With the world’s focus on the security situation in Ukraine, NATO’s Central and Eastern Europe members will look to the upcoming NATO Madrid Summit to ensure short and long-term security guarantees. As they remain vulnerable to Russian aggression, the question remains – will they leave with high or little hopes?
On June 29-30, 2022, NATO leaders will gather in Madrid, Spain for the next NATO Summit. They will meet to discuss and determine NATO’s strategic direction for the next decade and beyond as outlined in their newly established Strategic Concept. NATO’s mission has taken on a new dimension in reflection of Russia’s invasion in Ukraine. Russia’s attack has been the first full-scale war on European soil in decades – the meeting will outline the Alliance’s goals in ensuring collective defence for its member countries – specifically members from Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), that since the beginning of the war became ‘frontline states’. (This commentary will outline the anticipated goals of the upcoming Summit, highlight the potential impact for member states on the Eastern flank, explore how NATO plans to apply its newly adapted Strategic Concept and whether it be enough to ensure short and long-term security in CEE?
What’s on the agenda?
The Madrid Summit picks up where NATO leaders left off after NATO heads of state and government met shortly after the invasion of Ukraine in February and March to discuss the consequences of Russia’s transgressions and to take immediate measures to strengthen NATO’s deterrence and defence – especially along its Eastern border.
The Summit will build upon the decisions taken including bolstering territorial support for Ukraine in both humanitarian and non-lethal aid. First, it will examine how to provide various levels of aid to Ukraine. While direct NATO military aid may remain off the table, NATO has committed to support member states with increased military support including in the form of NATO’s Response Force (NRF) – a highly ready and technologically advanced multinational force made up of land, air, maritime and Special Operations Forces (SOF) components that the Alliance can deploy quickly when needed – was activated for the first time in a deterrence and defence role.
As the agenda of the Summit will touch upon supporting Ukraine, the need to maintain and enhance NATO’s level of support for vulnerable member states has and will be one of the main issues discussed during the Summit. While this will include discussions around NATO membership enlargement of Sweden and Finland into NATO, CEE will need strong commitments from NATO leadership that maintaining regional security in the region will be continued and remain a priority. Fears of defence and support fatigue for the region will need to be elevated.
What to expect from the Strategic Concept?
The situation in Ukraine has amplified the Alliance’s need to adapt to today’s new security environment. Aimed at providing an updated roadmap for how the NATO will need to adjust to the new security challenges, the Strategic Concept will be rolled out at the Summit.
While the concept will still take years to implement. Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană recently previewed the Strategic Concept by drawing comparisons between the previous concept developed during 2010, which was created when the world was at peace, when Russia was considered a ‘strategic partner’ and China a ‘transformative player' in global affairs. Today, the concept comes out when there is war in Europe with a focus largely on territorial defence. The new concept will reflect the new power competition especially considering the geopolitical shifts and focus on the CEE region.
Another aspect of the concept is resilience. Brought on from the COVID-19 pandemic and now the ongoing Russia’s war in Ukraine, it now defines how NATO will need to rebound and adapt to new security challenges – both internally and externally. An emphasis on emerging new technologies will be paramount as the Alliance faces future obstacles. We will see this develop through various initiatives, one being the Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic – or DIANA. It will ‘concentrate on deep technologies – those emerging and disruptive technologies that NATO has identified as priorities including artificial intelligence, big-data processing, quantum-enabled technologies, autonomy, biotechnology, novel materials, and space.’ DIANA will have a large footprint in Europe including the CEE region with up to seven test centres just in Poland alone.
NATO members in the CEE region, Poland in particular, have relied heavily on the build-up of military capabilities in the region through various projects including a multinational battle group with the US. Aimed to be the first line of Allied defence against Russia, this ‘tripwire’ approach has added three more battlegroups in the CEE region with Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.
The Summit will explore creating permanent NATO presence in the Baltics and CEE region, beyond the battlegroups. The increased ‘tripwire’ effect of the battle groups will enhance NATO’s presence on Eastern flank while challenging the 1997 NATO-Russia founding act. The act, in which mutual collaboration and regional security between NATO and Russia was to be ensured – is now void due to their unwarranted war in Ukraine.
The Summit will need to ensure a new generation of NATO. One that has fuller integration between its Member States and stronger and more permanent presence in the CEE region. While a consensus of this among all members remains unclear and will hopefully become clearer at the Summit - NATO will need to focus on its land, cyber, space, and air infrastructure while building a new architecture on air and missile defence systems.
How can CEE posture itself more?
NATO’s infrastructure is only as good as its Member States commitments towards the Alliance. With most member’s increasing its defence spending, Poland has been consistent in overachieving its two percent requirement and countries in the region are stepping up their military capabilities across the board. However, CEE countries will also need to look beyond the security situation in Ukraine to establish both short and long-term security. As the Czech Republic takes over the EU Presidency and Poland with their chairmanship of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) – CEE member states will need to leverage their security guarantees through additional international frameworks, and this may be the opportunity.
CEE countries, while grappling with internal divisions with countries like Hungary creating tensions around the Russian invasion of Ukraine and Poland with issues with rule of law – the region needs to find avenues to stay united not just on its security front. However, NATO remains the main security umbrella for the region. The NATO Summit in Madrid will not only set the tone of how the Alliance will face growing security threats in the transatlantic region, but how multilateral institutions like NATO can still deter and defend against threats.
My hopes remain that Central and Eastern Europe’s long-term security does not get forgotten or side-tracked as more and more threats face the Alliance. I personally remain hopeful that the NATO Summit in Madrid delivers that security guarantee and that it goes into the history books as the Summit that helped turn the tide against Russia’s aggressions.Danielle Piatkiewicz is a research fellow at EUROPEUM focusing on issues around Transatlantic and Central and Eastern European foreign and security relations, democracy promotion and NATO. She is also an independent consultant for the Alliance of Democracies Foundation and Founder of DEP Consulting. Previously, she was a senior program coordinator for The German Marshall Fund of the United States’ (GMF) Asia and the Future of Geopolitics programs (Washington, DC). Before that, she worked as a program assistant in GMF’s Wider Atlantic program in Brussels and program intern in Warsaw. Before joining GMF, she worked for the European Institute of Peace in Brussels (EIP). She holds a M.A. in international and political studies with a concentration in transatlantic studies from Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. She received her B.A. in political science with an emphasis in international relations and a minor in German studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB).