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The Warsaw Voice » Politics » April 25, 2013
Politics & Society
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It’s All About Strategy
April 25, 2013   
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Prof. Gen. Stanisław Koziej, chief of the Polish president’s National Security Bureau (BBN), talks to Andrzej Jonas and Witold Żygulski.

Is Poland safe and secure?
This is, without a doubt, the most difficult question that someone who professionally deals with national security issues could be asked. We should start by noting that security is a process, not a state of affairs. Therefore we can say that Poland is safe today. But all this is about something else though—namely thinking about these issues within a certain time frame—a year, five years or 10 years. With such a perspective, we can no longer be so sure that we are safe. Change is all around us, many trends cannot be predicted, and in order to ensure security, we should be also prepared for situations that are not very probable today.

What are the pillars of Poland’s security today?
The most important pillar of the national security system is the country’s own potential in terms of defense, the economy, diplomacy, etc. There are also external pillars: NATO, the European Union as well as the strategic partnerships and good relations that we have been steadily creating with other countries and organizations.

NATO has its own army; the European Union does not for the time being...
In fact, both these organizations do not have their own separate armed forces. NATO forces are at the disposal of the member states, except that, unlike the EU, the Alliance has developed effective mechanisms for organizing and using them. This ensures that national combat capabilities can be used effectively for common defense.

As for NATO, we were convinced for many years that this most effective and largest military alliance in history would be able to protect Poland effectively against any possible external threats. But in recent years it has become increasingly clear that NATO is not a universal remedy for all the security problems of the contemporary world. Conceptually, the Alliance was expected to effectively defend its members against one particular threat in the form of the big global confrontation threat that was lurking during the Cold War era. NATO was conceived and organized for this very purpose. All the members of the Alliance were equally in danger, which is why no one thought about the need to achieve some kind of internal consensus at that time. It was obvious that in the case of a big war everyone would be defending one another by working together. However, for at least a decade—in fact, I can risk saying that since the attack on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001—unusual so-called asymmetric threats have been appearing and even coming to the fore. For example, these include attacks that do not seek to seize control of the territory of a country but only to inflict heavy damage on that country, for instance by means of a single missile strike, diversion or an attack using conventional weapons. A separate group of asymmetric threats are threats of attacks in cyberspace which are becoming more and more severe in many parts of the world.

In the face of these new, asymmetric threats, NATO’s effectiveness is not so certain anymore, because they affect the various NATO members to a different extent. For some countries these threats are a serious problem, while others are not affected at all. It is therefore necessary to reach consensus on how to respond to such threats. This, however, is a long-term process and in some cases consensus cannot be reached. Therefore, while building one’s own national security pillar, we have to focus, above all, on those types of threats with which we would have to deal on our own, without the support of NATO, at least for some time.

Today, as is known, a missile defense system is our priority in creating our own pillar of security. But in the next decade, as President Bronisław Komorowski recently noted, a system for preventing cyberspace attacks could and even should become such a priority. Poland is at an initial stage of developing measures to protect itself against this threat. We do not yet have a coherent cyberspace security strategy and this issue is one of the key challenges for the National Security Bureau as well. This year, together with the government, we would like to start working on a document to draw up the guidelines for such a strategy.

Let’s talk about the European pillar of the Polish security system. How do you assess its role and effectiveness?
It is weak and strategically promising at the same time. This is a great opportunity for Poland but, unfortunately, it’s not a certain thing. The problem with the EU common security policy is that there is still no concept as to how it should be shaped.

In the case of the small joint EU battle groups it is not even really known in what situations and how these should be used, how they should operate and who should be in charge of them. Of course, one of the reasons for the EU’s weakness in this area is the economic and financial crisis which forces us to focus on something other than the common security system. But, in my opinion, an equally important reason for these weaknesses is the completely outdated strategic foundation of the EU—the European Security Strategy dating back to 2003. Few people actually remember that this strategy still exists, not to mention taking it into account or respecting its principles. Without such a strategy, it is difficult to imagine any effective action in the field of security. Making a policy without a strategy is like holding a conversation without a plan—it degenerates into blather. This is about what the EU security and defense policy looks like today. We believe, and President Bronisław Komorowski has been mentioning this regularly during his meetings with heads of other EU states for at least two years, that the strategic foundations of the European security system need to be revised. A good argument in favor of such a revision is the case of the recent intervention in the face of the threat of a new war with Islamic fundamentalists in Mali. The EU has been debating such an intervention for months and did not come to any conclusion. Finally, France had to start the operation alone. It is difficult to find a more convincing example. We just have to do something so that the decision making process doesn’t have to be started from scratch on each occasion.

