Poland: Anti-Russian Sentiments Used to Justify Great Power Ambitions
It has just been announced that US President Donald Trump will visit Poland before the G20 summit. The visit will occur on July 6, a day before the top-level meeting in Germany. Polish officials are hailing the upcoming visit by Donald Trump, with Poland's defense minister calling it a «huge success» for the government, showing “how much Poland's place in geopolitics and world politics has changed». «The visit will reaffirm America's steadfast commitment to one of our closest European allies and emphasize the administration's priority of strengthening NATO's collective defense», the White House said in a statement.
The Polish nationalist ruling party, Law and Justice, sees eye-to-eye with President Trump on many issues, including climate change and opposition to Muslim immigrants. It also holds in low esteem international bodies, including the EU.
The views on the role of NATO appear to differ as Warsaw wants it to be strengthened. Poland is among the few member states of the alliance which spend the required 2 percent of GDP on defense. Polish President Andrzej Duda has said he wants to ask the US counterpart to increase the American military presence in the country going farther than the decisions taken by NATO summits. The US has been sending military forces to Poland and other nations in the region for more frequent training as part of the European Reassurance Initiative but Poland wants more than that.
The unity of NATO, as well as the EU, has become very much undermined recently. Reality pushed both organizations to adopt “multi-speed” concepts. Poland is leading the campaign to instigate tensions in Europe, preventing the possible normalization of the relationship between NATO and Russia. There is an obvious trend within the alliance to sit at a round table and address the security agenda with Russia in an effort to conclude a new arms control agreement. Poland is pushing the bloc in the opposite direction, instigating tensions and confrontation with Moscow. No doubt the upcoming visit will be seized as an opportunity to influence the Trump administration and make Warsaw a privileged US ally in Europe.
Poland considers Russia as the main threat. To counter it, Warsaw has taken a decision to bolster its submarine fleet. Poland has been implementing plans to form a 50,000 strong paramilitary territorial defense force, a planned military reserve component of the regular military, since 2015. Roughly, 20,000 guards will join the ranks of the new force this year. Warsaw plans to double the size of the army in the coming years (from about 95,000 to 200,000), including the creation of three brigades for the territorial defense of the country on the eastern flank.
The policy to oppose Russia makes the country a source of lucrative arms sales contracts for the United States. The Polish armed forces are to go through long-term modernization program with significant equipment acquisitions planned for 2017 through 2022 to involve new air defense systems, ballistic missiles, a new fighter trainer aircraft, combat and transport helicopters, submarines, self-propelled howitzers and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Around 1,200 UAVs are to be procured, including at least 1,000 with combat capabilities.
Lasers, small drones, and more troops are on the priorities’ list for the following 15 years, according to «The Concept of Defence of the Republic of Poland» report issued by the Ministry of Defense last month. The document says the country is preparing for at least 15 years of rising tensions — and perhaps even war — with Russia.
The new strategy calls for more military cooperation with members of the Visegrad Group: the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.
Poland also says it wants a full-scale permanent NATO base on its territory to host rapid response units.
The US State Department has approved a deal, which allows Poland to acquire 70 JASSM-ER cruise missiles with a range of 1000+km (620 mi). The weapon is to be carried by US-produced F-16 warplanes. The deal will provide Poland with first strike capability against infrastructure sites located deep in the Russian territory. A NATO Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense site is to be deployed on Polish soil in 2018. A year ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin told Poland that it could find itself in the sights of Russian rockets because they are hosting elements of a US missile shield that Moscow considers a threat to its security.
Now the upcoming visit of Donald Trump will be used to make Poland become a member of the privileged group of US allies within the framework of a “multi-speed” NATO. With Brexit procedures on the way and the rift inside the alliance coming into the open, Poland strives to boost its influence on European affairs. It needs an enemy to justify the plans and that is where Russophobia comes in handy. The Intermarium plan is still very much vivid in memory of the Polish leaders. They forget that the idea was just a flash in the pan to never come to fruition.
Russia and Poland are neighbors. Their relationship can be transformed into one of the key pillars of stability and security in Europe. But Russia does need a pragmatic Polish partner for a productive dialogue but it will have to wait till a more responsible government comes to power in Warsaw.