When a stray missile landed in a Polish border town last week, killing two people, some European leaders worried as much about how Poland’s right-wing government would react as about the possibility that Russia the attack was ordered.
Poland’s long-standing distrust of all things Russian and the current government’s deep antipathy to Moscow have fueled concerns from Brussels to Berlin that Warsaw might do something untoward, it writes Politico.eu.
However, instead of losing his temper, Warsaw was stoic, putting its armed forces on alert while keeping the powder dry until it was clear what had happened. (The conclusion is that it was an air defense missile fired by Ukraine, to protect itself from a Russian attack).
Poland has the best army in Europe
But Polish composure was born of a simple reality that for years has gone largely unnoticed by most of Europe: Poland has arguably the best military in Europe. And it will become even stronger.
Poland’s paranoia about Russia has led it to avoid the prevailing Zeitgeist in most of Europe, which is that conventional war is a thing of the past. Instead, the Poles are building what is now poised to become the European Union’s largest military force.
“The Polish army must be so strong that it no longer has to fight, just because it is strong,” Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Poland’s Independence Day.
“Poland has become our most important partner in continental Europe,” said a senior US military official in Europe, citing Poland’s crucial role in supporting Ukraine and supporting NATO among the Baltic states.
Poland takes on Germany
While Germany, traditionally America’s key ally in the region, remains a key country, a logistics hub, Berlin’s endless debates over how to rebuild its military and its lack of a strategic culture have hampered its effectiveness as a partner. said this American official, quoted by Politico.
As Germany continues to work out the details of what it calls the “Zeitenwende” – or strategic turning point triggered by the Russian invasion of Ukraine – Poland is already making substantial investments.
Warsaw has announced that it will increase its defense spending from 2.4 percent of gross domestic product to 5 percent. Meanwhile, Germany, which spent about 1.5% of GDP on defense last year, is debating whether it can maintain NATO’s 2% target after running out of a €100bn defense investment fund it approved at the beginning of this year.
Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak promised in July that his country would have “the strongest land forces in Europe”.
And that is already about to happen.
Poland already has more tanks and howitzers than Germany, and is on track to have a much larger army, with a target of 300,000 soldiers by 2035, compared to Germany’s 170,000 today.
Today, Poland’s army has about 150,000 men, 30,000 of which belong to a new territorial defense force established in 2017. These are “weekend soldiers” who undergo 16 days of training, followed by refresher courses. They were initially seen as a joke, but Ukraine’s success in using mobile militia, equipped with anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, now makes the idea seem much more sensible.
“Today, those doubts are gone,” Błaszczak said during a recent swearing-in ceremony for the new territorial troops.
Unlike Germany, which is struggling to attract recruits, Poland’s recruiting effort has already managed to attract attention.
“The Poles have a much more positive attitude towards their military than Germany because they had to fight for their freedom. In military circles, no one questions the quality of the Polish military,” said Gustav Gressel, a former Austrian military officer and security researcher now at the European Council on Foreign Relations.
However, whether Poland’s military power will translate into political influence in Europe is another matter.
The only thing Poland’s warring political parties can agree on, however, is the need to strengthen the military.
While concerns about Russia have fueled this push, Warsaw is also worried about Washington’s reliability. Unlike most of the rest of the EU, however, their concern is not that Donald Trump will return as president, but that he won’t. Despite deepening cooperation between the US and Polish militaries in helping Ukraine, Poland’s current leadership remains distrustful of President Joe Biden, who as a candidate referred to the country’s government as “totalitarian.”
$10-12 billion worth of weaponry from South Korea
Poland this spring signed a 23 billion zloty (4.9 billion euro) deal for 250 US Abrams tanks — a quick replacement for the 240 Soviet-era tanks sent to Ukraine.
Its air force is equipped with American F-16 jets, and in 2020 Warsaw signed a $4.6 billion deal for 32 F-35 fighter jets. But the focus of his recent military spending has been Korea, where he has signed a series of deals to buy tanks, planes and other weapons.
So far, Poland has ordered $10 billion to $12 billion worth of weaponry from Korea, said Mariusz Cielma, editor and analyst at Nowa Technika Wojskowa, a military technology news and analysis website.
The deals include 180 K2 Black Panther tanks, 200 K9 Thunder howitzers, 48 FA-50 light attack aircraft and 218 K239 Chunmoo missile launchers.
And Poland’s appetite for new weapons is even greater.
In addition to the immediate deliveries, the Koreans are expected to deliver a total of 1,000 K2 tanks and 600 K9 howitzers by the mid-to-late 2020s.
“No Western country wants to expand its military so much and so quickly. Whoever gets Poland’s arms deals gets decades of benefits because they have to maintain and repair the equipment,” Cielma said.
Korea’s deals are attractive because their military equipment is generally cheaper than American and European ones, and they can produce it in a well-defined time frame.
The purchases are, of course, a blow to French President Emmanuel Macron’s dreams of “strategic autonomy,” in which he envisions a Europe capable of defending itself with its own (most likely French) weapons.
Polish leaders have made no secret, however, that European pressure on Poland over its controversial justice reforms and other issues also played a role in decisions to buy weapons from Seoul.
“We are ready to buy weapons from other EU countries as well, but they must stop their war against Poland. We are ready to clap for offers and money, but not when we are told that there is no rule of law in Poland,” PiS President Jarosław Kaczyński said earlier this month.
Warsaw ordered Italian Leonardo helicopters for 8 billion zlotys, but the agreement required the helicopters to be manufactured in Poland.
While no one questions the ambition of Poland’s spending, some question its feasibility and the political reasons behind the push. By 2035, the country aims to spend 524 billion zlotys on the military.
“Okay, we need tanks and howitzers, but do we need that many strategically and operationally? There is no clarity as to why the ministry suddenly announced all these agreements,” said retired Army General Stanisław Koziej, former head of Poland’s National Security Bureau.
Given the importance of security to the Polish electorate, many suspect that PiS is making military investments with an eye on national elections next year as the party loses traction, according to opinion polls.
In the event of a potential change of government, the new cabinet will have to ask tough questions about Poland’s ability to finance such a large military expansion, Koziej said. Although Poland’s economy has been robust in recent years, the level of planned military spending is unprecedented and will inevitably put pressure on the country’s budget.
“There must be a balance between military spending and the overall economic development of the country. Whatever the plans are, they should be analyzed in the light of what will be the strategic security conditions of Poland after the war in Ukraine,” Koziej said. “
Germany, meanwhile, appears to welcome Poland’s military build-up, despite the two countries’ rocky bilateral relationship and troubled history. Berlin views Poland as a buffer separating it from Russia’s sphere of influence. The more tanks and troops Poland has, the safer Germany will be.
“I feel like the Germans see the next hammock,” Gressel said, referring to Berlin’s reputation for relaxing while allies, particularly the US, do the hard work on defense.
Source: Breaking News – Cele mai importante stiri – Ziare.com by ziare.com.
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