WARSAW – Russia’s aggression in Ukraine has called into question NATO’s willingness and ability to protect its East European flank. For a country like Poland, NATO’s lofty principle of collective defense, while essential to national security, remains, in the absence of appropriate military capabilities and on-the-ground practicability, merely a political commitment.
When Poland joined NATO 15 years ago, it was understood that Article 5 – the “all for one, and one for all” principle that provides for a collective response to an armed attack on any member – would be the cornerstone of the country’s security. Since then, the Allies have found numerous ways to anchor the obligations arising from Article 5 in operational practice. The new Strategic Concept, adopted at the Alliance’s 2010 Lisbon summit, established collective defense as one of its three main tasks, underscoring the importance of developing contingency plans, organizing joint exercises and training, and creating “visible assurance” within member states. As a defining strategy, this agenda meets Polish expectations.
The contingency plans negotiated by Poland in 2008-2010 include strengthening the country militarily in the event of aggression from the East. Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia implemented similar plans.
Another practical step to improve NATO’s readiness to defend its eastern flank has been the organization of joint military exercises, such as “Steadfast Jazz,” held in the Baltics and Poland in 2013. These exercises re-affirmed NATO’s seriousness about defending its eastern members.