Date: 17 December 2019

Bucharest Nine Joint Assessment for Common Understanding: Initiation Event

B9 JACU – the Bucharest Nine Joint Assessment for Common Understanding – saw its initiation take place at an event on Monday 16.12.2019, at Centrum Prasowe Foksal, in Warsaw. The unprecedented project brings together a savvy combination of Polish government bodies, each of the Embassies of B9 countries in Warsaw, as well as research institutions from each of the B9 countries and beyond; organized and coordinated by The Warsaw Institute Review and the Warsaw Institute. It’s objective is to integrate expert analyses, as well as to bring better understanding of each B9 country’s unique perspective, regarding both hybrid/complex threats, as well as those more conventional. Imperatively, as of the initiation, B9 JACU has begun realising the project, which at its final stage, will be presented to be taken into consideration at official Bucharest Nine Summits, in an effort to present imperative ‘down-up’ support.

B9 JACU began with a Closed Working Lunch Roundtable session, a necessary step to go over technicalities. WIR Advisor and B9 JACU Coordinator, Mr. Alexander Wielgos, led the discussion. It included, from the side of the Polish government administration, high-level representatives of National Security Bureau (BBN) of the Republic of Poland, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MSZ) of the Republic of Poland, and the Ministry of National Defence (MON) of the Republic of Poland. They were joined by representatives of Embassies of each of the B9 countries in Warsaw, that is, the Embassies of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria, as well as representatives of one think tank/research institute from each of these countries, as well as an institution from the US, playing a key and unique role here. The session went over the perspectives of the entities represented, as well as their countries, with regard to actions undertaken thus far on hybrid and complex threats, as well as domains pertaining to how well prepared this part of the world is to respond to traditional aggression, as neither of these are conducted separately from one another.

With this, the session over went over tangible ways to formulate recommendations for concrete steps forward that accompany existing plans and ideas. This includes, first, specifying ‘indicators of threat perception’, that is, what sort of actions show how much the see certain things as a threat and its intensity (even going on to how to define something as directly detrimental to a country’s interests), and second, ways to formulate concrete proposals in specific domains, figuring out how to compile all the inputs and make a comprehensive, but rather short and easily readable assessment.
After having concluded the Closed Session, its participants, B9 JACU project members went by the flags in for a Family Photo:

At this time, the remainder of the Keynote Speakers arrived to the scene, as well as public attendees for some networking coffee. As guests finished their coffee and exchange of business cards, they took their seats in Sala A, as the event was proceeding onto the Public Session of the B9 JACU Initiation. WIR Editor-in-Chief, Ms. Izabela Wojtyczka, introduced the session, welcoming the guests.

Invited to the stage the first Keynote Speaker, was the Deputy Head of the National Security Bureau of the Republic of Poland, Minister Mr. Dariusz Gwizdała, who presented his speech to formally open the public session of B9 JACU.

In his opening remarks, Minister Gwidzała underlined that five years after the establishment of the Bucharest Nine initiative, this format has become a specific platform for coordinating security activities of NATO members on the eastern flank – Estonia, Latvia , Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. He referred to the beginnings of the initiative and to the initiating meeting in autumn 2015, in which Polish President Andrzej Duda and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis took part. The success of this initiative, as emphasized by the Minister, results not only from high-level agreements, but also to a large extent from efficient coordination of international cooperation at ministerial level, as well as directly from organizational units of individual ministries or state administration agencies responsible for defense and diplomacy. This collaboration is also the result of a similar security risk assessment. The minister emphasized that the coordination platform, which is B9, perfectly contributes to building security on NATO’s eastern flank, but also to giving security a regional dimension

Aptly building on from the Minister’s conclusion, WIR invited to the stage the Deputy Director of the Security Policy Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland, Ms. Anna Tyszkiewicz.

