Polish military spending spree impresses British conservative press, but is it sustainable?

Source: TT@MON_GOV.
By Grzegorz Adamczyk
4 Min Read

The British newspaper The Telegraph is impressed with Poland’s military build up, writing that the Eastern European country is countering the Russian threat by purchasing the most modern weaponry available and building the largest army in Europe.

“As an artillery officer, I’m excited by the new equipment,” Captain Marek Adamiak from a Polish artillery regiment told The Telegraph. ”We had a lot of old artillery, but now we have very new weapons.”

In December 2022, his regiment received 24 K9 Korean howitzers with a range of 50 kilometers.

However, these howitzers are just the tip of the iceberg. The war next door and the growing fear that Poland could one day be in the sights of Russia has the Poles rearming fast. This year, the country will spend 4 percent of its GDP on defense, an amount double the NATO requirement, and one that will allow Poland to boast the largest per-capita spending on defense in the alliance.  

Some of the deals for new equipment pre-date the Ukraine war when Poland, already wary of Russia, started to revamp its armed forces, which were still burdened with a significant amount of Soviet-era equipment. Russia’s invasion accelerated the process and opened the way to a wide array of new contracts to be signed.  Poland has placed orders for 1,000 K2 main battle tanks from South Korea and 250 brand new M1A2 SEPv3 Abrams tanks from the U.S. This will turn Poland into the owner of Europe’s biggest tank force, dwarfing the U.K.’s fleet of 227.

At the same time, Poland’s artillery will be bolstered by the arrival of 600 K9s, 18 HIMARS launchers with 9,000 rockets, and 288 K239 Chunmoo MRL systems from South Korea. Over 1,000 Polish-made Borsuk infantry fighting vehicles will carry Polish troops into battle, while air cover will come from 96 AH-64E Apache helicopters bought from the U.S. and 48 FA-50 combat aircraft now on order from South Korea. Add to the equation plans to double the size of the army to 300,000, and Poland will turn into Europe’s biggest army west of Ukraine.

“It’s a revolution, not an evolution,” says Capt. Adamiak. 

The price tag is enormous. Poland plans to spend over 450 billion PLN (€96 billion) by 2035 on weapons. This year’s defense budget stands at a record PLN 97 billion. All this spending comes at a time when the European Commission is denying Poland access to funds from the post-pandemic EU Recovery Fund. The U.S. Congress has approved $288.6 million in military financing, and that cash will help, but with inflation running at around 17 percent in Poland and economic growth slowing, the defense budget could become difficult to meet or could lead to serious cuts in public expenditure on other areas of spending. 

Still, with regard to military spending, there does seem to be a broad consensus across all parties that it is in the national interest. However, it will be the ruling conservatives who will lead the way as the party most committed to extremely high defense spending in Poland. 

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