“What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight – it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” The words of Dwight D. Eisenhower, who certainly knew a thing or two about fighting. And if size has any significance, Polish defence minister Antoni Macierewicz has said that the NATO summit to be held in Warsaw on 8th -9th July, will be the largest of its kind in the history of the Alliance. It will bring together 58 delegations from the 28 NATO member states, 26 of NATO’s partnership countries, and from NATO’s headquarters, the World Bank, the European Union and the United Nations.
‘It will be a summit that will take decisions resulting in a more secure world”, Macierewicz told reporters at the National Stadium, the central venue of the summit, adding that Poland has achieved its key objectives, notably those relating to the protection of NATO’s eastern flank. Stressing that NATO’s has to be treated as a single entity for the purposes of security, he said that it is not only the question of the security of the southern and eastern flank. Poland will contribute to NATO’s mission against ISIS fighters in the Middle East, albeit on an information-sharing and training operation. Four F-16 fighters with a crew of 150 will be stationed in Kuwait, and a unit of 60 special forces troops in Iraq. A Polish frigate will also be deployed in the Aegean Sea to support activities aimed at preventing an influx of immigrants to Europe.
This latter is a key concern for Poland, of course, although Poland has hitherto been unaffected by the refugee crisis. Of the 5,300 people who have applied for refugee status in Poland since the beginning of 2016, 42 have so for been successful, according to the Office for Foreigners, the largest groups of applicants being Russian Chechens, Tajiks and Ukrainians.
Rafał Kostrzyński, spokesman for the Central European branch of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said that Poland was in not affected by last year’s mass movement of refugees from North Africa and the Middle East into Europe. “The number of Syrians and citizens of other conflict-torn countries [arriving in Poland] is of minor statistical significance.” Only 200 Syrians have entered Poland since January. In 2015, over 12,000 foreigners applied for international protection in Poland, and 348 of them were granted refugee status.
Be that as it may, one cannot be too careful. On Sunday a new law dealing with refugees came into force which extends from seven to 45 the number days for the the National Chief of Police, Commander of Border Guard Service or the head of the Internal Security Agency to supply information on applicants for refugee status to the Office for Foreigners. These bodies must deliver their opinion whether the applicant’s entry on Polish territory might constitute a threat to state security, the country’s defence capabilities or public order. If the opinion contains any such reservation, the applicant cannot qualify for relocation in Poland.
Notwithstanding the welcome given to Polish refugees by other countries over the years, in a recent CBOS poll, 55 per cent of Poles were opposed to Poland taking in any refugees and Jarosław Kaczyński, the leader of Law and Justice (PiS) said that Poland would not accept refugees because they posed a threat to security.
And while we are on the subject of security, what to make of the remarks of the German foreign minister that the recent NATO exercises in Poland were sabre rattling and warmongering? Germany is the closest ally of Poland in the EU according to a recent survey in Rzeczpospilita so Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s are surprising, if not unprecedented coming from the foreign minister of a NATO member about NATO’s own exercises.
While jaw, jaw is always better than war, war, it does seem that there is not much fight in this particular dog. Which is worth bearing in mind as talk of an EU army, of which Mutti Merkel is in favour, fails to go away. Proof, if proof were needed, of the folly of undermining NATO if one takes the security of Europe at all seriously. Of course his desire to mollify Russia may simply be linked to a wish to emulate his former boss, Chancellor Schroeder, who acquired an agreeable post with Nord Stream AG, operator of the Nord Stream natural gas pipeline between Germany and Russia, which bypasses Poland and the Baltic states.
A large summit is, it seems, no substitute for a small dog with fight.