The 8th Annual Center for European Policy Analysis Forum, Washington, D.C., September 28-29, 2016.
Minister of Defense Antoni Macierewicz speech:
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am honored and glad to have a chance to open the 8th CEPA Forum. The topics that we are going to discuss during these two days have always been important to me: be it our regional cooperation with a good example of the Visegrad Group, the Russian threat, disinformation or democracy and Western values.
In the program of the conference, while introducing our keynotes, you stated that “the West is facing an unprecedented series of challenges, including Islamist extremism, a revanchist Russia, a militaristic and expansionist China, the rise of challenger economies in the South and at home economic stagnation and political upheavals.” This sentence sounds very “Huntingtonian,” it can be shortly summed up as “The West and the Rest.” And this happens to be the title of one of the chapters of his famous “The Clash of Civilizations.” The book itself, praised by some and criticized by others, should be the subject of careful studies. If you take a look at what happened in the Maidan in 2013, and what has been happening ever since in Ukraine invaded by Russia—it is the clash of civilizations. Western aspirations of Ukrainian society were confronted with brutal force and dictatorship of the East. If you see the social turmoil in Western Europe related to the wave of terrorism and the migration crisis—it is the clash of civilizations. If the Center for European Policy Analysis organizes a forum entitled “Saving the West—Priorities and Principles” which coincides with another title of Huntington’s work “The Fading of the West,” it clearly indicates that we live in times where the clash of civilizations becomes reality.
But the first and the most important question that we have to ask ourselves is how we define the West. I hope that we all agree that the most crucial element of who we are is our system of values. It was forged over centuries as a unique combination of moral values brought by the Bible, later invigorated by Greek and Roman philosophy and their legal systems. This was the soil upon which human rights and modern liberal democracy grew up. They make our way of life so special. And, let me refer to another important book, contrary to what Francis Fukuyama wrote in his “The End of History and the Last Man,” they are not given to us forever. If we will not defend them, they may eventually be lost.
This defense has to consist of two components. The first one is a stout and steadfast physical defense of our freedom. This July, during the NATO Summit in Warsaw, we made an important step forward to protect Europe and the West by establishing the enhanced Forward Presence. Soon we will implement the decisions made then and greatly increase our deterrence. The Alliance set the goal of 2% GDP military spending for its members. So far, only 5 states (including the USA and Poland) reached that level, but others are soon to join. We must be ready to fight at any moment and everywhere, including the new war domains like cyber and information warfare. As the British politician Lord Courtney of Penwith stated: the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.
But this defense has to also be conducted beyond our borders. As I already mentioned, also today Ukraine fights a war to protect Western civilization. In Georgia there may be no war at present, but back in 2008 the nation lost a significant part of its territory because of political choices that were made. Fighting the barbaric ISIL and stabilizing the situation in the Middle East to stop the great migrations is also a part of this struggle. The same applies to Afghanistan. As it can be seen, we must remain active and supportive beyond our borders as well.
Speaking of the last two threats related to Islamic terrorism and jihadism, we have to seriously think about the role of Russia in that respect. Recent barbaric bombings of Alleppo may only further destabilize the region and make the humanitarian disaster taking place in Syria worse. But I think also of a possible deeper phenomenon. There is little doubt today that the Soviet Union and its satellites supported, funded or manipulated many extremist left-wing forces in the past. We had Rote Armee Fraktion (or the Red Army Fraction) in Germany, Brigade Rosse (or the Red Brigades) in Italy, we had Komintern, leftist terrorists in Latin America (Shining Path and others), extreme variations of the liberation theology, several religious movements like the World Council of Churches and many, many more. One of the recent claims is that prominent activists of the Palestine Liberation Organization were in fact KGB agents. Knowing that, I think that we should ask ourselves another question: is it possible that Russia right now influences or maybe even creates radical Islamic terrorism and jihadism?. The answer to this question may be fundamental for our civilization to survive.
However, the second component is much more difficult to build. It requires to fight against our worst enemy who knows our every weakness: ourselves. We need to come back to the sources of our power, to our traditional moral and ethical values. We have to come back to the classical definition of truth and always remember that if we shall know the truth, the truth shall set us free. Even if this truth is very painful. This is the reason why we are so determined to find out what happened in Smolensk during the tragic air crash in 2010. More and more evidence indicates that the Russian version of this disaster is false. And given the context of the wars in Georgia in 2008 and the one in Ukraine since 2014, we may wonder if this crash was not just a stage of a longer process. Recently, Vladimir Putin announced the recreation of the infamous Ministry of State Security which is basically a return to KGB-times. We may be back to Cold War or something worse. Yes, this is painful. But this is the truth.
We also have to think of elementary justice. Recently, we can observe a rise of extreme forces in Europe, both on the right and left. Many of them arose because of faulty economic and social phenomena that took place in the last years. They created a situation where many people felt deceived by politicians and financial elites, were impoverished while great fortunes arose or simply felt that their interests were not represented in political life. This is an extremely dangerous mechanism that in time may lead to the rise of radicalism. The horrors of communism in Russia, national socialism in Germany and many others grew on such a background. The West needs a moral renewal within the precepts of traditional Christian morality. Even if we do not practice religion so much anymore, it is still the backbone of our civilization.
Now, Central Eastern Europe and namely the V4 (or Visegrad Group) can offer its unique experience in that matter. We are part of the West and we are still very much traditional societies. Recently in Krynica, Poland the Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orban and the chair of the Law and Justice party governing in Poland, Jarosław Kaczyński, declared that our Central European states should rebuild this traditional European culture. We cooperate closely also with our friends from the three Baltic States and Romania, including bearing common efforts to build an enhanced Forward Presence on NATO’s Eastern Flank. In this respect, we support Canada as a Framework Nation in Latvia and exchange military forces with Romania. We also actively take part in Air Policing missions for both of the Baltic States and have just started providing the same kind of support for Romania and Bulgaria. In May this year, the Visegrad Group Ministers of Defence signed a Joint Declaration, which sets the framework of cooperation between Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. One of the provisions provides for a rotational presence of the V4 military forces in the Baltic States.
We might even say without much exaggeration, that the old political concept of the Intermarium—a form of an alliance of states situated between the Adriatic, Baltic and Black Seas begins to materialize. Such an alliance would also greatly help the strategic interests of the United States by providing a reliable partner with considerable potential in Central Eastern Europe.
Therefore, I am very glad that so much attention will be dedicated to the Visegrad Group in this Forum. I believe that our four states, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, as well as the rest of the region, have a great role to play in saving the West.