Home Venture Capital Poland has declared that its army will soon be the most powerful in Europe. But is it possible?

Poland has declared that its army will soon be the most powerful in Europe. But is it possible?

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Thanks to a series of major arms deals, Poland is poised to establish military supremacy in continental Europe – although the high cost of this expansion is a source of concern for some experts.

If all goes as planned, Europe will soon have a new military superpower: Poland.

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The leaders of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party recently announced that the country would acquire within two years the most powerful army in Europe, thanks to a major modernization of its existing equipment and a reinforcement massive number of his troops. .

The army was one of most important talking points in Poland since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began last yearas the country prepares for the risk that the conflict on its border could spread to its territory.

“The Polish army must be so powerful that it does not have to fight only on its strength,” Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said in November last year, as the country celebrated its independence from Soviet Union.

He promised that the country would have “the most powerful land forces in Europe”.

“We want peace, and if we want it, we must prepare for war. In this context, we are strengthening the Polish army, unlike the one that ruled until 2015,” the Defense Minister said Mariusz Blaszczak.

But is this vast rearmament program an objectively realistic goal – or simply a costly promise intended to shore up support for PiS ahead of national elections scheduled for later this year?

Poland’s plan to create Europe’s most powerful army explained

According to Global Firepower 2023 Military Strength Rankings, the most powerful armies in Europe – after Russia – are currently the United Kingdom, France and Italy. The United Kingdom’s position is mainly based on its manpower and air power, while France can count on a strong helicopter fleet and several destroyer warships. Italy had 404 helicopters and two aircraft carriers in January 2023. Poland was in fifth place in the ranking.

Poland has already implemented the plan that will allow it to acquire the most powerful army in Europe.

“Poland is in a state of transition, it has ordered hundreds of American, German and South Korean vehicles and it has increased its defense spending to more than 3% of its GDP,” said Frank Ledwidge, lawyer and former military officer. who served in the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan, told Euronews.

Last year, the president of Poland – a full NATO member country since 1999 – signed into law a bill that allowed the government to spend 3% of its GDP to defense from 2023, i.e. one percentage point above what is expected of the members of the alliance.

For comparison, Germany recently committed to increasing its defense spending to at least meet the 2% threshold set by NATO for its members. In 2021, according to the latest data made available by EurostatEU countries that spent most of their GDP on defense were Greece (2.8%), Latvia (2.3%), Estonia (2.0%), Romania ( 1.9%), France, Cyprus and Lithuania (1.8%).

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Finland, a new member of NATO and which has one of the most powerful armies in Europe, plans to devote 6 billion euros, or 2.3% of its GDP, to defense in 2024 – which is actually €116 million less than he planned to spend this year.

If Deputy Prime Minister Jarosław Kaczyński gets his way, military spending in Poland could be increased to 5% of the country’s GDP over the next decade, as he has suggested.

Poland also announced a major purchase of modern equipment and a massive recruitment operation which is expected to take place in the coming years.

The country wants to recruit around 150,000 troops over the next decade, bringing its army from the current 128,000 active military and 36,000 territorial defense troops to 300,000 troops by 2035. With these new troops, the country will create six armored divisions – while France and Germany have only two, and the United Kingdom has only one.

It also purchased more than a thousand new tanks and 600 artillery pieces, mainly from South Korea and the United States. This will increase the country’s firepower to a strength greater than that of the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy combined.

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In July, Poland received 33 new M1 Abrams tanks as part of a €4.5 billion ($4.9 billion) order for 250. The country is also awaiting most of the nearly 1,000 K2 Black Panther main battle tanks it purchased from South Korea, including the first 10 of which it received. Some 180 K2s will be delivered to Poland by 2025 for 3.16 billion euros, while up to 820 of these tanks will be produced in Poland under the license obtained by South Korea for the next 10 years.

In terms of artillery, Poland spent 9.2 billion euros ($10 billion) to buy 468 HIMARS rocket launchers of the same type that helped Ukrainian forces in their successes against the Russians last year.

Can Poland really achieve its ambitious goal?

With these orders in compliance, “there is no doubt” that Poland can become the most powerful military in Europe, Ledwidge said.

“Is this an election promise? Maybe, but they’re going to be left with an awful lot of egg on their face if they don’t follow these orders, and I also suspect huge contractual issues,” he said.

Certain concerns nevertheless remain among experts and observers, particularly regarding the costs of this military expansion.

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Expanding the training of new troops and the recruiting pipeline will be a “challenge,” Ledwidge said, one that will impose a logistical and financial burden on the country. “But we must not forget that Poland is getting richer, unlike countries like the UK, so it can probably afford to pay for its expenses.”

The question of the gargantuan cost of this expansion of the Polish army was raised by Polish military expert Robert Czuldaresident scholar at the Casimir Pulaski Foundation, who in a recent article said the country will face a “gun or butter” dilemma as it attempts to secure long-term funding.

“It seems very likely that such a scale of planned orders is largely driven by political populism aimed at gaining popularity in the here and now, rather than being a real, comprehensive, well-thought-out plan to harmoniously strengthen the army. forces,” he wrote.

“Poland should ensure that these procurement programs are sustainable and affordable in the long term. The country should avoid a risk of excessive spending, which now appears very high.”

Sławomir Sierakowski, founder of the Krytyka Polityczna movement and senior researcher at the German Council on Foreign Relations, warned that the impressive arms contracts concluded by the Polish government “were concluded without government tenders, in a weak negotiating position and without compensation obligations on the part of the contractors”.

How will this change the political balance in Europe?

As Europe’s most powerful army, Poland “will be more than capable of defending itself and the Baltic states with what it gets, assuming the investment comes through,” he said. Ledwidge.

“The motivations for going all the way are both political and strategic. Poland needs a very strong army because it has become the bulwark of NATO,” he added.

This would likely place the country in a new position within Europe and NATO.

“It is very likely that Poland will then become the first or second continental European power after France,” Ledwidge said.

“And that would mean that the UK would ultimately lose its role as second in command of NATO, which would be a big blow to the country, but it is deserved.”

Poland’s new position within NATO and Europe will push countries like the United Kingdom or France “to ask themselves whether it is worth having their land forces as a priority”, said Ledwidge, “or whether they should instead return to their natural specialty, which for the UK is becoming a naval power – something that is being lost as we try to do everything at once.”

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