by ANNA MARIA ANDERS
Representatives of all NATO member states are gathering in Washington this week to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the longest-lasting military alliance in modern history. Created on April 4, 1949, to counter the threat of Soviet Communism in the aftermath of World War II, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is as important today as it was in the year of its founding.
The collapse of the Soviet Union led some to dispute NATO’s relevance or question the need for continued defense spending, but the resurgence of Russia, and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s expansionist ambitions, show that the Alliance is as relevant as ever. The principles unifying NATO remain vital for the survival of Western democracies: solidarity, freedom, security, and the transatlantic ties that safeguard the values and interests that Europe and North America share.
My role as a Polish senator affords singular clarity. Poland joined NATO only 20 years ago, after it broke free of the communist yoke and rejoined the ranks of European democracies. Our position on the frontier of the former Soviet empire reminds us never to take our hard-won freedom for granted.
NATO was created 70 years ago to counter the threat to freedom and democracy posed by Soviet Russia. Putin’s Russia today represents a similar danger, and the anniversary of NATO’s formation is a time to recommit ourselves to the principles of solidarity, freedom, and security that are the foundation of the Alliance. Spending 2 percent of each member’s GDP on defense is necessary to keep our militaries competitive and effective. Establishing a permanent U.S. presence in Poland, where the geostrategic center of gravity has shifted, is as crucial today as were the American bases in West Germany that protected the alliance during the Cold War.
In the words of the 1949 Washington Treaty, keeping NATO strong will “safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilization of [our] peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law.”
That we have succeeded for so long is reason to celebrate.
Anna Maria Anders is Poland’s Secretary of State for International Dialogue and the Senator representing the “Suwalki Gap” district. The views expressed are the author's own.