be watching closely. He further urged Russia to respect its commitments to military transparency and the OSCE. “All nations have the right to exercise their forces, but nations should also respect their commitments to transparency,” he said.
While in Warsaw, Mr Stoltenberg held talks with Polish President Andrzej Duda, Prime Minister Beata Szydlo, Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski, and Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz. He also participated in a trilateral meeting with Polish Foreign Minister Waszczykowski, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and Romanian Foreign Minister Teodor Melesșcanu, which focused on current security challenges and preparations for next year’s NATO summit in Brussels.
The Secretary General wrapped up his trip to Poland by visiting a 1,200-strong multinational NATO battlegroup stationed in the northeastern town of Orzysz. The NATO battlegroup is one of four in the Baltic nations and Poland established following Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea. Mr Stoltenberg noted that NATO’s forces in the eastern part of the Alliance were a key outcome of the Warsaw Summit, adding that they show Europe and North America standing united.
Boosting the Polish army and securing NATO’s eastern flank dominated talks during the Polish president’s Thursday meeting with the NATO chief who is visiting Poland.
Polish President Andrzej Duda and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg first sat down for a one-on-one before holding a plenary with National Security Bureau chief Paweł Soloch, Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski and Duda’s chief-of-staff Krzysztof Szczerski.
According to the president’s office, the talks were a chance for summing up the implementation of decisions taken at a NATO summit in Warsaw last year, which included bolstering the alliance’s eastern flank, and for planning next year’s summit in Brussels.
The meeting also decided that the current security climate shows further, close Polish-NATO partnership and a permanent US military presence in Europe were needed.
Ties with Russia and terrorism were also discussed.
On Friday, Stoltenberg is expected to meet Prime Minister Beata Szydło, Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski, and Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz, and the US troops who have been stationed in Orzysz, northeastern Poland, since April.
“We will talk about security, about what is most important for Poland, about growing the Polish army, and also about how we imagine that NATO will be supporting us here the whole time,” Szydło earlier said. (vb)
WARSAW (Reuters) – Poland will allocate an additional 200 billion zlotys ($55 billion) on defense over the next 15 years to modernize its army amid signs of growing aggression from Russia, a deputy defense minister said.
Russia’s Zapad military exercises next month in Belarus and western Russia, the largest in years, have raised concerns for their lack of transparency, with NATO worried the official number of troops participating might be understated.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg will visit Poland on Thursday and Friday to check on deployment of U.S. troops in the east of the country and to meet Polish, Romanian and Turkish government officials.
Poland, alarmed by what it sees as Russia’s assertiveness on NATO’s eastern flank, has lobbied hard for the stationing of NATO troops on its soil, especially since Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.
“The government has approved a legislative amendment … which gives us nearly 200 billion zlotys over the next 15 years,” deputy defense minister Tomasz Szatkowski said, adding that this was in line with plans to raise defense spending gradually to reach 2.5 percent of gross domestic product.
“This is not a trivial amount,” he told Reuters in an interview.
The Polish government agreed in June to raise defense spending gradually from 2 pct to 2.5 percent of GDP. This means that annual spending would nearly double to about 80 billion zlotys by 2032.
Szatkowski, architect of a new national concept for defense, said that although the ministry would be getting almost all the money needed to implement the strategy, some “hard choices” will have to be made.
The plan is to increase the size of the army nearly twofold and revamp the equipment. Nearly two-thirds of equipment dates from the Soviet era when the country was in the Moscow-led Warsaw Pact.
The navy, though, will fare less well from modernization. The ministry has canceled the purchase of two classes of surface vessels, including multi-task frigates used to protect other warships.
“We cannot afford to expand the transport fleet,” Szatkowski said. Higher spending on artillery, engineering or assault helicopters will come at the cost of expanding the airborne forces.
Warsaw plans to acquire fifth-generation fighter jets, but Szatkowski said that this would not happen until the second half of the next decade.
Szatkowski defended the spending plans which have been criticized as “unrealistic”.
“Nobody can release from us the obligation of planning and creating a coherent vision and proving there is money for it – something that is happening for the first time on such a scope in the history of Polish defense planning,” he said.
Writing by Lidia Kelly; Editing by Richard Balmforth.
War planes streaked through the sky, more than 1,500 troops marched, and long lines of military vehicles thundered through the centre of the Polish capital as the country marked Armed Forces Day with a bang on Tuesday.
As in previous years, troops from other NATO countries joined the annual parade, among them American, Canadian, British and Romanian units that have been deployed to help strengthen the Western military alliance’s eastern flank.
There were also soldiers from more than a dozen other allied and partner states, including Croatia, Spain, Germany and Ukraine.
