Poland stands in the breach, preventing Russia’s President Vladimir Putin from building the Warsaw Pact redux. Consequently, the brutal and unprovoked Russian invasion of Ukraine has sparked the Poles to increase substantially their nation’s military strength to ensure it is not next should the Kyiv government fall to Russian forces. Though the valiant Ukraine military is holding its own at the moment, the fortunes of war are fickle, and having a militarily strong Poland strengthens NATO’s hand. To that end, the Polish government is building the combat capability of its armed forces.
When Poland offered to send Ukraine its excess MIG-29s to replace losses early in the battle for Kyiv’s existence, and the US nixed the idea, that should have been an indicator to the Warsaw government that it may find itself on the short end of US support should Putin decide to attack through Belarus – and such a move would not be inconsistent with his misguided worldview. “The record is clear, and increasingly so is Putin’s transparent goal of restoring the Soviet empire that dissolved in 1991 following seven decades of totalitarian tyranny,” Tim Donner reported for Liberty Nation two days after the Russian horde came poring over Ukraine’s eastern border. “And no doubt he would also dearly love to reinstall pro-Russian governments in eastern European countries formerly enslaved by the Soviets – including Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic,” Donner explained.
Poland Is at Risk From Russian Aggression
In an interview with Fox Business, former Russian grandmaster chess player and now Human Rights Foundation Chairman Garry Kasparov warned less than ten days after Russian military troops and equipment crossed into Ukraine, “if the US doesn’t get tougher on Russia, Poland and the Baltic States will ‘absolutely’ be next,” Kristen Altus writing for Fox explained. Poland, geographically and politically within the European community, is a strategic actor and is rapidly becoming a major military armed force. As events unfold, having a strong Poland is a buffer against Russia and its lackey-ally Belarus. Belarus has become more of a problem for Poland. As Michal Kranz explained in his analysis “How the Russia-Ukraine Crisis Is Turning Poland Into a Strategic Player,” published in Foreign Policy:
“Poles are increasingly wary of looming threats on their doorstep amid the Russia-Ukraine crisis. Beyond the potential for waves of disinformation, cyberattacks, and more of the kind of hybrid warfare that Poland faced from Belarus last year, Russian forces stationed as close as 124 miles from Warsaw in Belarus have also rattled Poland. These forces are primarily meant to menace Ukraine, but Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau has called their presence a ‘great concern.’”
These threats have increased Poland’s willingness to be a strong complement to NATO forces in Europe. Warsaw’s spending on defense, according to Statista, is the highest among the Alliance members as a percentage of gross domestic product in 2023 at 3.9%. The US sits at 3.5%, but the US percentage translates into a defense budget dwarfing all the other NATO countries in actual dollars. Poland has used its defense budget to increase dramatically its combat capability.
Poland Is Rapidly Building a Strong Military
According to Michael Peck, writing for the Business Insider, Poland has been buying warfighting equipment at an impressive rate. Peck reported:
“The defense minister, Mariusz Błaszczak, has said that Poland intends to create ‘the largest land force in Europe.’ This includes doubling the military to 300,000 personnel. Poland currently has a mix of Western and Soviet-era equipment, including 650 tanks, 800 artillery pieces, 94 jet fighters, and 28 attack helicopters, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies.”
Additionally, Poland has provided Ukraine with some of its older Soviet-era weapons like T-72 tanks, 155mm self-propelled howitzers, and, after the US eventually relented, MIG-29 fighter aircraft. Peck also reported that Poland is becoming a “military powerhouse” by virtue of the types of equipment it is acquiring. “The US State Department has cleared a sale of 96 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters worth about $12 billion to Poland, the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced Aug. 21,” Jen Judson explained in Defense News. Last April, the Warsaw government also purchased 250 modern M1A2 Abrams tanks costing $4.75 billion, with delivery of the first 28 tanks in 2023. Poland will also acquire a variety of air-to-ground and anti-aircraft missile systems.
As Poland is developing into one of the most capable warfighting European nations, its position relative to the threats it faces is impressive. The deterrence value of the Polish armed forces should give Russia and Belarus pause to reconsider any overt military action against the Poles. But as important, NATO has a strategic partner in Poland, increasing the Alliance’s overall capability.
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