What Is the Warsaw Summit, and Why Is It Important?

By Katie Lange
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

Those of you who know geography know where Warsaw is (it’s in Poland … congrats to those of you who knew), but do you know the purpose of the upcoming Warsaw Summit? Considering the current climate in the Middle East and Europe, decisions that are made there will be pretty important for our troops.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter meets with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, June 14, 2016. DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley

Defense Secretary Ash Carter meets with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, June 14, 2016. DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley

The summit, which begins Friday, is a meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s main political decision-makers. Since 1957, there have been 26 other NATO summits, and they’re important because they’re usually used to introduce new policies, invite new members, launch major initiatives or simply reinforce current partnerships.

This year’s summit will focus on Europe’s security environment, which has slowly been deteriorating due to crises like the Middle East refugee situation and tensions with Russia. Heads of state and chiefs of defense from the U.S. and 27 other NATO member nations plan to discuss those two issues, as well as operations in Afghanistan, strengthening cyberdefense and fighting the constant threat of terrorism.

So what’s the plan? According to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, it’s the following:

A U.S. B-52, two Polish F-16s, two German Eurofighters, four Swedish Gripens and four U.S. F-16s fly together. Air Force photo by airman Erin Babis

A U.S. B-52, two Polish F-16s, two German Eurofighters, four Swedish Gripens and four U.S. F-16s fly together. Air Force photo by airman Erin Babis

Strengthening Ties and Borders

NATO is expected to agree to further enhance its military presence along the alliance’s northeastern border in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland to safeguard against any potential aggression (the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Germany are expected to make up that force). NATO is also going to develop a presence based in Romania to improve cyberdefense, civil preparedness and the southeast region’s ability to defend against ballistic missile attacks.

Summit attendees will also discuss efforts to strengthen ties with Ukraine, Georgia and the Republic of Moldova, as well as the European Union. The small Balkan nation of Montenegro is also expected to formally be admitted to the NATO alliance.

Fighting ISIS/Trafficking In the Mediterranean

Alliance leaders are expected to approve the deployment of NATO Airborne Warning and Control System surveillance aircraft in support of attacks against ISIS militants, as well as expand training efforts of Iraqi officers. They’ll also figure out what role NATO will play in the EU’s efforts to stop human trafficking of migrants that has surged across the Mediterranean Sea in the past two years.

Continuing Afghanistan Support

NATO leaders will also stress the continuing support of Afghanistan by extending the mission to secure the country and helping fund Afghan forces until 2020. The discussion comes just days after President Barack Obama’s announcement that 8,400 troops will remain in Afghanistan through January – 2,900 more than originally planned.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter (bottom left) listens as NATO Secretary Gen. Jens Stoltenberg speaks during the Ukraine Commission meeting at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, June 25, 2015. Carter was participating in the second day of his first NATO ministerial as defense secretary. DoD photo by Air Force Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz

Defense Secretary Ash Carter (bottom left) listens as NATO Secretary Gen. Jens Stoltenberg speaks during the Ukraine Commission meeting at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, June 25, 2015. Carter was participating in the second day of his first NATO ministerial as defense secretary. DoD photo by Air Force Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz

NATO History

NATO was formed in 1949 by the U.S. and 11 other western nations as the threat of communism grew across Europe after World War II. The treaty was a pact promoting stability among its nations and the principal of collective defense, which says a military attack against one member nation would be considered an attack against them all. That part of the pact, known as Article 5, has only ever been invoked once – after the terrorist attacks on 9/11.

In 1955, NATO added West Germany to its ranks, angering the Soviets, who controlled East Germany. Two short weeks later, they formed their own alliance with several Eastern European countries in what became known as the Warsaw Pact, which remained in place through the end of the Cold War. By 2009, all of the former Warsaw Pact nations, except Russia, had become NATO member-states.

We’ll keep a close eye on all that goes on during the Warsaw Summit and post any major developments on defense.gov.

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