“The magnitude of the threats resulting from Russia’s aggressive policy has not been adequately assessed in the past.” It is with these terms that Polish Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz justified the publication on 23 May of the “Concept of Defence of the Republic of Poland” which defines a framework for the Polish army for the next 15 years.
Although it has already tried twice in the past, this is the first White Paper based on “realistic assumptions about our defence environment,” says Macierewicz. Leaving the five-pronged* structure of the Polish armed forces unchanged, the focus of the paper is on the territorial defence force. This paramilitary force, made up of civilians who began training in 2016, should be 50,000 soldiers strong by 2022.
Macierewicz explained last June that this force was to be used mainly to respond to the “Russian threat felt in the country.” This force would be divided into one battalion per region and two for the Mazovia region, of which Warsaw is the main connurbation.
It will act in close coordination with conventional forces as a light infantry, specialising in asymmetric combat and crisis support. Poland will also continue to rely on precious military partnerships, particularly with NATO, the United States and Germany.
But the development of a modern Polish armed force must necessarily check the “acquisitions” box, for which Poland intends to develop new financial and operational tools that “will help to make the planning process more realistic” … and avoid new incidents, like the aborted contract with Airbus Helicopters. In fact, the “shopping list” mentioned in this document avoids any mention of helicopters with the exception of the “Kruk” combat helicopter programme. Among other acquisitions, Poland confirms the purchase of land robots and RPASs (remotely piloted air systems), and air defence missile systems through the Narew and Wisła programmes. The Polish White Paper also mentions the development of a new generation of battle tanks and artillery systems “possibly through international cooperation” supported by a slowly maturing domestic industry.
Despite military spending falling in 2016 (€9.7bn), Poland remains NATO’s fifth “best student”, with 2% of its GDP devoted to defence. To support this ambitious purchasing programme, however, Warsaw will have to achieve a “minimum target” of at least €2.4bn by 2030, which represents 2.5% of its GDP.
* Navy, Air Force, Army, Special Forces and Territorial Defence Force