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Poland reveals plans to strengthen military amid threats from the east

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Warsaw, Poland – The Polish government has revealed ambitious plans to strengthen its military to counter the threats posed by Belarus and Russia.

Earlier this week, Poland’s deputy-PM and de-facto ruler Jaroslaw Kaczynski proposed a homeland defense bill that would enable the government to radically overhaul its military and strengthen its defense capabilities, including by more than doubling its troops numbers.

Among the proposals, the Polish government hopes for a significant increase in the number of troops, from the current 110,000 to 250,000 and 50,000 reservists. Kaczynski assured the national military service would not be reinstated.

If the government’s goal of 300,000 troops (both active and in reserve) is reached, this would make Poland’s army one of the largest in Europe.

Only a handful of EU or NATO countries – including France, Greece, Italy and Turkey – already have more than 300,000 troops in their armed forces.

Accusing Belarus of “hybrid warfare” and Russia of “imperial ambitions”, Poland’s de-facto ruler said the bill would also facilitate the purchase of military equipment from the US and other EU nations, highlighting Poland’s strategic geopolitical position on the EU and NATO’s eastern flank.

“If we want to avoid the worst, that is war, we have to act according to the old rule: ‘If you want peace, prepare for war,” the Law and Justice (PiS) chairman said at a press conference.

Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak indicated the plan would be supported by an Armed Forces Support Fund financed by government-secured bonds – a scheme similar to the one used to support the Polish economy battered by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Government officials claim the funding boost would put Poland’s defense spending well above 2% of GDP, the benchmark for NATO countries.

While some have welcomed the government’s plan to strengthen Poland’s military and strategic autonomy, others have accused the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party of hypocritical and unrealistic muscle-flexing.

“It doesn’t look good,” reacted Cezary Tomczyk from the opposition Civic Platform (PO). “Who purged the generals, colonels and majors? Who stopped the modernization of the Polish army?”

The government did not provide a timeline for the changes nor revealed an estimate of how much it would cost.

The homeland defense bill, which aims to replace an existing one from 1967 at a time where Poland was a member of the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact, still needs to be approved by Parliament and signed by President Andrzej Duda to come into force.