The Polish government has announced that they will invest over $42 billion on military equipment and training to strengthen their forces in light of Russia’s role in the increasingly volatile situation in eastern Ukraine.
NATO member Poland, the country ripped apart by the Nazis and Soviet Union, no longer believes “peace in Europe is a given.” The $42 billion upgrade is the first in a decade, which includes “a missile shield and anti-aircraft systems as well as combat drones.” If the government purchases cruise missiles, then the air force can “attack targets in Russia without having to leave their own air force base.” Warsaw admits the crisis in Ukraine is the reason why the country needs to boost their defenses.
“The key to a political and military solution lies in Moscow,” announced President Bronislaw Komorowski. “The possibility of a lasting peace still isn’t close.”
The enormous upgrade will place Poland within NATO’s recommendation of defense spending level at 2 percent of gross domestic product. The heftiest purchase is seventy multi-role helicopters worth almost $3 billion. United States company Sikorsky, Airbus Helicopters, and AgustaWestland are competing for the lucrative contract. One expert told the AFP only Airbus can give Poland exactly what they want, but the company charges more. However, Poland “regards the United States as a better bet in case of a conflict in Europe.” In order to persuade Poland, the European companies are “sweetening the pot.” Airbus is the most expensive, but the company “is opening a research and development centre in Poland’s industrial hub of Lodz on February 19 in the hopes of swaying Warsaw.”
Poland’s plans come on the heels of NATO’s announcement of a stronger presence in eastern Europe due to Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine. The defense ministers want to “set up six command and control centers in Bulgaria, Poland, Romania, and the three Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.” In 2014, Russian diplomats made veiled threats against Estonia and Latvia, which caused officials to fear they were next on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s hit list. Lithuania is one of the only outspoken allies of Ukraine, sending troops and weapons to combat Russian forces. President Dalia Grybauskaite called Russia a “terrorist state” and urged the European Union to do more to help Ukraine.