“Daily Telegraph”: Poland is building the strongest army in Europe
In response to the threat from Russia, Poland is buying modern military equipment, implementing a project to create the strongest army in Europe, writes the British Daily Telegraph on Saturday.
“As an artillery officer, I am excited about the new equipment. We had a lot of old artillery, but now we have very modern weapons,” says Captain Marek Adamiak from the 11th Masurian Artillery Regiment, which in mid-December received 24 self-propelled K9 self-propelled howitzers of South Korean production with a range of over 50 km, which significantly increases the possibilities on the battlefield.
But as the Daily Telegraph points out, the 24 howitzers are “only the tip of Poland’s huge defense spending programme”, because with the ongoing war in Ukraine and fears that Poland itself may one day find itself in the Kremlin’s crosshairs, the Polish government is determined to arm the country – and quickly. He points out that this year Poland’s defense spending will reach 4 percent of GDP. GDP, which is twice as high as the minimum required by NATO and the highest per capita in the entire Alliance.
The daily indicates that some of the contracts for new equipment date from before the war in Ukraine, when Poland, already aware of the Russian threat, began reorganizing its armed forces equipped with Soviet-era military equipment. Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine accelerated and intensified this process.
“No one can doubt Poland’s ambitions,” emphasizes the Daily Telegraph, listing that it has placed orders for 1,000 K2 MBTs from South Korea and 250 M1A2 SEPv3 Abrams tanks from the US, making it the largest tank in Europe; artillery will be reinforced by 600 K9s, 18 HIMARS launchers with 9,000 rockets and 288 K239 Chunmoo MRL systems from South Korea. Over 1,000 Polish-made Borsuk infantry fighting vehicles will be at the disposal of Polish soldiers, and their air cover will be provided by 96 AH-64E Apache helicopters purchased from the USA and 48 FA-50 combat aircraft currently ordered from South Korea. In addition, there is a plan to increase the number of armed forces to 300,000. people, which would make them the largest in Europe west of Ukraine, notes the “Daily Telegraph”.
“We are replacing our equipment very, very quickly. It really is a revolution, not an evolution,” says Captain Adamiak.
But as the Daily Telegraph notes, even though Poland has enjoyed economic growth for years and GDP is projected to continue to grow this year, despite the economic consequences of the war in Ukraine, the cost of defense spending will be significant. He indicates that this year’s defense budget for Poland will amount to a record PLN 97 billion, and by 2035 he plans to spend PLN 458 billion on armaments.
The daily recalls that the European Commission continues to deny Poland money from the EU’s post-pandemic recovery fund due to the ongoing rule of law dispute, while last year the US Congress approved the allocation of $288.6 million to “deter and defend” from increased threat from Russia. But the newspaper points out that with inflation at 17 percent. the defense budget may become difficult to implement.
“I am concerned that all this spending could drain the budget if not properly managed. The public may not be aware that cuts may have to be made to some civilian projects,” said Magdalena Jakubowska, a defense expert and vice-president of Visegrad Insight, a Central European policy center. But as he adds, “in the face of war, which may be just around the corner, Poles realize that you have to sacrifice yourself to take care of the national interest.”
The Daily Telegraph adds that despite deep and often bitter political divisions in Poland, there is a cross-party consensus on increasing defense spending. He adds that defense and who can defend the country best will be one of the main topics in the campaign before the autumn parliamentary elections.
From London Bartłomiej Niedziński (PAP)