Commentary Interview

NATO should’ve enlarged more to the East

Two-time Defense Minister of Poland Janusz Onyszkiewicz believes that the Alliance should’ve enlarged more towards the East, adding that NATO leaders feared it would be too expansive.

Onyszkiewicz was in the Minister’s position when Poland joined NATO in 1999. Not only did we join NATO, but we’ve become a valuable member, and the membership stabilizes our region, he told Hospodářské noviny. Considering the current Russian approach, if it weren’t for the NATO European security situation in Europe it would be very hot, said Onyszkiewicz. It is important to be seen as an important member within the Alliance, even though NATO hadn’t enlarged more to the East, he added.

Onyszkiewicz believes the main added value for Poland was its proximity to Germany. As he emphasized to the Germans during accession talks, Poland would be able to face a small-scale threat without the Alliance, on the other hand, it wouldn’t be able to face a big threat alone in which case the danger was just 60 kilometers away from Berlin. NATO enlargement was simply in the best of interest of its members, he added.

According to Onyszkiewicz, Poland wants to have a friendly partnership with Russia. Therefore fears that it would push for an anti-Russian policy are out of place. The main challenge for the Alliance is the strengthening of the Transatlantic bond. Among other challenges, he sees a restoration of military capabilities in countries that had lost many of their army capabilities in the times of peace, namely Germany.

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