Poland is on the verge of becoming a great power
The country is undergoing a massive rearmament programme
Poland’s uniquely bloody modern history makes it more sensitive than most countries to threats from its neighbours. The deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, Dmitry Medvedev, can’t have helped matters with his recent Twitter outburst, in which he said:
In these circumstances, Poland’s massive programme of rearmament, including a £1.9bn deal for British CAMMs air defence missiles last week, is hard to argue against. Having upped its defence budget to $30bn — at 4.25% of GDP the highest proportion in all of NATO — Poland is on a frantic spending spree that will entirely reshape the balance of power in Europe. From 250 American M1A2 Abrams tanks on order to 500 HIMARS as well as 96 Apache attack helicopters, by the end of the decade Poland will possess by some margin Europe’s most powerful land army. This means that, for the first time since the 18th century — and once again concerned with vital strategic interests in Ukraine’s wide plains — Poland is on the verge of becoming a great power.
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Given Russia’s lacklustre performance in Ukraine so far, the scale of acquisitions might seem like overkill, though Poland’s military leadership isn’t taking any chances. The chief of the Polish General Staff, General Rajmund Andrzejczak, remarked earlier this year that Russia has the resources to drag the war out for another two years before facing significant logistics challenges, by which time the West’s already dwindling supply of materiel available for Ukraine may have long run out. In those circumstances, money is no object, whether or not the Polish economy can take the strain. “We just took our suitcases with money and [are] going like Hell around the world and trying to buy,” Andrzejczak told journalists late last year, “It’s not a matter of money. I’ve got money. I’ve got big money.”
And if money buys weapons, weapons buy power. With no swift conclusion in sight for the Ukraine war, Poland — already set to expand its nuclear power supply with American financial support, and keen to produce as much of its new weaponry as it can on its own soil — looks set to become Europe’s industrial as well as military powerhouse, awash in abundant energy funded by cheap credit. The already fraught relationship with a Germany undergoing a self-inflicted Morgenthau Plan through its abandonment of nuclear energy will alter even more dramatically in coming decades when Poland surpasses its neighbour.
Similarly, frosty relations with Macron’s France will have to manage Poland’s assumption of the country’s self-appointed role as the vanguard of European defence. There’s a great irony here: while Poland loudly rejects French dreams of European strategic autonomy, the result of such a strong and self-reliant power guarding Europe’s eastern marches will be to allow America to focus more of its own resources and attention on the looming contest in the Pacific. In another great unintended consequence of Putin’s war, the Poles may hate Macron’s vision, but by finally enabling Europe to fend for itself, they’re hurrying it along.
Poland and Polish people are such a great asset to us in Britain, and more loved and respected than any other immigrants.
Medvedev’s comment about “stinky rats” sounds like something out of a Boy’s Own story c.1955 and the kind of insult a 9 year old would be ashamed of nowadays.
This is what you get if you try to speak a foreign language and the that quote is translated to another foreign language. ‘Stinking’ might be a better translation.
The tone of the quote is quite clear. We aren’t dealing with civilised diplomats here – anyone who thinks we are has their head in the sand.
The Russians are all over the place with these utterances. Zero credibility.
The latest disregard of Russian diplomatic property and immunity in Warsaw probably broke the camel’s back… Not that Poland has ever had much regard for the notion of the rule of law anyway.
Polands ambition is impressive but if they don’t solve their demographic issues, there won’t be enough recruits to utilise this equipment.
About to say the same. Although maybe there’ll be a Polish Foreign Legion? Sounds quite dashing.
Not many years ago Lech Walesa, the former union agitator and Polish president, suggested that Poland and Germany ought to become one nation. Besides an interesting idea, if it became reality that would be one of history’s most ironic developments. Hitler and Medvedev had the same dismal view of the Poles.
But clearly neither of these “statesmen” know their history, for Poland had a formidable military record. It was the Polish king Jan Sobieski, who broke the siege of Vienna by the Ottoman empire in 1683 — and it was the Polish Armored Division that in 1944 liberated my hometown in the Netherlands. Unlike the Canadian troops who were in the same area, they did all they could to avoid killing civilians, taking considerable casualties themselves. Little did they know that Churchill and Roosevelt had already sold them out to Stalin …
Interesting to see the rise of Poland. Their alliance with a well armed Ukraine may give them both great military strength. If they can create an arms manufacturing center, they may overtake Germany in manufacturing power. They can help Ukraine rebuild its economy. We shall see.
Poland is on the verge of becoming a great power AGAIN.
Let’s be realistic here.
Poland has many reasons to spend big on defence but becoming great power?
You need industrial base and stable or growing population.
Any linkage to French idea of independent European Defence is nonsense.
Poland understands that the only power capable and willing (at the moment) to really defend Europe is USA through Nato.
I forgot to add that if, as some people suggest, USA would give up on Ukraine in order to focus on China, Poland, Finland and Sweden would go nuclear.
Back to the article, and thanks BTW for the competing views of history…
Poland, while they are undoubtedly wishing Ukraine well might just be ensuring they are prepared for a beast from the East.
“The already fraught relationship with Germany …. will alter even more dramatically in coming decades when Poland surpasses its neighbour.”
Will they surpass Germany, or will they be part of a new arms race in Europe?
This is an old dream going back to the 1930s. It will never happen.
