June 1, 2016
- Kublai Khan: “But which is the stone that supports the bridge?”
- Marco Polo: “The bridge is not supported by one stone or another, but by the line of the arch that they form.”
- Kublai Khan: “Why do you speak to me of the stones? It is only the arch that matters to me.”
- Marco Polo: “Without stones there is no arch.”
Italo Calvino, “Invisible Cities”
I associate Central Europe with the image of the vast plain around Warsaw, as observed during a raining afternoon plane landing. This time, my flight arrived late enough to be welcomed by the rainbow following a fugitive May rain shower. Then, when walking in the city, the wet wind reminded me of the salty cold taste of the Baltic Sea. It is almost summer – the hot air is filling in the misty evening. The glassy concrete architecture of downtown and the jazzy atmosphere in the restaurant where I sat for dinner brought back memories of my first journey to Warsaw, years ago. I was, yet again, thinking about the city appearance, the ‘newness’ of Warsaw, its modern and staunch ambition for modernism, for the transatlantic West, a taste of Americanization. On the older buildings downtown, it is usual to find commemorative plaques for the heroes of the World War II. Just like the cold breeze from the Baltic hitting the city’s atmosphere, the plaques come to remind everyone of the past, of those fears still haunting around.
All discussions I have had this time were about the Intermarium strategy – linking up the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea in a coherent defense line on the NATO Eastern front. This is a historical idea – the Polish Gen. Pilsudski has launched it back in the interwar period and it is found in both American geopolitical analysts and bestselling authors George Friedman and Robert D. Kaplan writings and speeches, both arguing for the necessity of a better coordination between Poland and Romania. I find that the matter has risen to public opinion debate status in Poland nowadays, as the events in Ukraine once again raised concerns about the traditional threat Russia poses to Polish national security. But Poland also looks to its Nordic neighbors – the Baltics and the Scandinavians. And I hear arguments stressing that the Intermarium should not link just the Baltic and the Black Sea, but stretch from the Artic to Aleppo (!). As the debates went on, the conclusion focused on the potential for building up a coordinated platform for cooperation between the two countries that have agreed recently to give (more) meaning to the Polish-Romanian bilateral strategic partnership signed years ago. Things have moved rather slow, even if political enthusiasm wasn’t completely missing. While slowness is criticized, I believe slowness is normal.
Leaving Warsaw in the early morning, I think of all the things putting together a relevant experience when traveling: the meaningful meetings, the logistics of the personal comfort, the touristy experience of the local favors – from parks to restaurants, the music or museums, and even the weather. And then I think about all those elements making one feel safe. As the flow of though evolves, it appears to me that the Intermarium is in fact critical infrastructure that needs to be built and maintained between partners sharing similar values and similar fears. Building infrastructure is equal to building coordination – it stands on trust.
source: author’s conception – NATO seminar presentation on critical infrastructure, design by Dan Ionescu
Military relations stand on socio-economic understandings assumed by and among partners. The evolution of the hybrid warfare techniques, evolving both in the real and the virtual world of cyberspace, need military partners think and be aware of the intersection between politics and socio-economics. In a recent NATO seminar, I was presenting a framework for the Eastern flank energy system security – underling the need for the management of the energy critical infrastructure coordinate with that of the IT and the banking/financial critical infrastructures.
The economic relations balance and are balanced by political relations, standing at the foundation of defense links between nation states. The three dimensions interconnect. This is why, in building a working strategic partnership between countries, all these dimensions are naturally contributing. These are the associated critical infrastructures helping for the efficient functioning of a coordinated system. However, as hybrid warfare in the XXIst century is different than what it was in the past, taking into account the technological advance, the individual is key for building resilience. Investing in education is a good way to ensure better security for the future. Supporting technological innovation is also a key policy that countries in the borderline should focus on in the future. And both are critically important – for the protective infrastructure of tomorrow.