On Monday, June 20, 2016, The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) hosted R. Nicholas Burns, Roy and Barbara Goodman Family professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Relations at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government; Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, former secretary general of NATO; and Damon Wilson, executive vice president, programs & strategy at the Atlantic Council for a panel discussion on the key priorities for the upcoming NATO Summit in Warsaw. The discussion was moderated by Teri Schultz, freelance journalist at National Public Radio and CBS Radio News.
After brief welcome remarks by Ian O. Lesser, senior director for Foreign and Security Policy at GMF and executive director of GMF’s Brussels Office, Burns summarized the findings of his joint report with General James L. Jones, “Restoring the Power and Purpose of the NATO Alliance”. Burns commented on the volatile security environment Europe faces nowadays, due to Vladimir Putin’s attempt to “re-divide Europe” in the East and the on-going conflict in the South, for which he predicted “another decade of violence and instability:” On top of ramping up NATO presence in the Baltics, Poland and the Black Sea Region, Burns emphasized that “if you are in a military alliance and do not contribute your share, others should be able to point this out,” and stressed the need for increased military spending among the allies. He also stressed the importance of maintaining sanctions on Russia as well as strong U.S. leadership within the Alliance. Finally he made clear that populism is a “cancer for the Alliance,” and have to be countered with a strong commitment to democratic values and human rights.
Jaap de Hoop Scheffer warned that the EU and NATO need to act collectively and speak with one voice vis-à-vis Russia, and a big step towards this direction would be a Cyprus settlement. Speaking about the rising political populism he remarked that the political centre is leaving the debate too much to the fringes and “the EU, looking for its own identity, cannot leave the debate to the xenophobic, racist and populist forces.” He called upon the established parties to regain ownership of the discussion. Regarding the tensions with Russia, Damon Wilson pointed out that “what is dangerous is the Russian attempt to frame what is happening” and that “we have to stand by what we agree and hold the Russians accountable,” turning NATO back to the centre of our security strategy. De Hoop Scheffer called on national leaders to use the Warsaw Summit to “make clear that NATO was, is and will be a nuclear alliance,” thus stressing the Alliance’s determination to protect the integrity of its borders.
The discussion was followed by a lively question and answer session. The audience, including policymakers, experts, and journalists, agreed on the fact that NATO must learn from its past mistakes and live up to its inherent goal of ensuring security for its members, by continuing the shift from assurance to deterrence during the Warsaw Summit.