She emphasised in that cooperation under B9 is very good because it is multilevel. As also did Minister Gwizdała, in her speech Madame Director followed on to point out that cooperation takes place not only at the level of Presidents or Ministers, but also Ambassadors in individual countries or at NATO, heads of departments of Ministries or state agencies, or of the various components of the military, experts, or representatives of the milieu non-governmental organizations, as best exemplified by this conference, B9 JACU. The director emphasized that initiatives such as B9 JACU are very much needed in this context and add tangible value to the decision-making chain. Each level has its own contribution and adds merit to the coordination of cooperation.

Madame Director emphasized that now is a special time, and a kind of test for the initiative, as in 2020 there will be no NATO summit, and the attention paid to it until 2021 is important. This is the perfect time to work out a common agenda within B9, which can be presented and implemented as part of subsequent Alliance summits. The Director also referred to Polish priorities in the coming year under NATO and B9, which focus on deterrence, identifying threats to the Alliance, especially from Russia, as well as the need to strengthen the transatlantic bond.

Following representatives of government administration, WIR invited Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Romania to the Republic of Poland H.E. Mr. Ovidiu Dranga. It is worth mentioning, WIR’s very first Duologue was held with the Embassy of Romania, during which the need of a B9 JACU was conceptualised.

As such, the Ambassador then elaborated in his speech pointed out to participants that the Romanian Embassy in Warsaw had supported B9 JACU from its very beginning. He emphasized that it is important to strengthen the expert level within the Bucharest Nine and to promote the initiative itself. The ambassador cited that within five years of the initiative’s establishment, three meetings were held at the Presidential level, two at the level of Ministers of Defence, two at the level of Foreign Ministers and many expert and working meetings that were instrumental to the success of this initiative. The Ambassador pointed out that the B9 initiative is of interest to key people and decision makers in the Alliance with Western Europe and the United States. Accordingly, it is an excellent instrument for presenting strategic security interests in the Alliance forum.

In the coming years, this initiative ought to focus on developing strategic resilience to threats to the region. As a strategic lever, it would seamlessly increase the impact of the B9 countries on the affairs and stances of the entire Alliance. The Ambassador emphasised that Romania and Poland are the most important pillars of NATO’s Eastern Flank, and the defence initiatives undertaken by these countries, joint military contingents, testify to “weaponised solidarity”. This phrase became a popular hashtag for the conference’s theme.

Our fourth and final Keynote Speaker, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Lithuania to the Republic of Poland, H.E. Mr. Eduardas Borisovas, took to the podium, and eloquently explained the special role of NATO in promoting the transatlantic bond, and stressed that the B9 initiative has a special contribution and a role to play. The Ambassador stated that European unity, even with the best intentions, cannot replace transatlantic unity. B9 has special importance for Lithuania and the region of mobility of allied troops, and the constant need to raise it. One of the biggest military manoeuvres of the Alliance, taking place next year – Defender Europe 2020 – will be a test of these capabilities, aiming to transfer troops on a large scale to the region. The Ambassador affirmed that the Baltic States may have a special contribution under B9 and NATO in the context of identifying and combating hybrid threats, including cyber ones. Deployment of allied troops within NATO Enhanced Forward Presence is a materialized form of solidarity of other alliance members towards the Baltic States and Poland.

The selection of Keynote Speakers aptly reflects the inclusion of the Baltic states with the Lithuanian Ambassador, the southern part of Europe and B9 co-initiators with the Romanian Ambassador, as well as the V4 from the Polish government side.

After a quick break, last chance for coffee and some chit chat, the B9 JACU participants gathered back into Sala A for the beginning of the Panellist Session.

The Panellist Session’s Moderator was Associate Professor of the Military Academy of Land Forces (AWL) in Wrocław, Poland, Dr. Tomasz Pawłuszko, whose role was unique as both the Moderator, as well as the expert presenting the perspective of Poland. A challenging task, the Professor brought about this combination. He divided the panel into three thematic and geographical blocks: firstly, the Baltic Sea and the Baltic States; secondly, the Visegrad Group (V4); and thirdly, the Black Sea States. This enabled the presentation of the most important challenges for the Bucharest Nine, running geographically from the north, to the centre and the south of this initiative.

