Hannes Hanso, President of the National Defence Committee of the Parliament of Estonia held a lecture on the security situation in Central and Eastern Europe at the Ludovika Campus on the 9th of December, 2016. In his visit to the University, the former Estonian Minister of Defence was among others also accompanied by Rein Oidekivi, Estonian ambassador to Austria.
The lecture of Mr. Hanso was introduced by Prof. Dr. Zoltán Szenes (ret.) general and university professor at the Faculty of International and European Studies, who briefly described the academic achievements of the guest as well as his work in the field of public service. Hannes Hanso, who had studied both in China and in the United Kingdom, has considerable public service experience, including previously serving as President of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Parliament of Estonia and as Estonian Minister of Defence.
In his lecture, Mr. Hanso reminded the audience that the main pillars of Estonian security are NATO and the EU. He stressed, that although there are currently six political parties in his country (3 are part of the government, and 3 in opposition) there are no differences between them in the question of defence policy. As far as the international aspect of his lecture was concerned, he highlighted that recently there have been events that nobody had expected before (such as the British exit from the European Union) or events that could have great consequences on NATO on their own (for example, events in Turkey, or the 2016 American presidential election). Furthermore, he also underlined how much the European Union’s view of the international security environment has changed since the publication of its security strategy in 2003.
His speech focused on the Russian threat in the Baltics and NATO’s response to it. Regarding the former, he pointed to the fact that the Russian leadership has miscalculated itself with its conduct, has alienated its neighbours and turned Ukraine towards the West. He also added that the Ukrainian crisis triggered effects which were unimaginable a few years ago, such as the United States strengthening its military presence in Europe or that there is a public debate in Sweden about joining NATO.
In relation to NATO strengthening its eastern members, he highlighted that it took only 11 months to deploy allied Western European soldiers to Estonia following the decision to do so, which is a strong message towards Moscow and shows the relevance of NATO. He also added that member states should not rely solely on mutual defence based on Article 5 of the Treaty but should also consider Article 3. Thus they should be prepared to defend themselves as well. He reminded that national defence has costs and that in Estonia, there is an honest discourse about this between politicians and the public.
Finally, Mr. Hanso thanked Hungary – together with the other Visegrad states – for sending soldiers to the Baltics.
The Summer School took place between the 24th and 29th of July at the HDF Peace Support Training Centre, Szolnok, Hungary. Main organizers were the National University of Public Service Center for Strategic and Defense Studies and the HDF vitéz Szurmay Sándor Budapest Garrison Brigade while the 80 participants were selected from Hungarian university students, public servants, soldiers, police officers and high school teachers. The event was organized in the framework of KÖFOP-2.1.2-VEKOP-15-2016-0001 Public Service Development Establishing Good Governance tender.
This unique initiative’s aim was to provide an overview concerning the security situation in Europe as well as in the European neighborhood. During the week the students of the Summer School took part in various presentations, seminars, panel discussions and team building events. For the successful completion of the training, participants had to go through an examination process on the last day of the program.
“We have arrived at the end of a two-year cycle in Warsaw where members will evaluate the implementation of the decisions made at the previous NATO summit in Newport – something that we have decided to previously do ourselves with regards to Central Europe” – reminded Dr. Péter Tálas, Director of CSDS about the workshop’s goal in his summary of the event. Professor Tálas added that “it is quiet noticeable that Poland has made decisive steps in the past 15 years in order to become a medium power in Europe: politically, she is willing to take a leading role, has volunteered for serious military tasks in international crisis management in Iraq and Afghanistan, and has begun the extensive modernization of her armed forces since 2009, thus becoming a provider of security in Central Europe. After the crisis in Ukraine, Poland has been trying to extend and deepen these efforts across the entire East-Central European region. It is important to realize that what steps our regional partners have made in relation to their respective military capabilities and to their adaptation to the deteriorating security environment, as the deepening of our defence cooperation relies on that.”
The sixth and the latest event of the three year old expert workshop enjoyed the contribution of Czech, Estonian, Polish, Lithuanian, Romanian, Slovak and Hungarian security policy experts. The first half of the workshop focused on the developments of the 2014 NATO summit in Wales. Gergely Varga, adjunct researcher at CSDS provided a thorough review of the changes of the security environment in the last few years and of the responses made by NATO, highlighting the renewed importance of collective defence. He also examined the most important decisions made at the Wales summit and the current status of their implementation at the alliance level. Anna Péczeli (CSDS) overviewed the most important aspects of the European ballistic missile defence system, reminding that despite the fears of Moscow, the system is not directed against Russia. She also touched upon the possibilities of cooperation with the Russians in missile defence. Gábor Csizmazia, assistant lecturer at the Department of International Security Studies of NUPS evaluated the role of the Visegrad countries within NATO following the Wales summit. Despite the differences in their threat perceptions, the V4 countries have achieved successful cooperation in various areas of defence policy in the last few years. Their contributions include the participation in the stabilization mission in Afghanistan, the force contribution to NATO’s VJTF and, most visibly, their participation in various military exercises in East-Central Europe.
The second panel of the workshop focused on the current threats faced by NATO. Annamária Kiss (CENS) examined the relationship between NATO and Russia in a political aspect, analysing the reasons why and ways how Russia’s and the West’s perceptions of each other have changed in the last years. Dániel Berzsenyi from the Doctoral School of Military Sciences, provided a presentation on the policy and capabilities of NATO regarding cyber security, emphasizing the globally increasing role of the Internet and cyber security itself while also touching upon NATO’s possible role in the cyber security efforts of its member states. The presentation of Máté Szalai from the Hungarian Institute of International Affairs and Trade provided an overall view of the threats faced by the “Southern flank” of NATO. In addition to the structurally different (such as Syrian or Libyan) civil wars, the wider region of the Mediterranean and the Middle East reveals long-term instability, with this complex situation demanding adequate goals and responses from NATO. Apart from today’s challenges, NATO should also look at the potential threats of tomorrow, such as the possible destabilisation of Egypt or the negative effects of climate change and the impacts thereof in the region and beyond.
The speakers of the third panel discussed the capability development measures of Central European countries between 2014 and 2016. The experts reviewed the subject in hand from the perspective of their respective nations’ efforts with Sandra Kaziukonyte focusing on the Baltic states, Lukasz Kulesa on the national contributions of Poland, Lukas Dycka on the Czech Republic, Marian Majer on the Slovak Republic, Mirela Atanasiu on Romania and Tamás Csiki on Hungary respectively.