The upcoming NATO summit in Warsaw takes place at a defining moment for the security of our people. We live in a turbulent world, and 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 when it joined the most successful military alliance in the world. Back then, with the preparations for Poland's first NATO summit in Washington, we recalled that even after Communism had crumbled, tens of thousands of Russian troops had 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 becomes a reality. Poland is a fully-fledged 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 which Poland has covered within a short time. This historical journey is a reminder that security should not be taken for granted.
Since the Wales Summit in 2014, we have observed a lasting negative change along our borders. The use of force has become the rule, not an exception. Terrorism is thriving. People have been brutally killed in Paris cafes, the Brussels airport and subway, Turkish cities and in many other places. An uncontrolled flow of migrants adds to the instability. Last but not least, Russia continues a considerable build-up of their military presence from the north to the south, including in the Baltic Sea region. Through numerous military provocations, Russia tries 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 NATO to be credible and take 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.
The fundamental security policy shift requires NATO to adapt politically, militarily, and institutionally over the long term. The Wales Summit decisions, including the Readiness Action Plan, were the first step in the right direction. A comprehensive Warsaw package, based on a 360 degrees approach, 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 for the alliance. These deployments will 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. These cannot be addressed without enhancing the defense capabilities and resilience of our NATO partners, and should be done in cooperation with the EU. The military campaign against DAESH is a joint fight to protect our vision of the world. NATO is there to help, and Poland does its share by sending F-16 jets and Special Operation Forces (SOF) trainers to the region.
Yet adaptation will not materialize without credibility. This 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 from all allies. As was agreed at the summit in Wales, these should embrace adequate defense 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 August 2008, it was Kaczynski who rushed to the rescue, convincing the leaders of five Central European countries to join a rally in Tbilisi and by doing so preventing Russia's imminent bombing of the capital. For Kaczynski, the display of solidarity was a question of showing the region's "true face." In Warsaw NATO will show the world that it is ready to shape the security environment, promote peace and project stability.
* Mr. Witold Waszczykowski, Ph.D., is Poland's Minister of Foreign Affairs