The Baltic Defence College (BaltDefCol), based in Estonia, was represented by its Faculty Member Dr. Sandis Šrāders, who had stated that in the next five years, as part of NATO, the Baltic States must focus on pursuing their current security policy. So far, the Baltic States have shown that they can conduct a common policy and maintain a common front on the international forum in particularly important issues. This approach makes it possible to increase their bargaining chips.

President of the Baltic Security Foundation (BSF), Mr. Olevs Nikers, noted that the implementation of the most important postulate of the 2016 NATO summit in Warsaw – i.e., NATO Enhanced Forward Presence – significantly improved the defence capabilities of the Baltic States. The presence of NATO troops in the region has also changed the perception of security threats among other allies who are far from its source, namely Russia. He stressed that while these forces are not so large and certainly not enough (in conjunction with the potential of the Baltic States) to fully counter the threats arising from the large-scale invasion, but they are solid part of the deterrent of the opponent. This is an explicit manifesto towards Russia that allied commitments are in force and any attacks on allied forces will be associated with a firm and painful response to the aggressor. Nikers also referred to the Baltic Air Policing mission, where he emphasized that this solution is remarkabe, but only for peace time.

It is worth noting, both Dr. Sandis Šrāders and Mr. Olevs Nikers are signatories to the NATO Baltic Fund with the Warsaw Institute.

Read more about the Baltic Fund

Then, Director Dr. Nortautas Statkus of the Military Academy of Lithuania (MAL), suggested that the most important challenge for the Baltic states under B9 is to increase the mobility of troops in the region so that they can be quickly transferred from other allies in the event of a crisis, and that this ought to be definitively ready within the next half decade. He also stated, referring to his previous speaker, that a concrete recommendation would be for Baltic Air Policing should be transformed into an effective defence mission, rather than a ‘policing’ one.

Prof. Pawłuszko, the Panellist Session’s Moderator, thematically went to a Q&A session. Whilst normal expert debates leave this part for the very end, WIR events are no such thing, and encourage the attendees to get involved with the conversation.

Next, the session went onto the V4 countries, Mr. Martin Svarovský, Head of the Security Strategies Programme, European Values Center for Security, went on to elaborate on how Czechia sees changes in the military doctrine of allied countries. The perception of security threats in Europe has changed since 2014. Strategic changes in American doctrine followed this. However, he urged that the vast majority of European strategic documents have not been thoroughly revised in the light of Russia’s next aggressive steps.
In discussing the cooperation of the V4 in defence, he pointed to many shortcomings in the coordination of the common position, but also mentioned, among others, the Visegrád Battlegroup, which was established as part of the Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP). Summing up his speech, he stated that in the military field, unlike the economy or European policy coordination, this format cannot boast of success with the same loudness.

Mr. Peter Köles, Editor-in-Chief in the Slovak Security Policy Institute (SSPI), suggested that despite it now being five years since Russia’s attack on Ukraine, relatively insufficient has actually changed in certain strategic matters, namely in the sphere of information and hybrid activities. He cited the example of Slovakia, where information campaigns against NATO are being conducted. Emphasising that decision-makers ought focus on the analysis of information spheres and pointed out that this is the first line of battle with the opponent, rather than only geographically.

Moreover, Mr. Csaba Faragó, Head of Foreign Affairs, Századvég Foundation of Hungary, elaborated on the official position of the Hungarian government, which for years has been urging the Polish authorities to take initiatives, as a natural leader in the region, not only V4, but also the B9 and the Three Seas Initiative. Hungarians are counting on the initiative of larger countries, such as Poland, which should initiate military and defence projects. He also referred to the issue of defence spending at 2% of GDP, concluding that while five B9 countries meet this critical condition, the rest still have it uphill to meet their targets by 2024, stemming from certain reasons.

Naturally, after the Q&A session for these 3, the audience listened to Associate Expert of the New Strategy Center, Brigadier General (r) Mircea Mindrescu, who referred to the words of the Czech speaker and raised the issues of military doctrine. However, he stressed that this does not refer to the Alliance doctrine, but to Russian doctrine, and more precisely, Gerasimov. The General emphasized that Russian military doctrine states that Moscow is at war with NATO. The war that has been waged constantly for years, and it takes form of a hybrid war. This must be met with a firm response from the Alliance, which ought to have a mapping in strategic documents and real action that is not just existent, but visible and perceivable. In describing the current situation in the Black Sea, it is evident Russia as the greatest threat, which increased much more clearly after the annexation of Crimea and actions in Ukraine.

