On 15 December 2011, PISM and the European Leadership Network for Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament and Non-Proliferation (ELN) organized the High Level Symposium: “Prospects for the NATO Deterrence and Defence Posture Review and NATO–Russia Cooperation”. The symposium was focused on the attitudes in European NATO countries to the NATO Deterrence and Defence Posture Review (DDPR) and on possible avenues for NATO cooperation with Russia.

Among the participants were Lord Browne of Ladyton, former UK Secretary of State for Defence; Jan Kavan, former Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of the Czech Republic; Imants Lieģis, former Minister of Defence of Latvia, former Chairman of European Affairs Committee, Parliament of Latvia; Linas Linkevičius, adviser to the Prime Minister of Lithuania, former Minister of Defence of Lithuania; and Bogusław Winid, Undersecretary of State for Security Policy at the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, whose remarks opened the symposium. Also taking part in the discussion were experts and officials from Poland, other European countries and the U.S.

The first session of the Symposium was dedicated to NATO work on the Defence and Deterrence Posture Review (DDPR), the results of which will be delivered at the NATO Chicago summit in May 2012. The goal of DDPR is to assess the capabilities that NATO needs in order to address the foreseeable challenges and threats to the security of its members. The scope of the review encompasses nuclear and conventional forces, missile defence and other capabilities such as cyber defences. During the discussion, many participants pointed out that for Central and Eastern European states it is especially important that NATO maintain a balance between the capabilities required for addressing traditional threats as well as new ones. Apart from the need for appropriate contingency planning, NATO should have a sufficient number of forces properly prepared for territorial defence.

NATO nuclear policy and posture will be one of the most challenging issues during the DDPR process. The review most probably will not provide any revolutionary results in this area. NATO member states will need more time to work out a new consensus on nuclear issues. Nevertheless, some symposium participants indicated that if during work on DDPR NATO members were to agree only on the lowest common denominator, the result would constitute a failure. It was also highlighted that the current NATO nuclear posture is unsustainable in the long term. From the perspective of Central and Eastern European NATO members it is crucial that Russian reciprocity accompanies any reductions in U.S. non-strategic nuclear weapons based in Europe. The lack of Russian transparency related to its tactical nuclear arsenal remains concerning to these states and is treated as a factor that decreases their security.

The second session of the symposium was dedicated to possible ways of building trust between NATO and Russia. The symposium participants agreed that mutual trust between the Alliance and Russia is of crucial importance. It was controversial, however, whether NATO could offer Russia something more that it has already offered. On the one hand, it was highlighted that since the beginning of the 1990s NATO has given Russia several proposals on how to build mutual trust. Nevertheless, in many cases Russia has not implemented what it had agreed with NATO. NATO also has lacked consistency and proper coordination between its members in dealing with Russia. Some participants expressed concerns that any further unilateral NATO concessions would result only in further Russian demands and that the goals of Russian foreign policy indicate its limited interest in reaching out to NATO. On the other hand, some participants stressed that an improvement in the relationship with Russia is in the long-term interest of NATO and that it should go the “extra mile” in its efforts to engage Russia because the negative consequences of a lack of mutual trust could, in the long term, significantly outweigh costs that any additional effort towards engaging Russia might entail.

During the discussion, it was pointed out that before the presidential elections in the U.S. and Russia, any breakthrough in U.S./NATO–Russia relations is improbable. Some participants stressed, however, that there is a need to continue the working-level talks between U.S./NATO and Russia that in the future may lay the groundwork to ending the current impasse in conventional arms control in Europe, improving transparency and setting arms-control measures related to tactical nuclear weapons in Europe and NATO–Russia missile-defence cooperation.