Visegrad Insight’s Survey

How to reinforce public opinion support for the Alliance?

Rastislav Káčer, Tomasz Szatkowski, Réka Szemerkényi, Alexandr Vondra
5 July 2016

Rastislav Káčer, Globsec Chairman, Tomasz Szatkowski, Deputy State Secretary in the Defence Ministry of Poland, Réka Szemerkényi, the Hungarian Ambassador to the United States and Alexandr Vondra, the former Defence Minister of the Czech Republic answered Visegrad Insight’s questions.

What should NATO do?

What decisions will best serve peace?

How to reinforce public opinion support for the Alliance?

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The negative security developments of the past few years in many major regions of the globe give us serious cause for concern. Maybe in and of themselves they each would be cause for but some concern, yet the fact that these negative internal developments are taking place parallelly cannot but warn us: we are potentially in the beginning of a major historic change that is bound to produce consequences for all the regions and countries and security organisations. In the current situation one security consideration stands out as the most clear priority.

It is the policy goal of increasing the strength, the cohesion, and the positive internal dynamics of NATO. Any action or talk that weakens the Trans-Atlantic cooperation in this uncertain historic era of unpredictable international movements and changes is inexcusable because they can easily produce the most unacceptable negative consequences for our common destiny. This is what I mean when I say that in the face of these historic challenges that NATO nations and NATO as our security organisation faces from all angles, the most important overall narrative for the Warsaw Summit must be about strong Alliance cohesion and solidarity.

This is what we have to keep in mind when we say that the Warsaw Summit shall have to demonstrate Transatlantic unity and resolve to defend the Alliance as the guardian of our values, to show our dedication to projecting stability, and to prove our commitment to keeping NATO exible and ready to address all potential threats and challenges from wherever they arise. is principle should be reflected in a clear vision statement as part of our strategic communication in Warsaw.

It is in this broader strategic thinking that we say that NATO’s adaptation is a means, not an end to achieve our objectives. We need a balanced and comprehensive geographic approach (East end South). The political, military, and institutional aspects of adaptation should remain intertwined. In particular, we will deliver in implementing the Readiness Action Plan by Warsaw, where the Alliance will also make a decision on a meaningful, coherent, and multinational enhanced forward presence in the East. Hungary will continute to contribute to deterrence; we were among the first to deploy to the Balts for reassurance, and will do so again, possibly through a joint V4 military contingent.

We cannot ignore the migration challenge, nor its root causes, since they have long-term implications. We support keeping it on NATO’s agenda. We encourage an open-minded approach to NATO’s potential role to help managing this crisis. Furthermore, we can envisage a closer, institutional NATO role in supporting the global coalition combating ISIL. Hungary’s contingent in Northern Iraq continues to train the Peshmerga. NATO’s ability to project stability by assisting partners through capacity building (DCB) should be reinforced in Warsaw, whether taking on a more visible role in Iraq or Libya, another current source of instability, migration, and terrorism on our very doorstep.

In order to achieve these goals, leaders must communicate the necessity of properly resourcing our security toolkit. Hungary is striving to play her part; the Government not only stopped the decrease, but this is the second year in a row we are raising the defense budget, while deploying forces in all major NATO operations, and also considering new procurement.

In sum, the Alliance needs to stay on top of the many — in some cases perhaps existential — challenges it faces, and clearly demonstrate its value and utility to its’ members publics, and its power and cohesion to its critics and enemies.

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What should NATO do?

First of all, not to forget its purpose. Defend and counter any type of hostile behavior towards its members. NATO needs abilities to defend itself in a world that is dynamically changing. It needs to stay on top of defense technologies, but also develop capabilities to be better able to counter hybrid war techniques. We need better intelligence and the sharing of it. On the other hand any technological superiority and any top capabilities shall mean nothing if we loose that noble principle of “one for all, all for one”. No super advanced deterrence can save us, if we loose our “political deterrence” — our strong devotion to be willing to defend our values and our way of life. That will and courage of Gandalf facing Balrog on a narrow stone bridge is what we need. That “You shall not pass” must be clear to anybody who would want to attempt to challenge us.

What decisions will best serve peace?

The history of mankind is the history of competition and conflict. Every civilization that would loose its survival instinct and start to think that it has achieved an era of eternal peace and that the only thing we needs to do to preserve peace is to have peaceful intentions — is in big trouble. If we think we have our unique values, our way of life, and we do belong to a community which is dear to us, than we have to be willing and able to defend it when necessary. Credible deterrence has proven many times to be the best way of preserving peace. Today, in Europe and Central Europe in particular, we may have ability. We badly lack in will.

