Andrzej DUDA: NATO members must raise their defense spending to 3 percent of GDP

NATO members must raise their defense spending to 3 percent of GDP

Photo of Andrzej DUDA

Andrzej DUDA

President of the Republic of Poland.

Ryc.Fabien Clairefond

other articles by this author

.Twenty–five years ago, the dream of generations of Poles came true. After two centuries of struggle to maintain an independent state, followed by four decades of Soviet domination, on March 12, 1999, in Independence, Mo., the Republic of Poland – along with the Czech Republic and Hungary – was officially admitted to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the world’s most powerful military alliance.

We have used that time well. Poland, strategically located and the fifth–largest country of the European Union in terms of population and area, with a gross domestic product of $690 billion, is one of NATO’s most committed members. Polish armed forces are in line with the alliance`s standards in terms of training, command and equipment – purchased largely from U.S. suppliers. Our annual defense spending has reached a record–high level within NATO and stands at nearly 4 percent of GDP.

Poland’s military has either participated or still participates in a number of NATO and U.N.– led peacekeeping missions, including in Kosovo, Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan and in African countries. Those missions and regular joint exercises have fostered trust and respect between Polish and U.S. soldiers as they risk their lives in carrying out challenging tasks.

The world’s rules–based order, which Poland has helped shape, was shaken on Feb. 24, 2022, when Russia launched a full–scale invasion of Ukraine. Combat in Ukraine, beyond our eastern border, was waged with an intensity comparable to World War II battles. Since the very beginning of the conflict, Poland has been involved, to the greatest possible extent, in providing diplomatic, military and logistical assistance as well as humanitarian aid for our attacked neighbor.

Poland has been warning against such a scenario for a long time. Now, while following the conflict from proximity, we state the following: A return to status quo ante is not possible. Russia’s imperialistic ambitions and aggressive revisionism are pushing Moscow toward a direct confrontation with NATO, with the West and, ultimately, with the whole free world. The Russian Federation has switched its economy to a war mode. It is allocating close to 30 percent of its annual budget to arm itself. This figure and other data coming out of Russia are alarming. Vladimir Putin’s regime poses the biggest threat to global peace since the end of the Cold War.

Therefore, during my visit to Washington on Tuesday, I will propose a response from NATO that is adequate to meet the threat. Ten years ago, at the NATO summit in Newport, Wales, all allies pledged to spend at least 2 percent of their annual GDP on defense. I believe that, because of growing threats, the time has come to increase that number to 3 percent of GDP. I intend to persuade our allies to do so. Both in America and in Europe. I am glad that having already well–surpassed that minimum, the United States and Poland can lead by example and provide an inspiration for others.

When recalling Poland’s accession to NATO, it is worth noting the visionary approach of leaders at the time. The fourth enlargement of the alliance in 1999 was a landmark event, comparable to West Germany joining NATO in 1955. In both cases, Moscow opposed the decision; however, the alliance’s leaders remained steadfast in their resolve. In both cases, a long–term stabilization of the European security architecture followed.

Today, NATO has to be equally bold and uncompromising in its actions, as it was 25 years ago. I am delighted that the alliance has welcomed Sweden and Finland as its members – states that had kept their neutral status for decades. But NATO must remain open for further enlargement. A disappointing lack of unity at the NATO summit in April 2008 rendered futile the efforts of Poland, other countries in our region and U.S. diplomacy: Ukraine and Georgia were not granted a clear path to membership. That left them vulnerable to Russia aggression: Russia invaded Georgia only months after the summit and attacked the Ukrainian Crimean Peninsula and Donbas in 2014.

That is a regrettable chapter in NATO’s history and offers an important lesson for the future. What the alliance needs today is unity, unity and more unity. NATO members must work together on the alliance’s future, on their security investments and a common strategy of support for Ukraine. I believe that the July summit in Washington marking NATO’s 75th anniversary will produce significant decisions in this regard.

Poland believes that NATO is the main global pillar of security, a community of free nations founded on universal values. We believe in the principle of solidarity: “One for all and all for one.” Poland believes that this strength, stemming from unity, cannot be matched by any aggressive power.

Simultaneously, Poland acknowledges and appreciates the U.S. leadership in the alliance – obviously based on the strongest possible foundations, including manpower and materiel as well as adherence to NATO’s unchanged goals. I note that Poland embarked on its path to NATO membership when George H.W. Bush was president, and the process was completed during President Bill Clinton’s tenure. Also, Congress was united on this matter – for it is no secret that a strong NATO in central–eastern Europe constitutes a lasting, strategic goal of the United States as the alliance’s leader.

This remains the case today. The strategic Polish–U.S. cooperation develops, irrespective of who is in power, either in Poland or in the United States. As far as the strengthening of NATO and military cooperation with America are concerned, all politicians in Poland, regardless of their political colors, have always spoken and will continue to speak with one voice.

.In the first half of 2025, Poland will hold the presidency of the European Union. Our overarching priority will be: more of the United States in Europe, which means more active U.S. presence across the military, economic and political domains. Just as there is no strong NATO without Europe, there is no strong Europe without the United States and NATO.

Andrzej Duda

This content is protected by copyright. Any further distribution without the authors permission is forbidden. 11/03/2024