The Polish Embassy in Washington, D.C. recently celebrated their Armed Forces Day, with the honorable Dr. William A. LaPlante, the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, presenting and recognizing Poland’s leadership in defense acquisition and capabilities. Poland’s commitment is the highest in the world today. They have spent close to 6 percent of its GDP on defense, over four percent more than the two percent required by NATO allies. Driving this unprecedented urgency investment in defense is the real threat of a Russian invasion into Poland in the next five years.
Since its founding, Poland has endured violent occupation and incursions by the Soviet Union and Russia. Most recently, the full-scale unprovoked invasion of Ukraine by Russia has stoked the fires of brutality and occupation that are critical to understanding Poland’s rapid military escalation and procurement of greater military capacity and capability. The support of Poland’s expanse to house global contributions to help defeat Russia is just as important.
On August 13th, 1923 Poland had its monumental and historical first victory at the gates of their capital, Warsaw, against the Soviet Union’s mighty Red Army. The victory, known as the Miracle on the Vistula, decimated the Red Army, halting the Soviet advance further into Europe and stopping the Soviet Union’s desired spread of communism. The Polish have historically been vehement defenders of their nation and the Western world. From the free Polish fighter squadrons participating in the D-Day invasion and free Polish Army divisions assisting in the liberation of France in World War II. The Polish people have continuously shown fierce bravery and determination against Russia. Their endurance of Soviet Union occupation which carved out reduced territory and new borders for Poland has made them a beacon of independence. When Poland fell under the cloud of Soviet oppression, they were faced with constant censorship and repression, as well as constant fear of the brutal secret police. Despite this, Poland resisted both physically and intellectually until they overthrew the ruling Communist Party on June 4th, 1989.
Since then, the Polish people and their leaders have been ambitious and aim to become the leading economic, political, and military power in Europe. And if the last 30 years is a guide, Poland has been the leader in economic growth in Europe over the past 30 years, with GDP growth of 150% over that time period compared to 40% for the rest of the Eurozone. Since 1995, Poland has been the fastest growing large economy, surpassing the growth rates in places like South Korea and Taiwan.
Politically, Poland is a vibrant democracy with elections and 17 changes in government from 1991-2018 alone. Militarily, Poland has been a staunch U.S. ally. It has a well trained force that has spent the past 20 years earning combat experience in deployments carrying significant responsibilities in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. For example, in Afghanistan 33,000 Polish military forces and civilians served over 20 years of participation in that conflict.
Poland is legitimately and historically fearful of a Russian invasion into Poland in the next five years. Poland is modernizing their military capabilities more than any other NATO ally to ensure that they do not become subjected to Russian oppression ever again. They are heavily invested in missile defense capacities, becoming the number one NATO ally in its upcoming missile defense capabilities to defend its homeland, critical infrastructure, and ability to project force. Poland is actively drawing lessons from Russia’s war on Ukraine and swiftly bolstering its defensive capabilities to counter emerging threats posed by Russia, proactively adapting and fortifying its preparedness based on the experiences gleaned from Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
Poland currently serves as host to numerous military and commercial organizations from around the world. The largest military footprint is from the United States, helping present deterrence and defeat capabilities if and when that occasion may arise. The 10,000 American troops stationed in Poland includes the US Land Forces V Corps Forward Command, US Army Garrison Poland, Armored Brigade Combat Team, Combat Aviation Brigade stationed at Powidz, Combat Sustainment Support Battalion also stationed at Powidz, eFP Battle Group in Bemowo Piskie, and a Missile Defense Base at Redzikowo.Also in Redzikowo, Poland, is the U.S. operated Aegis Ashore system which is expected to be operational by the end of this year.
Poland is sending a clear message to its people and to Russia, becoming the first foreign country to purchase 12 Lower Tier Air and Missile Defense Sensors, or LTAMDS, through the Foreign Military Sales program. With an additional 48 Patriot missile launchers and 644 PAC-3 missiles, the sale will position Poland to be the most advanced and integrated IAMD architecture in Europe. In addition, the United States has authorized approval for Poland to purchase the latest generation of American air and missile defense capabilities, known as the Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System (IBCS). The sale includes 93 IAMD Battle Command System Engagement Operation Centers, 175 IBCS Integrated Fire Control Network relays and other supplementary equipment. Retaining the 5 Patriot batteries sent from the United States and Germany, in addition to the 8 batteries consisting of 48 Patriot missile launchers, Poland will be in possession of 13 batteries total. This puts them ahead of all other NATO partners. The integration of the IBCS into Poland’s Wisła program will mean the convergence of multiple sensors and weapons into a common fire control system, allowing for a more expansive and integrated network of sensor and shooter capabilities to respond to immediate threats.
Poland is the trailblazer and leader in Europe for arming against the Russian missile threat. They cannot—and should not—do it alone. Inspired by Poland’s recent missile defense revolution, a coalition of the willing must be assembled in order to modernize the next generation of Europe’s air and missile defense architecture. Leadership cannot be done by Germany to take on Russia as their history prevents that. This architecture must ignore the missteps of Germany’s European Sky Shield Initiative, and build a system which effectively integrates into Europe’s IAMD architecture while countering the most pressing Russian missile threats: atmosphere ballistic missiles and low flying cruise missiles.
The NATO Charter is anemic without integrated force designs. Poland possesses extraordinary missile defense capabilities, it cannot deter nor beat Russia singularly. NATO must integrate the full force of the missile defense capabilities of its willing member states for a winning effective NATO deterrence and defense strategy. Poland is the leading fulcrum and cornerstone in Europe in producing a comprehensively integrated Missile Defense architecture against Russia.
Bóg, Honor, Ojczyzna!