The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) will soon gather at the Warsaw Summit in Poland to address a number of significant issues on July 8-9, 2016. The current security situation in Europe and beyond is troubling. The concerns range from political (exit of Britain from the European Union) to economic (how to house, feed, and care for millions of refugees), to military (Russian aggression, Afghanistan, and more).

Warsaw Summit to be held by NATO in July 2016 in Poland.
Warsaw Summit to be held by NATO in July 2016 in Poland.

During the Warsaw Summit NATO will be making important decisions that will affect security in and around Europe. These decisions will provide for a good defense for the citizens of Europe as well as project stability beyond its borders. There are innumerable problems to be addressed at the Warsaw Summit that concern the citizens of Europe (weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, arms control, and defense of Europe).  Beyond Europe’s borders the challenges are many: counter-piracy operations, assistance to nations in the African Union, and the migrant and refugee travel across the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas. Relations and security agreements will need to be considered for non-NATO nations threatened by Russia (Sweden and Finland for example).

My formative years in Special Forces were spent on a Special Forces A-team (12 men) whose primary mission was to conduct Unconventional Warfare (UW) behind enemy lines in the event the Soviet Bloc nations invaded central and western Europe. [1] So it will be with great interest to see how NATO addresses the current Russian aggression towards the Ukraine, Poland, and the Baltic states.

There are many concrete steps that NATO has taken to improve the defensive posture of Eastern Europe and to provide a deterrent posture to keep the Russians in check. NATO exercises held recently in Poland and other Eastern European nations improve the military coordination of the member nations. Could NATO stop Russia from invading the rest of the Ukraine or one of the Baltic States (Estonia, Lithuania, or Latvia)? Unlikely. But deterrence is important none the less.

Over the past 15 years I have been heavily involved (multiple deployments) with the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. So, once again, my interest level is high in anticipation of NATO’s decisions at the Warsaw Summit. How far beyond 2017 will NATO continue the Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan? How will NATO adjust its policy in regards to the fight against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq?

Afghanistan has been one of NATO’s successes. The success lies not in the establishment of stability and security for Afghanistan – that hasn’t happened. The success is the ability of the organization to forge a Coalition that for over a decade has remained committed to providing money and troops to a never-ending conflict with very frustrating results. The interoperability that NATO’s air and ground forces have achieved in Afghanistan with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has been remarkable. In addition, the U.S. special operations community has worked very closely with many of the special operations forces of Europe in Afghanistan.

NATO and Baltic security: Keeping the Russians at bay

Read Next: NATO and Baltic security: Keeping the Russians at bay

While NATO says that many decisions will be made at this two-day conference, I suspect that behind closed doors the votes have already been cast. The Warsaw Summit is likely a venue to publicize the decisions and take the opportunity to deliver speeches and issue press releases. It should make for interesting news.

Further Reading:

NATO Summit Guide, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, June 30, 2016
www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/news_132786.htm

NATO and Afghanistan, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, June 14, 2016
www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/topics_8189.htm

[1] UW is “Activities conducted to enable a resistance movement or insurgency to coerce, disrupt or overthrow an occupying power or government by operating through or with an underground, auxiliary and guerrilla force in a denied area.” Definition taken from Training Circular 18-01, Special Forces Unconventional Warfare, December 2010.

Image at top of page taken from the NATO website.