Allied Solidarity

25 years later the V4 should remember better why it was created.

Wojciech Przybylski
23 June 2016

Recently I read a story about a retired New York city reman who decided to move into the hills of West Virginia to escape the city nights filled with false alarms and recreational arson.

He opted for a simple life. Not long after moving to the country- side, he came across a house that was burning down and no one nearby to put out the fire. Soon he found himself collecting the necessary equipment and training men to serve in a fire brigade.

— The moral being that you can turn your back on civilisation if you like, but you’re not necessarily going to escape the social contract — Garret Keizer sums up this story in his article for Lapham’s Quarterly. It is an illustration of a basic obligation that we have with our neighbours that is called solidarity.

In late 2015 the heads of the Central European states jointly signed a declaration on allied solidarity and responsibility in advance of the NATO summit in Warsaw which is to occur in July 2016. This call from within NATO has two reasons that are worth recalling. Firstly, it is a threat of burning neighbours that we have seen in the last years. Today it is the Ukraine, yesterday it was Georgia, previously the Balkans.

The Visegrad countries and other signatories feel very clearly the danger that springs from the military might of more and more advanced rockets that mount up on the borders of NATO, threatening peace and prosperity as well as mobility. They also see the danger of demobilisation in Europe, supported by the decent desire for a simple life.

It is this dream of peace that often drives democratic societies to a point where they do not want to be on alert and would mobilise only upon seeing a burning house. It was the feeling a hundred years ago, well portrayed by the historians Eric Hobsbawm and Michael Eliot Howard, whose account of Europe’s condition at the turn of the century is clearly analogous to today: the triumph of scientism masked under liberal politics, which enabled the taking for granted of peace and a lack of solidarity between nations.

25 years later the V4 should remember better why it was created. Its main purpose was to join NATO and to exist in a united Europe. Both requiring strong and functioning institutions founded on the clear legal background of international law and with democratic legitimacy. Today, as before, both principles are constantly challenged, and mostly by the same actor.

Russia is tireless in its efforts to undermine both clear distinctions of what is truth and what is not, and to exploit the greatest weakness that comes along with the Western culture of liberal democracy — rationalism and critical thinking that often turns against itself in a spiral of self-questioning and disruptive mistrust that does not seek answers but only more questions. Moscow has mastered this poker game with the West, but it is up to the joint efforts of allied democracies to halt the game before it descends into a match of Russian roulette.

The NATO countries should not abandon those achievements of enlightened reason, but neither should they forget that, to secure peace, we must be ready to fight. And the rules of the world have not changed so much, even despite hybrid warfare, since von Clausewitz summarised two conditions of superiority that keep enemies at bay: it is not only military equipment — today still insufficiently maintained and modernised — but also the moral will of the people that must resonate among everyone. All for one and one for all.

Wojciech Przybylski , editor-in-chief of Visegrad Insight.