Written by Celso P. Santos exclusively for SouthFront; Edited by Yoana
Poland’s Minister of Defense said that the country should increase its army to 150,000 soldiers, which is almost double its current size, Polish weekly military magazine Polska Zbrojna reported in January.
Speaking of his assessment of the armed forces since stepping into office late last year, Antoni Macierewicz discussed the need of a move that will strengthen Poland’s military. According to Macierewicz, the Polish parliament allows a military force of 100,000 but in practically, the country’s ground forces number is less than 80,000.
“For more than 200 years we have not had a 100,000-strong army,” he said. “I believe that the Polish army should comprise of 150,000 soldiers. This is the minimum which is necessary to respond to military threats.”
Macierewicz said Poland plans to create three new brigades for territorial defense on its eastern borders and reinforce the region with the existing units that are currently deployed elsewhere.
“We don’t want the focus of our military forces on the western border, as it was in 1989,” Macierewicz added, referring to the Polish military’s dated layout, which still uses some of the networks and facilities designed during its allegiance with the Soviet Union. Poland’s western territory was crucial in the Soviet strategy, as it shared a large border with the heavily policed East Germany.
The defense minister called the conflict in Eastern Ukraine ‘the biggest threat to the European security’ and offered his support to the France’s airstrikes in Syria, provided France supports the deployment of NATO troops in Poland.
“I am impressed with the efforts of the Ukrainian state, its Defense Ministry and the army that helped a lot since the start of the Russian aggression,” Macierewicz said. “Undoubtedly, there was a great mobilization, not only patriotic, emotional, but also organizational and political.”
He said that Warsaw would never “accept” Russia’s annexation of Crimea but added that despite Kiev being a “strategic partner,” there are chapters of the Polish-Ukrainian history that still complicate their relations.
One of those is the Volyn massacre, in which around 40,000 Polish civilians were killed during World War II, allegedly at the hands of the Ukrainian partisans, in Nazi-occupied southeastern Poland. The two countries are investigating the tragedy, which is named after the area where it took place.
Daesh is not a threat
Asked to comment on the defense ministry’s plans, Tomasz Jankowski, an expert at the European Center for Geopolitical Analysis, told Sputnik Poland that the expansion will come at the expense of the Polish taxpayers, who will be forced to give up more of their tax dollars to buy obsolete US weaponry.
“Everything will be arranged in such a way that we [Poles] will have to dip into our pockets,” Jankowski said. “And that’s not the worst thing about it. The worst thing (and what the Law and Justice government seem to want) is that all these purchases and modernization plans are devised for Poland to buy mostly obsolete US weaponry, which the US army no longer needs, and is looking to get rid of.”
At the same time, the analyst noted, “The defense minister is doubtlessly taking advantage of the atmosphere of constant deception of the Polish society, one which suggests that we are threatened with war, presumably against Russia, and that we should supposedly arm ourselves to ensure the country’s defense.”
Also speaking at the security conference in Bratislava (15-17 April), the Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski said that actually, Russia, not Daesh, was the real ‘existential threat’ to Europe. The minister made the comments despite the fact that Daesh has repeatedly attacked European capitals over the last six months, and neglecting the fact that Russia has played a key role in rolling back the terrorist group in Syria.
For the record, Defense Minister Macierewicz is well-known for his anti-Russian outbursts. Earlier this year, the minister claimed that the 2010 air catastrophe over Smolensk, which resulted in the death of the Polish president and much of his staff, was actually a ‘terrorist attack’ by the Russian government, equivalent to Hitler’s aggression against Germany in 1939.
Earlier, before his appointment to the defense ministry by the Law and Justice government last year, Macierewicz was already well-known in Poland for his controversial and sometimes racist statements, including the one that suggests that the ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion have some truth’ in them, and claiming that Poland and Russia have been in a state of war since the 2010 presidential plane crash.
Poland is pushing to receive additional permanent US and NATO bases in the country ahead of the alliance’s upcoming summit in Warsaw in July.