Defence cooperation of the V4 countries has a long-term tradition and has achieved concrete results. We can find several successful projects, for example, the V4 Battle Group, HQ V4 Joint Logistics Support Group, and multinational NATO Capability target or close cooperation in international missions, e.g. in Kosovo (Czechs and Slovaks), Cyprus (Hungarians and Slovaks) and Iraq (Poles and Slovaks). On the other hand, there were several unsuccessful projects due to disconnected modernizations and armaments programmes, where countries seem to insist on specifications, schedules, etc., which are not compatible; for example, the Counter Intelligence Centre of Excellence was opened in Krakow, 3D mobile radars, the antiaircraft military radar system and the Slovak-Polish project aiming for common production of the combat armed vehicles (SCIPIO project).
However, the V4 is currently facing new challenges associated with hybrid threats. The hybrid issue became crucial in recent years due to the geopolitical position of the V4 states on the eastern flank of the Alliance. The annexation of Crimea, the war in Ukraine, the activities of the Russian intelligence services in Europe, disinformation campaigns and cyber-attacks have shown that Russia is using these methods intensively within the region.
In the context of the NATO 2030 strategy, which emphasizes resilience to hybrid threats, V4 cooperation should move more in the following directions.
Countries should closely cooperate in the development of capabilities for operating in the cognitive and virtual dimensions. They should be more effective in detecting disinformation and be able to prevent or limit its impact. The current war in Ukraine has shown that the war is taking place in the media and on social networks in addition to traditional fighting. Therefore Strategic Communication (StratCom) is one area for cooperation.
Cybersecurity is another security challenge for the future. The V4 countries are increasingly becoming victims of cyber-attacks, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic and war in Ukraine. Therefore, the countries should more effectively use existing platforms within the EU and NATO to cooperate in this area, especially the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence and the European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats. Secondly, countries should focus on institutional cooperation on the CSIRT (Computer Security Incident Response Team) expert level.
There are also other topics for cooperation when the countries should focus on a common approach. We could see potential in energy security, which has become a hot issue, especially now when many European countries are dependent on energy from Russia. The V4 countries should look for new alternative sources. On the other hand, particular countries‘ approaches to Russian suppliers can be a barrier to further cooperation in this field.
Illegal migration is another critical area. Although this topic is in the background of the current situation, it is still one of the hot issues. The refugee wave from Ukraine requires border controls to allow only people with war refugee status to enter the Schengen area. We must prevent uncontrollable migration. Moreover, the V4 shall pre-emptively emphasize at the EU level the necessity to strengthen cooperation with North Africa and the Western Balkans and other areas of instability to avoid further unwanted migration risks.
Finally, terrorist threats are another issue; the V4 should work on common counter-terrorism strategies, especially cyber-terrorism, which has become a critical threat for state or critical private infrastructure.
The main pillars of security cooperation should still be based on NATO and EU defence structures. The V4 countries should use their prominent position on NATO’s eastern flank to create their platform within Western defence structures, echoing similar models as the Benelux or Nordic cooperations. The crisis in Ukraine shows that NATO’s eastern flank needs to be strengthened. Closer cooperation between the V4 countries can significantly contribute to this strengthening.
Written by Tomáš Kolomazník