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B9 FMs meet in Poland, urge NATO to bolster eastern flank

31.03.2023 22:00
Foreign ministers from nine countries on the eastern edge of NATO wrapped up a two-day meeting in Poland on Friday during which they discussed further support for Ukraine and ways to strengthen the Western military alliance's eastern flank amid Russia's war in Ukraine, according to officials.
Foreign ministers from the Bucharest Nine (B9) group of eastern-flank NATO allies, including Polands Zbigniew Rau (front row, centre), meet for two days of talks in the central Polish city of Łódź this week.
Foreign ministers from the Bucharest Nine (B9) group of eastern-flank NATO allies, including Poland's Zbigniew Rau (front row, centre), meet for two days of talks in the central Polish city of Łódź this week.Twitter/Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The get-together of the Bucharest Nine (B9) group of eastern-flank NATO allies took place in the central Polish city of Łódź from Thursday to Friday, public broadcaster Polish Radio’s IAR news agency reported. 

Poland’s top diplomat Zbigniew Rau, who chaired the meeting, told a news conference afterwards: “In this difficult security situation in Europe, the unanimous voice of the eastern flank should be clear.”

He added: “We view the B9 talks as our region's contribution to strengthening NATO as a whole.”

The Polish foreign minister said: “Today our discussions focused on three main topics. The first topic was the worsening security situation in Europe and our related efforts to ensure the strengthening of NATO’s eastern flank, as well as political and practical support for Ukraine.”

He added: “The second topic was NATO’s ongoing adaptation to current and future challenges, as we prepare for a meeting of NATO foreign ministers next week and the upcoming summit of the Alliance in Vilnius, Lithuania, in July.”

Rau stated: “The third main topic today was the prospects for cooperation between NATO and the European Union in ensuring a more effective response to the current crisis.”

Bolstering NATO’s eastern flank

Poland’s top diplomat told reporters: “The B9 countries will push for the full implementation of the decisions made at last year’s NATO summit in Madrid. We’ll be also actively involved in the development of concrete decisions to be taken by the Vilnius summit.”

Rau told reporters that the eastern-flank allies “want to join forces in pushing for the development of plans for the defence of NATO territory, plans that take into account the threat from Russia and from the territory of Belarus.”

He said: “It’s about adopting a deterrence formula that will ensure that no part of NATO territory can be lost.”

Rau added that the talks had also focused on “the need to ensure that B9 countries spend sufficient sums on defence to fulfil their commitments regarding collective defence.”

Meanwhile, Romania’s Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu, who met reporters alongside Rau, said that Russia’s assault on Ukraine “poses a serious threat to global peace” and so NATO should implement the decisions of the Madrid summit “as soon as possible” to bolster the eastern edge.

“This means enhancing the battalion-size battle groups to brigade level, deploying more equipment, as well as more anti-aircraft and anti-missile defence systems,” he added.

Finland, Sweden could joint NATO at Vilnius summit: Polish FM

Poland’s Rau told reporters that Finland and Sweden could be admitted to NATO "already at the Vilnius summit in July.”  

He cautioned that “a lot will depend on Turkey,” which holds parliamentary and presidential elections in May, Polish state news agency PAP reported.

Turkey and Hungary this week became the final NATO members to ratify Finland’s membership of the alliance, but both are delaying approving the accession of Sweden, the Reuters news agency reported. 

The legislatures of all 30 NATO members must ratify newcomers.

Finland and Sweden asked to join NATO last year in response to Russia's attack on Ukraine. 

However, the process has been delayed by Turkey and Hungary, Reuters reported.

Support for Ukraine    

Poland’s Rau declared that the B9 countries would continue to support Ukraine’s war effort against the Russian invasion, “both in the military sense and in other respects.”

He said that “for Poland and many other allies” military assistance “is of immense importance.” 

Rau added: “In this respect, the B9 countries lead the way, also by mobilising other allies to act more boldly, as was the case with the transfer of MiG-29 jets and tanks.”

He and Aurescu also stressed that both Poland and Romania supported Ukraine’s bid to become a NATO member in the future.   

On February 22, US President Joe Biden told a summit of B9 leaders in Warsaw that Article 5 of the alliance's collective defence treaty "is a sacred commitment” and that America "will defend literally every inch of NATO."

Biden was speaking in the Polish capital ahead of the one-year anniversary of Russia's invasion of neighbouring Ukraine.

The Bucharest Nine is a Polish-Romanian initiative launched in 2015 that aims to help exchange views and coordinate positions on the security of NATO’s eastern-flank countries, according to officials.

The B9 group is made up of Poland, Romania, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, and Slovakia.

Friday is day 401 of Russia’s war on Ukraine.


Source: IAR, PAP, Reuters, dorzeczy.pl