Crowds of onlookers
The Warsaw parade attracted crowds of onlookers and featured 200 or so army vehicles including self-propelled howitzers, battle tanks and missile launchers. Among the hardware on show were Leopard and Twardy tanks, Rosomak armoured vehicles, Langusta missile launchers and Osa mobile air defence missile systems.
The crowd could also catch a glimpse of American Stryker armoured vehicles and Jackal and Panther vehicles used by the British army. Romanian troops showcased weaponry including Oerlikon anti-aircraft guns.
Marching detachments included students of military academies and members of paramilitary organisations. For the first time, the country’s new territorial defence force joined the event, observers noted.
Taking to the skies
More than 60 aircraft contributed to the show, which began with the Red-and-White Sparks, an aerobatic demonstration team of the Polish air force. It staged a colourful flyover, leaving a trail of smoke in national colours. There were also SW-4 Puszczyk, W-3 Sokół, Mi-8, Mi-17 and Mi-24 helicopters, accompanied by American Apache, Chinook and Black Hawk machines.
Also flying past were CASA C-295M, Hercules and Bryza transport airplanes as well as Orlik training planes. The air show closed with F-16, MiG-29 and Su-22 fighter jets soaring across the sky.
The parade was followed by a picnic in a city park where people could get inside some of the military vehicles and inspect a variety of historical hardware on display.
The August 15 celebration marks Poland’s landmark victory against the Russian Bolsheviks in the 1920 Battle of Warsaw, in which Polish troops led by Marshal Józef Piłsudski defeated an advancing Red Army despite being vastly outnumbered.
The day was first celebrated as a holiday from 1923 to 1947, and then restored as Armed Forces Day in 1992 after decades of Soviet-imposed communism.
NATO will likely respond with new decisions – further to those taken to bolster its eastern flank last year – should Russia increase military activity, Poland’s foreign minister told the wPolityce portal.
At a summit in Warsaw last year, NATO decided to send four multinational battle battalion groups, each around 1,000 strong, to Poland and three Baltic countries which feared Russian aggression following Moscow’s annexation of Crimea.
“For today that number is enough,” Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski was cited by wPolityce as saying. He added: “It is a (military) presence … to deter any conflict similar in intensity … to what we dealt with in Crimea”.
“But if there is an escalation in Russia’s behaviour then NATO will probably take new decisions”.
The article in wPolityce came after a detailed interview with Waszczykowski was publishied in Russian daily Kommersant.
Waszczykowski told the Russian paper that “neighbouring Russia is difficult because of military threat, provocation in the Baltic and Black Seas”.
“But on the other hand it is a promising neighbour, Russia is a huge market,” he told Kommersant.
“If a democratic government ready to work with the European Union were in power in Russia, it would be ideal for us. But, unfortunately, the current rulers in Moscow have imperial ambitions, are undermining international order, questioning the need for NATOs existence, and trying to build new security architecture”.
In the interview for Kommersant, which a number of Russian media outlets commented on, Waszczykowski also discussed gas, as Warsaw seeks to reduce its energy dependency on Russia, a new Polish law to remove monuments to Soviet soldiers from public spaces, and a possible meeting with his Russian counterpart. (vb/pk)
Horrific accounts of a 1944 massacre of Poles by German Nazi troops in Warsaw’s Wola district were broadcast in a documentary by public television station TVP1 on Wednesday.
As well as witness accounts, the film, “The Wola Massacre. Indictment” directed by Rafał Geremek, included commentary by Piotr Gursztyn, a historian and the author of a book about the WWII killings.
The documentary uses computer graphics and animation to depict the horrors of the massacre.
Some 40,000 to 50,000 people in the western Warsaw district of Wola were killed by German Nazi troops during the early phase of the Warsaw Uprising, an insurgency launched by Poles against the capital’s German occupiers in World War II.
Between 5 and 12 August 1944, tens of thousands of Polish civilians along with captured Home Army resistance fighters were systematically murdered in organised mass executions.
It is estimated that up to 10,000 civilians were killed in the Wola district on 5 August alone, the first day of the operation.
Most of the victims were the elderly, women and children.
WARSAW – US President Donald Trump publicly endorsed NATO’s one-for-all-and-all-for-one mutual defense pact during a keynote speech in Warsaw on Thursday, seeking to ease allies’ concerns that the US safety net had frayed.
“The United States has demonstrated not merely with words, but with its actions, that we stand firmly behind Article Five,” Trump said, referring to the mutual defense commitment.
But he said that more defense spending was needed on the eastern side of the Atlantic, “for its own protection, and you know this. Everybody knows this. Everybody has to know this. Europe must do more.”
Article 5 is the North Atlantic Treaty’s key provision. Under Article 5, an attack on any NATO member is considered an attack on all.