Come of it! Poland would not exist today had it not been for the Imperial German Army, directed by its brilliant Chief of Chief Max Hoffman who hammered the wretched Russians into the ground in the Spring of 1918.
Tsar, Kerensky, Bolshevik, it made no difference, defeat was absolute.
Thus did Poland emerge from over a century of Russian, Austrian & Prussian bondage.
For once luck (Fortuna) was on her side.
I think your argument here is dubious. Poland was partitioned amongst Germany, Austria and Russia before WWI and not actually independent. The Treaty of Versailles created most of the states of Eastern Europe – including Poland – regardless of what the Germans did in WWI. There is no reason to believe that the outcome would have been much different had Germany not rolled over Russia in the spring of 1918.
Recall also the 1920 Battle of Warsaw when the Poles beat the Russians/Soviet Union *on their own*.
Back to the article – the title is nonsense. Poland is becoming stronger relative to other European countries. But hardly a “great power”. But good that they are prepared to look after themselves.
Well, and in reverse order if I may, I agree the essay is nonsense, Poland becoming a “Great Power” is a gross exaggeration.
Yes, the recently revived Poles did defeat the Soviets in 1920, but in view of previous poor Soviet performance that was entirely predictable.
Had the Germany army NOT beaten Russia into the ground in 1917/18 it would no doubt have been one of the ‘victorious’ allies at Versailles, and would hardly have released Poland from bondage would it?
Did I imply that Poland was independent before WWI? You seem to imply that? Despite my brief appraisal of its more than a century of total subjugation.
Staying in reverse order (since I started it), no you didn’t imply that. I originally thought you did, but had already re-read and realised my error before writing.
Let’s go back to 1918. The Germans/Austrians were always going to lose at that stage – they ran out of food despite knocking out Russia. And no chance once the USA joined the war. They were finished in November 1918. So their parts of Poland would have been formed into a reconstituted Poland anyway. Remember also that Congress Poland was semi-autonomous within Russia. Also that Finland and the Baltic states broke away too. Russia would not have been the post-WWII Russia strong enough to stand up to the USA (or Britain, or France).
I don’t think many people did predict Poland winning the Battle of Warsaw at the time. I guess the Poles were also fighting with a scratch army.
Chronologically this time!
Had Germany gone on the defensive on the Western Front
in the Spring 1918 rather than the offensive, they would have stood a far better chance of achieving a compromise peace or even victory
Having comprehensively defeated Russia they now had the huge food resources of the Ukraine at their disposal to alleviate the pending starvation caused by the Royal Blockade that you allude to. When asked how he would procure that food, Max Hoffmann replied ‘he would use the Jews’.
By going on the defensive on the Western Front and fighting a phased withdrawal (as advocated by Hoffmann and others) they would have invited an all too bellicose’Black Jack’ Pershing to launch a major assault with his ‘Dough Boys’ exactly as the Allies had done in 1914-17, and probably with the same catastrophic results. A million American dead by the autumn might have brought about a compromise peace don’t you think?
As it was it was Ludendorff who tried that with his seriously ‘underfunded’ offensive of the 21st March onwards, in retrospect a ludicrous ‘all or nothing gamble’,
it must be said.
However returning to Russia, had they NOT lost I cannot see them giving up their huge slice of Poland or Finland or those Baltic provinces? Why should they?
So back to my original premise that Poland owes its freedom to the fact the German Army comprehensively defeated everything the Russians had, be it the Tsar, Kerensky or the wretched Bolsheviks, One of those ironies of history I suppose.
Impossible to be certain. But by 1918 the Germans were basically on their own – the Austrians were as busted as the Russians. It took us (the UK) 2 years to get properly up to speed in WWI. Germany were ready on day one.
I believe that Germany couldn’t cope financially with the war either. Like France in the Napoleonic Wars, their financial/economic model wasn’t very good for this.
Germany bailed out before they got steamrollered. Partly so they could claim “we never lost”. Which they did (including at Verdun).
Russia was dangerously unstable in 1917 – even from 1905 – whether it won or lost and would have struggled keeping things together. Also with huge foreign debts (France), so hardly in a position to dictate terms.
Niall Ferguson* provides a useful description of how Germany was able to pay for it all.
After all we couldn’t and were bankrupt by late 1916, hence our subsequent subservience to the US.
Yes Austria was teetering in 1918 and again should have remained on the defensive.
However all this ignores the astonishing achievement that the Germans managed to knock out Russia whilst more than holding their own on the Western Front, against us and the equally exhausted French. I think the late Norman Stone and Niall Ferguson are the only authorities to have actually acknowledged this truly remarkable fact.**
ps. This linear ‘posting’ is driving me mad, no doubt it is UnHerds way of preventing lengthy discussion!
(* ‘The Pity of War.)
(** Both Jocks interestingly.)
Not disagreeing that the Germans over-achieved in WWI.
Anyway, none of us – not the UK, France, Germany or Austria are “great powers” any more. And I think now happier for it. Of course, the Russians and French still like to think they are and have further disillusionment ahead of them. Please, let’s spare the Poles the experience – they’ve had more than enough to deal with over the past 300 years and deserve a rest.
Seems impossible to reply to your very last post, but I completely concur!
People seem to forget this 1920 episode where Poland fancied its own ‘Drang nach Osten’ into Bielorussia and The Ukraine. I would not be a happy neighbour with a rearmed Poland next door. Saying that, most of Western Ukraine would be happy being taking over by Poland, just to be in the EU anyway.
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