Partnership for Peace: An Essential Element of the European Security System
Polish Minister of Defense Zbigniew Okonski



It is evident that the transformation of the European architecture has entered a new and decisive phase. This phase is marked by two distinctive processes: the ongoing debate on enlarging Western European structures, and the intensification of the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, over which the European community remains helpless. Both processes present new and difficult challenges for us.

It is also clear that the Partnership for Peace program (PFP) is one of the most essential elements of the emerging European security system. Because of PFP, the idea of pan-European cooperation has been extended, enabling the West to become more familiar with new Partners from the East. PFP contributed to the idea of extending NATO to the East, and helped to unify thought on defense matters on our continent. The Partnership also motivates us to make internal changes in our armed forces, that is, to adapt them to NATO procedures and to assure civilian democratic control over them.


Given our present resources, Poland is doing its best to speed up the process of adapting its economy, society, public administration, and armed forces to the requirements of the modern democratic state. For four consecutive years, we have had an increase in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and I am proud to say that 55% of this GDP is now created in the private sector; six years ago, this figure was only 10%. Also, about 60% of those employed work in the private sector, so we can see that progress is being made in our country, in spite of the many hardships our population has to live through. Adapting to and implementing the requirements of the modern democratic state is very important to us, more so than possessing a large number of well-trained soldiers or sophisticated weapons. One of these requirements, namely, civilian democratic control over the military, is of particular interest to us as we shape our constitution and set up the basic relations between the military and the different central institutions.

Poland's continuing internal debate on these issues, which you may interpret as contradictory and even disturbing, is just a natural and positive way of finding the best solutions that are acceptable to the whole society, and of conforming to well-established international standards. This effort to find the best solution is intensifying as we face the presidential election campaign and is reflected in the many statements by politicians and political parties aspiring to the first seats in the Polish democratic system.


Despite unquestionable successes in Poland and elsewhere, however, Partnership for Peace has not yet developed to its fullest potential. The cooperation generated by this program is only just a small part of what we hope to achieve: the creation of robust international security, stability, and solidarity.

Now in the process of implementing its second annual Individual Partnership Program, Poland continues active cooperation with the North Atlantic Alliance; we hope to become a co-originator of European security. We also believe that participating in Partnership for Peace is the best venue to eventual full membership in NATO. Joint peacekeeping exercises, organized and carried out with the participation of NATO and Partner forces and their staffs, are a very significant part of this program. Since the COOPERATIVE BRIDGE Exercise, organized in September 1994 on Polish territory, peacekeeping exercises have grown to the point where they present complex organizational challenges. To meet all expectations, however, exercises must be upgraded to division and corps-staff levels, as well as move from classic peacekeeping to more of a peace-enforcement mode. Such exercises seem more likely to provide a better answer to the contemporary threats and conflicts we face in Europe.

We, therefore, welcomed the U.K.'s proposal to organize a corps-level staff exercise in 1997; this proposal was tabled during the PFP Exercises Planning Conference on May 12 and 13 of this year. If such an exercise is eventually organized, Poland is willing to participate in it actively, assigning some of its division-level and brigade-level staffs and housing some of its elements on our territory. In this way, over time, we would be able to develop forces that are fully interoperable with NATO forces.

As far as the PFP framework is concerned, interoperability among forces can be achieved through the defense Planning and Review Process. We are very interested in starting an annual exercise program, which would enable coordination of exercises and respond to the different expectations of the Partners. We also believe that extending the NATO Status of Forces Agreement procedures will be very helpful for Partners as they consider legal and practical questions concerning the operation of their troops abroad.

PFP activities also provide an opportunity to develop cooperative relations with those neighbors who have joined the program. Interaction will permit us to solidify and enrich our agreements with neighbors and encourage friendly cooperation. We welcome Russia's decision to participate in the PFP program. We will cooperate with Ukraine and will do the same with Belarus and Russia if they accept our initiatives. This will promote confidence, stability, and security in this part of Europe. Continuing such relationships, even when we join NATO, will also prevent borders between members and non-members from becoming new division lines, and prevent distrust and animosity. We strongly believe that extending the zone of consolidated democracy and stability, which is embodied in the NATO Alliance, will contribute to the democratic transformation of new members.

Taking part in the PFP program gives Poland the chance to take part in solving European crises. As a Partner, we assume that we share the responsibility for maintaining peace in Europe and for providing crisis management and conflict solutions, even in regions far from our borders. Our national doctrine regarding participation in the Partnership is to make available, on a gradual basis, forces for cooperative activities, starting with particular sub-units, units, and formations; in the longer term we will provide all operational forces. Our detailed commitments in this regard have been specified in the PFP planning and review process.

During the first planning period in 1996-1997, Poland will make available forces up to battalion-regiment level for joint training exercises and operations: peacekeeping, search and rescue, and humanitarian exercises. In addition, we will make available some of our brigade and division-level commands and staffs for joint training exercises to prepare for the participation of increased forces in the next planning period.

We can see that PFP has become an important catchword in the international security dictionary. We believe it will remain there, now and in the future, not just as one of many ideas but as an essential element in the continuing European security system.


We in Poland are very anxious to host the next NATO Workshop in one of our cities, several of which, like Dresden, are cultural and historical centers of Central Europe. A formal invitation from the Polish government will be issued shortly. Meanwhile, let me ask you to consider "Regional Security Cooperation" as a possible theme for this future event. We propose this theme because we understand the importance of regional stability and the need for a regional framework for cooperation for peace and stability throughout the continent, particularly since we live in such a historically volatile region. Poland's friendly and intensive interactions with neighboring regions such as the Baltic permit us to assume that debate on such a theme would be both interesting and beneficial to us all.

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