How to reinforce public opinion support for the Alliance?

This is hard question. We have reached a strange moment in our evolution. “ The West” which we are part of, sees the growth of populism, lack of confidence in the superiority of our system, vulnerability to information war. This is like a serious mid-life crisis in which we doubt all of our relationships and all we have achieved. It sometimes seems crazy how easy prey we could be to any information garbage thrown at us via “alternative media”. I see this syndrome of a successful man, driving his expensive car, with his wife, nice healthy kids, drinking champagne and bitching how life has been terrible and nodding to some conspiracy stuff freshly vomited out of some troll factory in Leningrad (sorry still St. Petersburg).

We need all those who have not lost their brains and their survival instincts to speak his or her mind. In politics, in civic society, in business… everywhere, to care and be active. We need back responsible politics which has got also its taboos and bars which cannot go lower. NATO lives on trust in liberal democracy, community of values and cooperation. Strengthening this will also reinforce support in the Alliance. Letting it go means to opt for a very gloomy future.

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NATO should do what it was created to do — to defend its members’ states. The collective and mutual defence — according to the article 5 of the treaty — must remain the core of the Alliance. But it not just about formal commitment on paper. It is mostly about practical measures that need to be adopted to enhance the verbal commitment in praxis. The NATO eastern flank still remains vulnerable vis-à-vis threats mostly from new assertive and aggressive Russian policy and military behavior. Therefore I will judge the Warsaw summit according to its ability to generate decisions enhancing the security of those most vulnerable member states — from the Baltic states in the north to Romania and Bulgaria in the south.

In general, the real problem of Europe or EU is the combination of its wealth with its military weakness. If you want peace, you must be strong. Therefore the best service to achieve peace would be a decision of the NATO member states to raise their defence spending to the bar of 2% of GDP as was originally promised but never achieved (in the majority of member states).

About 75% of Czechs support NATO — much more than the EU. I don ́t see a problem within Central and Eastern Europe. People here understand the importance of keeping the Transatlantic bond strong. Perhaps there is a problem in some Western European countries — with their anti-American standing. Unfortunately we are missing real leaders who would be able to explain what is at stake to their people.

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What should NATO do?

The upcoming Warsaw Summit should provide solutions to the security challenges that NATO is currently facing, while taking into account the specificities between threats emanating from both the Eastern and Southern directions. By doing so, it needs to demonstrate Allied cohesion according to the “28 for 28” and “360 degrees” principles. At the same time, it should strengthen NATO’s capacity to project stability in its vicinity. Lastly, it should reaffirm the Newport commitment on increasing defence expenditures.

The strategic adaptation should serve the full spectrum of NATO missions and operations, first and foremost the collective defence, but not neglecting the other two essential NATO core tasks. Moreover, the long-term adaptation of the Alliance, which we hope will be initiated at the upcoming summit, should involve the entirety of NATO forces and capabilities, not just those dedicated to rapid reaction.

The Visegrad Group activities should provide the value added to the NATO endeavour in this regard. The V4 cooperation obviously has its own value, but simultaneously, we hope that it could strengthen the security of the entire region in the context of the Wales and Warsaw decisions.

What decision will best serve peace?

We see a few important areas that the Summit decisions should address: 1) enhancing the forward presence of the Alliance on its Eastern flank in peacetime; 2) strengthening the ability of NATO to reinforce its members; 3) increasing the capabilities to deter non-state actors; 4) increasing situational awareness; 5) closer cooperation with the EU; 6) give more assistance to NATO Partners.

Effective deterrence serves peace. In the East, the credible, rotational presence of soldiers from the USA and other NATO countries would be of profound significance to the credibility and success of the Allied defence and deterrence posture. It would contribute to our resilience against hybrid and conventional threats, and could help to prevent hostile actions aimed at creating fait accompli. On the other hand, NATO should engage in a dialog with Russia, but only from the position of strength, unequivocally supporting the security of its members, and stressing the inviolability of borders in Eastern Europe.

How can NATO reinforce public support for the Alliance?

NATO should develop coherent strategic communication on expected Summit deliverables. Credibility is a vital asset, especially when faced with anti-NATO propaganda originating from both state and non-state actors. Public opinion should note that NATO is relevant and ready to face our security challenges. In our narrative, we should strengthen the visibility of NATO activities, and highlight the practical dimension of solidarity among countries to respond to each other’s security challenges. Visegrad cooperation provides many examples to this end, like contributions to the Multinational Corps North- East in Szczecin, NATO Response Force, and the EU Battle-groups.

BUY