Witold Waszczykowski is Poland's Minister of Foreign Affairs
The upcoming NATO Summit in Warsaw takes place at a defining moment for the security of our people. We live in a turbulent world. It is imperative that we send a strong message of unity to the world: NATO matters.
In 1999, Poland marked a milestone in its history and joined the most successful military alliance in the world. Back then, with preparations underway for Poland's first NATO Summit, in Washington, we still recalled that even after Communism had crumbled tens of thousands of Russian troops remained stationed on Polish soil. But we did not dwell on the past: We had a dream that one day NATO troops would be present in Poland.
Today, this dream has become a reality. Poland is a full member of NATO and actively shapes its future. We remain a significant contributor to the security of the alliance. The Warsaw Summit will be a poignant reminder of the distance Poland has covered in such a short period. This historical journey is a reminder that security should not be taken for granted.
Since the Wales Summit in 2014, we have observed a negative change along our borders. The use of force has become a rule, not an exception. Terrorism is thriving; people are being brutally killed in Paris cafes; Brussels' airport and subway; Turkish cities; and many other places. An uncontrolled flow of migrants adds to instability. Last but not least, Russia continues a considerable build-up of its military presence from the north to the south, including in the Baltic region. By conducting numerous military provocations, Russia is trying to challenge the cohesion and solidarity of the alliance. Russian military aggression against Ukraine, including the illegal annexation of Crimea, has been a clear demonstration of how Moscow perceives the current security architecture in Europe.
With this gloomy picture in mind, NATO cannot afford to be passive. What the transatlantic community needs is a credible NATO that takes concrete steps to ensure the real security of all its citizens. The Warsaw Summit legacy should embrace an ambitious vision of how the alliance will function in the evolving security environment. It should be built on three pillars: adaptation; credibility; and leadership.
A fundamental shift in security policy requires from NATO a long-term political, military, and institutional adaptation. Decisions made at the Wales Summit, including the Readiness Action Plan, were a first step in the right direction. A comprehensive Warsaw package will move the whole process forward.
NATO's enhanced forward presence in Poland and the Baltic states is a crucial integral element of this adapted approach of the alliance. These deployments would further strengthen NATO's eastern flank – a concept that was my personal mission many years ago. It is very rewarding to see it come true.
The Warsaw Summit will also provide a response to security challenges coming from the south. They cannot be addressed without enhancing defence capabilities and resilience of NATO partners. It should be done in cooperation with the European Union. The military campaign against Islamic State is a joint fight to protect our vision of the world. NATO is there to help. Poland does its share by sending F16 jets and special-operations trainers to the region.
Yet, adaptation will not materialize without credibility. It simply means that the alliance should possess the adequate military structures, planning processes and high-end capabilities.
Finally, NATO needs a high-level political commitment of all allies. As agreed at the summit in Wales, it should embrace adequate defence budgets necessary to develop capabilities. In short, ask not what NATO can do for you, but ask what you can do for NATO.
The Warsaw Summit will benefit from the legacy of Poland's late president, Lech Kaczynski, a defender of sovereignty and democracy. When Russia invaded Georgia in 2008, it was Mr. Kaczynski who rushed to the rescue, convincing the leaders of five central European countries to join a rally in Tbilisi, and by doing likely prevented Russia's imminent bombing of the capital. For Mr. Kaczynski, the display of solidarity was a question of showing the region's "true face". In Warsaw, NATO will show to the world that it is ready to shape the security environment, promote peace and project stability.