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The European Union Must Strengthen Cooperation with NATO: Upcoming Elections on Both Sides of the Atlantic Are Crucial

POLITICSThe European Union Must Strengthen Cooperation with NATO: Upcoming Elections on Both Sides of the Atlantic Are Crucial

The 2024 election calendar is extremely tight. In June, EU citizens will elect their representatives to the European Parliament, while in the fall, Americans will decide on their president for the next four years. The results of these elections could be crucial for global security, as well as the role and strength of NATO. According to experts, cooperation between the EU and NATO must be strengthened in this regard. A potential win by Trump could somewhat reduce the United States’ involvement in the alliance.

Anyone who underestimated the role and significance of NATO for European security had to change their view after February 24, 2022, when Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. NATO demonstrated its continued importance not only in declarations but also in action. The accession of Finland (2023) and Sweden (2024) to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization confirmed that the alliance is essential for Europe.

“The alliance has absolutely proven its value through the outbreak of the war in Ukraine. What will change, in my opinion, is greater cooperation between the European Union and NATO, because we cannot afford to duplicate certain structures,” says Dr. Monika Sus, professor at the Institute of Political Studies of the Polish Academy of Sciences and expert at the Center for International Security Research at the Hertie School in Berlin, to Newseria Biznes.

In this context, the elections scheduled on both sides of the Atlantic in 2024 seem extremely important. In a few days, EU citizens will elect their representatives to the European Parliament, and in the fall, Americans will go to the polls. Some polls indicate that former US President Donald Trump enjoys greater support, increasing the likelihood of his return to the White House. He has repeatedly addressed NATO in his statements, sometimes even suggesting the possibility of the US leaving the alliance or criticizing European countries for their low defense spending.

“EU countries are now spending more on defense, which is very important from the perspective of strengthening NATO. This could be even more significant if Donald Trump wins the US elections and reduces American engagement in NATO. Therefore, the contribution of European countries to NATO must increase,” says Prof. Monika Sus.

It remains an open question whether European countries, including Poland, will be able to effectively defend themselves against Russia with reduced US involvement in the alliance. According to the expert, the black scenario of Washington turning its back on Europe is unlikely.

“Remember, we also have bilateral relations with the US. Most of the military equipment we have in Poland comes from the United States, so we have contractual obligations under which Americans are committed to continue assisting us. Therefore, I don’t think there will be a situation where the Americans withdraw from NATO’s eastern flank, even after a Trump victory,” assesses the expert from the Institute of Political Studies at the Polish Academy of Sciences. “However, Poland should certainly do everything possible, and it seems that this government has started to do so, to strengthen the European defense industry, including, of course, the Polish industry and its role in the European defense sector.”

Poland has increased its defense spending to a record level of 4 percent of GDP, the highest among NATO member states. This year, it will amount to 118 billion PLN from the state budget, and 159 billion PLN in total with the Armed Forces Support Fund. Among the priorities recently mentioned in the Sejm by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Defense Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz are the modernization of army equipment, increasing troop numbers, and investing in modern air, anti-aircraft, and missile defense solutions, including an iron dome over Poland and Europe.

“Since December 13, 2023, the Armaments Agency has signed 40 contracts worth a total of 50 billion PLN. Of these, 20 are contracts with domestic contractors worth 18.5 billion PLN. Currently, 40 percent of expenditures are in the Polish defense industry. Our ambition and commitment is to adopt a 50/50 spending rule and modernize in Polish arms factories, both public and private, producing on Polish territory. This year, we plan to sign about 150 contracts within the domestic and foreign industry,” emphasized Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz on May 22 in the Sejm.

The minister also announced the expansion of the Cyber Defense Forces component and the construction of unmanned forces. Drone operations are one element of the East Shield project, a national deterrence and defense program, which is to be the largest operation strengthening Poland’s eastern border and NATO’s eastern flank since 1945. The implementation of the program is – according to announcements – to significantly increase the country’s resilience to military threats from the east, limit the mobility of enemy forces, while ensuring greater operational freedom and survival capability for our troops and civilian population. The estimated cost of the multi-year plan for 2024–2028 is 10 billion PLN. One of its pillars is to be alliances within the EU and NATO.

Following President Andrzej Duda’s statement, there has also been much discussion about Poland joining the Nuclear Sharing program and increasing our country’s involvement in so-called nuclear deterrence.

“Does this immediately mean the deployment of nuclear weapons in Poland? I’m not sure, but I am certain that these are not issues to be dealt with publicly. We know that such discussions are ongoing, and I believe they will be much more effective if they take place behind closed doors in Washington or Warsaw,” notes the expert.

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