This NATO ally is building the most powerful army after Ukraine: military analyst
Poland could become NATO’s spearhead if Russia takes its aggression in the war in Ukraine to the next level, military analyst Hans Petter Midttun says in a new op-ed.
Midttun wrote in the Kyiv Post Wednesday that NATO discord, a rise in Polish arms stockpiles and a deep understanding of Eastern Europe make Poland a key ally as Russia’s ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine reached 13 months.
“The main thing is that Poland thinks, plans and acts in accordance with NATO’s late strategic concept,” Midttun wrote. “It is about building military might to do – if necessary – what the United States and NATO will not do: that is, fight alongside the Ukrainian armed forces to stop a war that threatens European security and stability.”
Poland has stepped up protection of its own borders and recently supplied arms and aircraft to the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Last week, Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said his country would place US HIMARS rocket artillery systems near its border with Russia’s Kaliningrad region for the remainder of the 2023 calendar year.
The move could deter Russia from targeting Poland militarily because of its military assistance to Ukraine. Polish Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski said last week that his country had charged six ‘foreigners across the eastern border’ with an alleged plot on behalf of Russia to disrupt military supplies and aid to Ukraine.
At the start of the war, an alleged Russian spy was arrested in Poland and accused of gathering information on NATO troops on behalf of the Kremlin.
Also last week, Polish President Andrzej Duda announced that four Soviet-made MiG-29 fighter jets would be sent to Ukraine “literally within the next few days”. Poland and Slovakia, which are sending 13 aircraft of the same type, are acceding to requests from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for increased air assistance.
This is a line the United States is reluctant to cross. President Joe Biden has failed to respond to these requests, with the United States opting instead to provide an abundance of weapons, ammunition, artillery and defense systems.
Jan Emeryk Rościszewski, Poland’s ambassador to France, told French TV channel LCI on Sunday that “it’s not NATO, Poland or Slovakia that are raising the pressure, but Russia.”
He reportedly mentioned Russia taking territory, killing Ukrainians and kidnapping Ukrainian children, leading the International Criminal Court to issue an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Therefore, either Ukraine will defend its independence today or we will have to enter this conflict,” Rościszewski said. “Because our main values, which were the basis of our civilization and our culture, will be threatened.”
His remarks were claimed by the Polish Embassy in France as being misinterpreted. He tweeted that “there was no announcement of Poland’s direct involvement in the conflict, only a warning of the consequences a Ukrainian defeat might have”.
Midttun, however, praised his remarks for the “level of clarity” and how a Russian victory over Ukraine would equate to a Russian victory over NATO.
“Eastern European countries do not support Ukraine’s struggle for its right to exist – its sovereignty and independence – out of mere kindness, but primarily to defend their own country,” Midttun wrote. “They are doing everything possible to avoid the dramatic consequences of a potential Ukrainian defeat.”
He said while the United States and Biden avoided “boots on the ground” and sending planes to Ukraine, Poland was doing the opposite.
“When Eastern Europe asked NATO to do more (in line with its strategic concept), NATO decided to do less,” he said. “And when the EU (European Union) points out that its member states – most of which are also members of NATO – are exposed to a Russian hybrid war, NATO merely admits that the Euro-Atlantic area is not is not at peace.”
Mick Ryan, a retired Major General in the Australian Army, told the Kyiv Post this week that the Ukrainian army is now the best in the world, partly thanks to the weapons supplied by NATO countries and the experience it has acquired over the past 13 months.
Strengthening Poland’s security and defense is a key reason for this, Middtun added, citing his announcement to increase defense spending from 2.4% to 4% of GDP. The country also aspires to constitute “the largest land army in Europe”.
Mikhail Troitskiy, professor of practice at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said Newsweek that Poland “feels seriously threatened” by Russia’s potential victory in Ukraine, aggravated by the move of Russian ground forces closer to Polish territory.
“Having said that, I did not see Poland advocating a forward-facing or risk-taking offensive posture vis-a-vis Russia or Russian forces operating in Ukraine,” Troitskiy said.
He referred to a November incident in which a missile landed on Polish territory and was initially believed to have been launched by Russian forces. Later it was said to be a faulty Ukrainian missile that accidentally landed in Poland, killing two people.
“An escalation in the form of at least a formal discussion within NATO could have put Russia under pressure without significant risks for Poland or NATO,” Troitskiy said. “Given such an approach to escalation, Polish forces alone are unlikely to openly enter Ukraine and engage their Russian adversaries, even if Ukrainian defenses crumble.
“What can happen in such a case could be a collective decision by NATO to increase the role of the alliance and to send stern messages of warning to Russia.”