A. Kwaśniewski: Poland is one of the most important NATO countries

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Poland is currently one of the most important and important countries in NATO, former President of the Republic of Poland Aleksander Kwaśniewski told journalists.

Poland is celebrating the 25th anniversary of joining NATO this week. CBOS research shows that 60 percent Poles consider it a breakthrough event of historical importance, and 90 percent support membership in the Alliance. society. Analysts point out that pro-NATO attitudes have never been so clear before, which is undoubtedly the result of Russian aggression against Ukraine. The outbreak of war across the eastern border also contributed to Poland's increased efforts and spending to strengthen its defense potential. – Poland is certainly one of the most important and important NATO countries at the moment – ​​said Aleksander Kwaśniewski, President of the Republic of Poland in the years 1995–2005, in a conversation with journalists.

In 2022, the Homeland Defense Act was passed, which primarily provides for increasing the number of the Armed Forces to at least 300,000. soldiers, including 250 thousand professional soldiers and 50 thousand territorial defense soldiers, restoring the reserve system and increasing the possibilities of training soldiers. According to the new regulations, state spending on defense is also increasing. Last year it was about 4%. GDP, which puts Poland among NATO leaders.

Poland is one of the leaders among NATO countries

– Poland is doing a lot to ensure its position in NATO is strong. We are developing economically because it is very important, although we should have greater stability and political continuity so that we do not experience such fluctuations from one side to the other. We need to modernize the army, spend money on it, train soldiers, strengthen our arms industry, which means we need to produce more in correlation with other European countries. We also need to strengthen – and I think this is still a task to be done – civil defense, i.e. reaching people in Poland with basic information on how to behave in threat situations. So there is a lot to do, but it must be said that Poland has already done a lot. We have a good army, we have proven officers and soldiers, we have been on various foreign missions: Afghanistan, Iraq, previously Kosovo – says Aleksander Kwaśniewski.

On March 12, 1999, Minister of Foreign Affairs Bronisław Geremek handed over to US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright the act of Poland's accession to the North Atlantic Treaty. From the one conducted in February this year. CBOS research shows that 60 percent Poles consider it a breakthrough event of historical importance. This is the highest result in the history of these surveys – on the eve of accession, in February 1999, 44 percent believed so. respondents, and in the previous survey from 2019 – 42 percent. CBOS also notes that pro-NATO attitudes have never been so widespread in Polish society. Currently, as much as 90 percent in total. Poles support Poland's membership in NATO. In March 2022, shortly after the outbreak of the war, this percentage was even higher and reached 94%.

Russian aggression against Ukraine has caused a change in attitude towards NATO not only in Poland and the Alliance's member countries, but also in countries that have so far remained neutral. Joining Finland and Sweden in NATO, according to Aleksander Kwaśniewski, is Putin's failure.

Putin is NATO's main enemy

– Putin did everything to ensure that Russia was surrounded by countries that are not in NATO, but his aggression against Ukraine meant that now Finland and Sweden are in NATO. From a political point of view, it is also important that Sweden gave up the principle of neutrality, which had been in force there for over 200 years and to which they seemed to be very attached. Sweden is a wealthy, well-organized country with a high-level arms industry, a good army, good civil defense, serious politicians, and there, NATO has been embraced by a broad consensus from the left to the right. So it seems to me that from NATO's point of view, this is also a historic event, it is a great strengthening of the Alliance, says the former president.

On Thursday, March 7 this year. Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson and Foreign Minister Tobias Billström officially handed over the accession documents to the USA. Thus, Sweden formally became the new, 32nd member of NATO, and its territory was covered by the guarantee of Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which provides for the solidarity defense of all members of the Alliance.

Sweden submitted an application to join NATO in May 2022. The same decision was also made by Finland, which officially became the 31st member of NATO a little earlier – on April 4 last year, on the 74th anniversary of the establishment of the Alliance. Commentators believe that this expansion of NATO structures is a scenario that seemed unrealistic just a few years ago. When asked by journalists who should join the Alliance next, Aleksander Kwaśniewski answers: Ukraine.

– If we want to honestly offer Ukraine a security guarantee, it is NATO membership. No other paper, no other declaration will be accepted, because Ukrainians have experience with the Budapest Memorandum of 1994. They were signed by the most important countries in the world and in 2014 it turned out to be just a piece of paper, and in 2022 – with Russian aggression – no one even mentions the fact that such guarantees were given by Russia, the United States and France, i.e. members of the Security Council. So if I were to say it clearly, I think that Ukraine is next and this will be a huge strengthening for both Ukraine and NATO – emphasizes Aleksander Kwaśniewski.

On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of Poland's presence in NATO, the Atlantic Council and the Faculty of Political Science and International Studies of the University of Warsaw organized a conference on March 8, whose guests included: former President of the Republic of Poland Aleksander Kwaśniewski, former Prime Minister and MEP prof. Jerzy Buzek and Minister of Foreign Affairs Radosław Sikorski. The head of diplomacy pointed out, among other things, that Russia under Putin is an existential threat to Poland and expressed hope that Ukraine will also join the group of Alliance members one day.

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