What, in your opinion, is needed to reach an agreement on the EU security system: political will or economic capacity?
Both. However, I think that the starting point should be different—identification of the strategic interests of the European Union. This is of course difficult because of the difference between the national interests of individual member states. Still, believing that common universal values will be enough to make the EU work more effectively is a bit naive. The experience of the last several years shows that in a time of crisis everyone quickly slips into a routine based on looking after their national interests, and thinking in terms of what’s best for their own country. Nevertheless, I am convinced that drawing up a catalog of common interests of the member states, which essentially means defining the mission of the EU in the field of security, is of key importance to the development of a common EU security system.

In a situation where it’s impossible to effectively define a strategy, wouldn’t it be better to try to set partial goals?
Seneca said that if we do not know to what port we are going, the winds will never be favorable. If we do not have a strategic target, we won’t do much. Is the EU stuck in chaos? I don’t think so. We have to try to define a common strategic objective, even a small one, accepted by all.

An example of cooperation in this area is the activities initiated by Poland as part of the Visegrad Group [which consists of Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary]; Poland is holding the rotating presidency of the Visegrad Group at the moment. During a recent joint meeting, we managed to generate the foundations of common strategic interests in security issues. We will now present them gradually to other members of the European Union and suggest the same method of discussion. Maybe it will be possible to do the same in a bigger group? In the near future, we will meet with officials from the Baltic states—Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

In your view, how much time will it take the EU to realize that it needs a common security system?
We would like to bring about a situation in which the November meeting of the European Council will decide to go ahead with the procedure for working out a common security strategy. Then, as practice shows, we will need one, maybe two years. Perhaps, in order to draw up such a document, a group of “wise men” will be established, similar to the one that developed the guidelines for the strategic NATO reform a few years ago. If it turns out that the guidelines of the EU security strategy are ready in 2014 or 2015, I would be very happy. Once we have the same priorities, we will be able to focus on specific tasks, such as setting the rules for the operations of the EU battle groups I mentioned.

Now to the Polish pillar of the national security system. That pillar seems to be economic and technological in nature rather than political and organizational. Do you agree?
A strong foundation of the Polish pillar is the principle that 1.95 percent of the country’s gross domestic product is earmarked for defense. This principle, established in 2001 [when President Bronisław Komorowski was defense minister], is what I think all NATO and EU countries envy us for today. Having a law that makes defense expenditure related to economic growth and the financial condition of the state is the healthiest possible system to ensure transparency in the system for financing national security.

When planning the development of the country, we can set aside specific amounts of money that will be allocated for the modernization of the armed forces and build detailed programs for this modernization process. This also makes it easier to invite tenders, along transparent rules, for the delivery of arms and other military technologies from potential suppliers including our international partners. That’s why Poland is an attractive market for defense-sector companies from many countries—the terms and conditions under which they will be seeking contracts are known; and the program for the modernization of the Polish armed forces as well as the detailed priorities of this program are also clear. This has benefits that go far beyond the realm of defense. Such a situation stimulates the development of Polish munitions factories, increases employment and facilitates access to new internationally renowned technologies, which are also used for civilian purposes.

Incidentally, even though the level of defense spending is guaranteed by law, taking full advantage of this fact requires not only good organization and an appropriate approach from the armed forces and those managing them, but also an active approach from the Polish defense industry. What I mean is above all international cooperation. The capacity of the Polish defense industry is still too small to handle various projects on its own like global giants do. Nor is it in a position to handle all the ambitious orders from our armed forces on its own. But, when working with foreign bidders, the Polish defense industry can and should play a very important role in the modernization of the Polish armed forces, especially in the process of making armaments and army equipment suitable for Polish use, which is a priority for the Polish authorities. Our strategic principle is to give preference to those international partners who are willing to work more closely with the Polish defense industry while carrying out specific projects.

Has the 10-year program for modernizing the Polish armed forces been planned in detail yet?
The program for the 2013-2022 period sets a number of priority projects such as air and missile defense, a helicopter program, modernization of the navy, information systems, precision ammunition, unmanned aircraft etc. Each of these programs has its own path of implementation, from the announcement of the terms to inviting international partners to work together and launching tenders. Some of these programs are already under way, others are at a preparatory stage. The most important project, the construction of a missile defense system, is governed by special conditions including guaranteed financial security mechanisms. Under a decision made by the president, at least 4 to 5 percent of the Defense Ministry’s budget will be set aside for this program.
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