Well, what their history………..
Poland was rearming even before Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine was launched in February 2022; the program went into overdrive once all-out hostilities were underway.
Poland and Ukraine immediately strengthened their relationship, with the former serving as Ukraine’s leading political supporter, logistics hub, refugee sanctuary, as well as a significant weapons provider (the current grain export dispute notwithstanding.)
Poland also focused hard on what the war meant for its strategic position and the risks it now faced — not just the possible spill-over from Ukraine, but also its long border with Belarus, which has become very largely a Kremlin puppet state with Russian short-range nuclear weapons on its territory.
The conclusions were grim and led to rapid decisions. Poland was already spending 2.4% of GDP on defense by 2022, ranking third in NATO after the United States and Greece.
The government decided much more was required. In 2023, Poland estimates it will spend more than 4% GDP on defense, which would be the highest proportion in NATO, as well as the highest proportion of the budget spent on equipment (over 50%.)
As Europe’s sixth-largest economy, by far the largest on the Eastern Flank, these figures translate into very substantial increases in personnel and hardware.
The country plans to double its land forces to 300,000. Huge purchases from abroad include 366 Abrams tanks and 96 Apache helicopters from the United States; 980 K2 tanks and 648 self-propelled howitzers from South Korea; hundreds of US HIMARS rocket launchers; many more Patriot air defense systems; 22 UK-made air defense batteries and three UK-designed frigates; as well as 48 South Korean FA-50 combat aircraft from and 32 US F-35 aircraft, complementing its existing fleet of 48 F-16s.
Meanwhile, it has made very significant arms transfers to Ukraine, including MiG-29 jets, modernized T-72 tanks, and Krab 155-mm self-propelled howitzers.
Poland will be challenged to pay for, absorb, and integrate such varied high-end equipment — despite a $2bn US loan — and may fall short of 4% GDP spending on defense in 2023. Moreover, if the government changes hands in elections on October 15, the dimensions and execution of the military buildup could shift. But the main political parties support defense growth and there is no doubt about the overall commitment.
The military build-up is on a grand scale and moves Poland to a different league in European defense. The armed forces are now on track to become the continent’s most capable land force, and the anchor of the European Union (EU)/NATO’s Eastern Flank capable of deterring and defeating Russia.