NATO's eastern border is under most threat - Polish president

  • 2024-06-12

RIGA - NATO's eastern border is under most threat of all parts of the alliance's border, Polish President Andrzej Duda said at a press conference which concluded the NATO Eastern Flank Summit on Tuesday.

He stressed that the participation of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the so-called Bucharest Nine Summit not only provided it with additional prestige, but also demonstrated that NATO's Eastern flank is currently in a special situation.

Duda noted that the Eastern flank is the last bastion, the last line of defense of NATO in the event of an attack on its member states, given the current situation. The Polish President stressed that all NATO borders are currently covered by 360 degree defense, but that the Eastern border is under most threat.

"We suffer not only from the direct threat of invasion and aggressive behavior by Russia, but also from hybrid attacks, including from Belarus. Theoretically, we are also exposed to a possible attack from Belarus, which is supposedly an independent and sovereign country, but we know very well that the Belarusian regime is completely led and controlled by the Kremlin. In principle, Belarus is blindly following the Kremlin's orders," Duda told reporters.

He welcomed the fact that Finnish President Alexander Stubb and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson were also present at the summit. In the Polish President's view, the new members prove that NATO's "open door" principle is valid and that new countries can join NATO and contribute to the Alliance's common security.

Speaking about the upcoming NATO summit in Washington, Duda noted that the Russian invasion of Ukraine was also discussed during the Bucharest Nine meeting. He stressed that Russia is continuing its hostilities, so the question is not only how to help Ukraine win, but also how to shorten the duration of the war, using international law, legal norms, how to bring the war to an end as soon as possible and Ukraine to regain control over the territories temporarily occupied by Russia.

Duda also outlined Poland's priorities for the forthcoming summit in Washington. According to him, Poland is currently focusing on strengthening its deterrence and defense policy and strategy, as well as on how to ensure Ukraine's successful integration into the Euro-Atlantic organization and how to counteract the Russians.

On defense and deterrence, the Polish President stressed the need to fully implement the decisions taken at the NATO summits in Madrid and Vilnius, guaranteeing the full defense of every part of NATO territory. According to Duda, this requires the implementation of a number of measures, in line with the defense plans initially adopted and also updated, which will allow for the accelerated achievement of the objectives set and closer cooperation between NATO Member States.

"In other words, it is a question of knowing exactly which country and which units will be involved in the defense effort, especially when it comes to the mobilization of rapid reaction forces in the event of a threat to our security," said the Polish President.

He pointed out that the summit discussed increasing defense spending. Duda expressed Poland's position that NATO member states should not only allocate 2 percent of their gross domestic product (GDP) to defense, as decided at the NATO summit in Wales, but should not stop there, given Russia's invasion of Ukraine, its aggressive actions and its attempts to restore the former influence it had during the Cold War, when NATO members spent more than 3 percent of their GDP on defense.

Duda also stressed that Poland supports Ukraine's accession to NATO. He pointed out that Poland was equally resolute in supporting the opening of negotiations with Ukraine on its accession to the Alliance. He supported the view that Ukraine should be formally invited to start the accession and ratification process. 

"I do not believe that Ukraine will join the organization before the end of the war, but this process should take place in parallel with the war, so that we clearly show Russia that Ukraine's wish to join NATO has been listened to, heard and we are working on it. We need to show that no threat from Russia will be able to deter either NATO members or Ukraine from its goal to join the free world and that the free world will continue to support Ukraine in its accession process," said Duda.

He pointed out that the summit discussed long-term support for Ukraine. The Polish President stressed that from the first day of Russia's invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Poland has used its resources to provide not only military but also humanitarian assistance to the Ukrainian people. In his view, there is a need for initiatives in which NATO Member States can cooperate more closely on common terms, for example in the production of ammunition, in order to be able to meet all of Ukraine's current needs.

The Polish President also stressed the need to accelerate the delivery of aid, i.e. to ensure that the ammunition is delivered quickly enough to the Alliance members, who can assemble it, complete it and send it, together with other resources, to Ukraine.

As reported, on Tuesday, for the first time, a summit of NATO Eastern Flank countries was held in Riga, bringing together the so-called Bucharest Nine, which was established in 2015 as a platform for discussions between representatives of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.