Last week I had the distinct pleasure of participating in the 13th Riga Conference, helping mark Latvia’s centenary.
The opening session, which accentuated remarks by the President of Latvia, Raimonds Vējonis, featured discussion by former Latvian President and Club de Madrid leader Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga, Minister Antoni Macierewicz of Poland, and International Centre for Defence and Security Director Sven Sakkov. The discourse centered on the transatlantic relationship, the experience and dilemmas of the Baltic States, and the future of Central and Eastern Europe.
The Baltic states, more than other countries of Central and Eastern Europe, are exposed to a hybrid war. As President Vējonis proclaimed, the NATO Summit in Warsaw was a “lesson in deterrence.” The summit’s decisions resulted, inter alia, in the rapid deployment of United States and NATO soldiers on the Eastern Flank. We are now facing a crucial decision with regard to the establishment of permanent bases of U.S. troops in Poland, and indeed on the Eastern Flank. There is no doubt that only a military force that includes the U.S. can guarantee the independence of Central and Eastern Europe. This notion was advocated by Minister Macierewicz and resonated throughout the Riga Conference. It drew a positive response, including from retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, formerly the commanding general of U.S. Army Europe, who avidly praised Poland and highlighted support from across NATO as the integral prerequisite.
Support for advancing the Three Seas Initiative is of great importance, not only in the military dimension, but also in the infrastructural and energy spheres. Energy security would diminish the threat of Russian intimidation in Central and Eastern Europe. The construction of an enhanced North/South infrastructure would strengthen internal integration within the European Union as well as significantly increase the communication capabilities of NATO troops in the event of a threat.
This historical context, delineated in Minister Macierewicz’s recent analyses, is pivotal. The sovereignty of the Baltic countries results from the efforts of their societies to build their own nation-states. Moreover, the defeat of the Central Powers in World War I as well as Marshall Józef Piłsudski’s victory against the Bolsheviks in 1921 played a decisive role. The paramount challenge was the communist revolutionary movements aiming to create a system of Soviet republics. The Russian effort to sweep across Europe to unite with their German comrades was dwarfed by Polish-Ukrainian-Belarusian forces, with support from volunteer units, including Kościuszko’s Squadron. If it were not for these military victories, we would have a different geopolitical reality — the independent states in Central and Eastern Europe would most likely be nonexistent.
The future of Central and Eastern Europe would have been similar to what happened as a result of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact in 1939 when Europe was divided into two spheres, Russian and German. Ultimately, Russia achieved its goals in 1945, with effectively all of Central and Eastern Europe under Soviet occupation. The fight for independence ensued for the coming decades, perhaps best illustrated by Poland’s indomitable soldiers. Although the countries of Central and Eastern Europe have gained the ability to craft their own destiny, with Poland, in particular, serving as a bulwark against Russian aggression, it is still a process which depends upon global realities, including Russia’s efforts to undermine NATO. This endeavor is evinced by Nord Stream 2, a projected pipeline that would bring gas from Russia into Germany via the Baltic Sea, rightly drawing disapproval from U.S. President Donald Trump as well as from key allies.
Kremlin ideologue Aleksander Dugin notably asserted that Russia is ready to leave the Baltic states, Poland, and part of Central and Eastern Europe in the German sphere of influence in order to undermine NATO. The nations of Central and Eastern Europe suffered huge losses as a result of the German occupation, but incomparably longer, we were occupied by Soviet Russia. Echoing the old Latin adage “Si vis pacem, para bellum” (“If you want peace, prepare for war”), never again can we tolerate further Russian Imperialist aggression. We must recall its horrors from 1939 onward and proclaim the need for peace through strength.
Edmund Janniger is the Director of the International Security Forum, an institution under the patronage of the Minister of National Defense of the Republic of Poland. His work at the Ministry of National Defense encompasses academic affairs and global engagement. Mr. Janniger holds the record as the youngest sub-cabinet official in Poland’s history. In the Parliamentary Office, Mr. Janniger has been the Deputy Chief of Staff to Minister Antoni Macierewicz and, during the 2015 elections, was the Deputy Campaign Manager for Law and Justice in the 10th District. Mr. Janniger has a proven track record directing complex political and policy-related matters. He holds an adjunct appointment at Marconi University, and was elected by the full Rutgers University Senate to three terms on its Executive Committee. Mr. Janniger splits his time between the Warsaw and New York metropolitan areas, has one young dog, and is an avid hiker. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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