It would seem that Poland has recently come to terms with the shifting realities of its defense situation, deciding that more of its 120,000 strong army should be based along the frontier with Russia and Ukraine. Until now, the former Soviet bloc member had maintained the majority of its army along its western border.
Although it must be difficult for a country with an unfortunate history of being invaded from all angles to choose where to place its troops, you would have thought that the increasingly aggressive behavior of Vladimir Putin’s Russia would merit more military attention than the benign economic might of Merkel’s Germany.
Poland’s troop build up
Currently the units in the east of the country have only 30% of their posts filled, in accordance with a plan that calls for 100% of troops “only in the case of war.” The move will see the populations of at least 3 eastern bases increased from 30% capacity to nearly 90% by 2017.
The Poles have decided to move thousands more troops to the area because of the conflict in Ukraine, and the movement marks an historic realignment of military structure.
“The geopolitical situation has changed, we have the biggest crisis of security since the Cold War and we must draw conclusions from that,” Siemoniak said.
Siemoniak played down the significance of the move, claiming that it is not “nervous or radical” but because of the “situation of threat we would like those units in the east of Poland to be more efficient.”
The situation in the Baltic has become increasingly tense of late, with politicians worried by what some see as the erratic behavior of Vladimir Putin. Other commentators claim that the Russian president has recently outsmarted the western allies in Ukraine, and the region as a whole, and is slowly regaining influence over the former Soviet bloc.
The Polish troop movements are accompanied by an increasing U.S. presence, with 700 troops and a unit of Ironhorse tanks to be deployed across the Baltic states.
Poland has a long history of war with Russia. In 1920, Polish troops under the command of Joseph Pilsudski defeated the Soviet army in one of the most important battles of the century. In 1939, Soviet troops invaded Poland under a secret pact signed with Nazi Germany and carved up the country. Today, as the Poles are part of NATO the stakes could even be higher.