Representing the Center for the Study of Democracy (CSD) of Bulgaria, Associate Expert Dr. Rumena Filipova stated, by referring to the statements of the Romanian General (r) and described the unfulfilled idea of establishing a joint NATO alliance in the Black Sea, which included Bulgarian, Romanian and Turkish ships. The idea was rejected because of the Russian resentments of the local population, which negatively referred to the project, where Moscow was to be called the enemy. She also noted that, in addition to the pro-Russian approach of society, local media, affiliated with the Kremlin or owned by local oligarchs sympathizing with Russia, had their contribution to the whole process. Thus, it drew the attention of participants to the problem of information warfare, which is always conducted alongside military operations, in line with the strategy of capturing the hearts and minds of recipients. The goal of such psychological operations is to blur the border between good and evil, between an ally and an aggressor, and make optimal decision-making decidedly impeded by uncertainty.

Finally, Col. (r) Ray Wojcik, Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) Warsaw Director, aptly examined the strategic importance of B9 as a platform for NATO’s Eastern Flank to coordinate and combat threats not only from Russia, but address emerging threats from China. In the eyes of the US, the Bucharest Nine project is a positively regarded project, which has an adamantly pro-Atlantic attitude. Despite early scepticisms, it does not affect the breaking of the Alliance, on the contrary, has decisively strengthened it in possibly its most critical area. It is also a means for countries of the region to “synchronize” views which would be otherwise blurry or more prone to being disformed from disinformation. He also referred to the Baltic Air Policing mission, widely commented on during this session, for which it is a recommended necessity to be transformed into Baltic Air Defence. The Bucharest Nine should, as well as the entirety of the Alliance, apply the ‘3 D principle’, which are deterrence, defence and dialogue, which pertain to a strategy of deterrence, strengthening defence capabilities, and a dialogue with aggressors, especially with Russia. In addition, the Alliance should be more active and show greater commitment, form a united front in the fight against threats and be consistent in its initiatives, as is according to the principle it formulates, the 3 Cs, being commitment, cohesion and coherence (not to be confused with the 3 Seas). Ray also referred to the NATO engagement in Ukraine, as incredible potential for the B9 to showcase imperative unity in the very front after which the B9 had been incepted, as some B9 states have yet to commit to it, and others have already proudly done so.

The Moderator then, in going into the discussion, to compile and cross-assess the views, also engaged the audience with Q&A elements, which illuminated, amongst others, that in assessing risks and threats, the perception of those present in conventional forms are changed when they are accompanied by hybrid and complex actions, which come in various forms and intensities.
As for further examining how B9 states, jointly or disjointly see their most immediate neighbourhood, went over areas such as Moldova, and then onto Ukraine, as well as bringing up the Western Balkan states, seeing how Albania and Montenegro are NATO members and Norther Macedonia is vigorously aspiring to membership. In this, the B9 is more aptly positioned than many other actors or groupings to discuss their perspectives and formulate stances which are compatible with their national aspirations. Moreover, how the B9 states approach dialogue with Belarus, is one of the trickiest but perhaps most necessary multipronged undertakings. Also pertinent to the B9 are their relations with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia as well as of course, Turkey, as a NATO Member State. As reiterating the opening of Minister Gwizdała, the activities of B9 within NATO are complementary to those of several others.

At its conclusion, WIR Advisor thanked the audience, and reiterated one of the day’s notions, that is that as this project is undergoing, they are of course also invited to contribute their thoughts, even the smallest ones, in pursuit of the best possible diplomatic consulted-expert analysis. WIR is grateful to each of the think tanks/research institutes of which responded positively, together with the Embassies, and the Polish government administrations, congregating each of the B9 countries for the necessary, and natural, next step of B9 integration and prominence on the international arena.

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