Uproar in Poland after Bundeswehr chief claims ‘Germany takes responsibility for eastern flank of NATO’

Polish conservatives were incensed by the suggestion that it is Germany guaranteeing the security of NATO's eastern flank, but the chief of Poland's armed forces insisted the language barrier was to blame for a poor translation

General Carsten Breuer, right, welcomes German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, center, with military honors for a visit at the Julius-Leber-Baracks in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
By Grzegorz Adamczyk
3 Min Read

The head of the German army has claimed that Germany is assuming responsibility for NATO’s eastern flank, sparking intense reactions on Polish social media.

On Wednesday, the Chief of the Bundeswehr, General Carsten Breuer, met with the Chief of the General Staff of the Polish Armed Forces, General Wiesław Kukuła. The discussions between the military leaders centered around military cooperation between the European Union and NATO, the current security situation on the eastern flank of the alliance, and both countries’ continued involvement in military and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine.

“Generals Carsten Breuer and Wiesław Kukuła also discussed international military exercises involving both armies and future defense projects aimed at enhancing security in the region, and the European Sky Shield Initiative (ESSI),” the General Staff of the Polish Armed Forces reported.

The official Bundeswehr account on platform X posted about the meeting, stating that General Breuer “in full confidence” discussed three “clear” priorities with the Polish general: military cooperation projects, assistance for Ukraine, and Germany’s assumption of “responsibility for NATO’s eastern flank.” The post was translated into Polish by the German Ambassador to Poland, Viktor Elbling.

It was precisely this statement about assuming “responsibility” for NATO’s eastern flank that sparked lively comments from Law and Justice (PiS) politicians and internet users.

Sebastian Kaleta from Suwerenna Polska wrote: “The German ambassador to Poland shamelessly declares that Germany is now taking oversight of Poland’s security. Today, Germany feels as if it is at home in Poland. Germans don’t treat us as partners but as subjects. The successive decisions of the Tusk government only confirm this.”

Former Minister of National Defense Mariusz Błaszczak stated: “Mr. [Defense Minister] Kosiniak-Kamysz, shall we leave at least one division for ourselves? But seriously, urgent explanations from the leadership of the Ministry of National Defense are owed to all of us.”

Columnist Cezary Krysztopa added, “First, take responsibility for your own country because it’s falling apart. The eastern flank can manage without your oversight.”

Attempting to diplomatically temper the mood, the Chief of the General Staff of the Polish Armed Forces, General Wiesław Kukuła, sided with the assertion that there was a linguistic slip-up during the translation by the German Embassy.

“I write critically about the Bundeswehr often enough and I know Germany well enough to allow myself to comment on General Breuer’s post and its bad translation. The General writes ‘Germany takes responsibility ON the eastern flank’ and not, as the ambassador translates, ‘…FOR the eastern flank,'” clarified an expert from the Center for Eastern Studies (OSW), Justyna Gotkowska:

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