“It is not NATO, Poland or Slovakia that are mounting ever more pressure, but Russia, which has invaded Ukraine. Russia, which is seizing its territories. Russia, which is killing its people. And Russia, which is abducting Ukrainian children. Therefore, either Ukraine will defend its independence today, or we will have to enter this conflict. Because our main values, which were the basis of our civilization and our culture will be threatened. Therefore, we will have no choice but to enter the conflict,” the Polish Ambassador to France, Jan Emeryk Rościszewski, stated in an interview on March 18.
There is nothing alarming or extraordinary about the statement except its level of clarity. Eastern European countries do not support the Ukrainian fight for its right to exist – its sovereignty and independence – out of kindness alone, but primarily as a defense of their own country.
They are doing their uttermost to avoid the dramatic consequences of a potential Ukrainian defeat.
As I have previously argued, this would result in Russian forces being deployed along their borders; Russian military power moving 1,000 kilometers closer to Warsaw, Berlin, Paris, Brussels and London; Russian air defense systems covering a greater part of Central Europe; the Black Sea turning into a Russian lake. It would create a belt of constant instability along the border of the EU and NATO.
Equally important, it would give Russia access to an immense wealth of rare minerals, gas, oil and coal resources, as well as the “breadbasket of Europe.” It would gain control over the Ukrainian defense industry helping it to restore its military power.
Perhaps more importantly, a hypothetical Russian victory in Ukraine would be seen as a victory over NATO.
The statement by Ambassador Rościszewski follows the logic of NATO’s previous strategic concept, in which the Alliance undertook to stop conflicts that threaten the security and stability of its member states. The Russian conventional war in Ukraine and its hybrid war across Europe does exactly that: It threatens the security and stability of its member states.
This is why I have persistently argued in favor of what the ambassador implies: military intervention in Ukraine. I have listed eight objective arguments for why this is in NATO’s interest and described why intervention can prevent a nuclear disaster.
However, the statement by the Polish ambassador also highlights the discord within NATO.
While the U.S. stands firm on its policy of “no boots on the ground,” Eastern Europe is discussing doing just that. Whereas President Joe Biden stressed that the U.S. will not supply combat aircraft (F-16), President Andrzej Duda is donating combat aircraft (MiG-29) to Ukraine. When Eastern Europe asked NATO to do more (according to its strategic concept), NATO decided to do less. And when the EU highlights that its member states – most of which are also NATO members – are exposed to a Russian hybrid war, NATO limits itself to admitting that the Euro-Atlantic area is not at peace.
Polish arms build-up
The statement by Rościszewski is also in line with Polish security and defense policy. Polish actions reflect its statements.
Poland was allocating 2.42% of its GDP to its defense budget before the Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine began. Only Greece and the U.S. were spending more. In January, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawieck declared that Poland will increase its defense spending to 4% of GDP.
Poland’s army has 170,000 soldiers presently. On par with Germany today, it plans to build “the largest land army in Europe” with 300,000 men and women comprising 250,000 professional soldiers and 50,000 civil defense personnel.
Last year, it bought 250 Abrams tanks, expected to be delivered in late 2024. In January, Poland approved the purchase of further 116 Abrams tanks due to arrive later this year. Additionally, it has announced plans to procure 180 South Korean “K2 Black Panther” tanks. It plans to acquire more than 800 of the K2PL variant of the tank, many of which will be produced in Poland from 2026. It has already received the first shipment of tanks that it bought from South Korea in December.
The country has also bought four dozen K9 howitzers, with the planned procurement of a further 600 to start in 2024. Domestic production is expected to begin in 2026.
In February, the U.S. State Department approved the sale of up to $10 billion worth of 18 HIMARS rocket launchers and almost 500 launcher loader module kits along with ammunition to Poland.
In 2020, Poland signed a contract to acquire 32 F-35s from the U.S. It is also buying 48 FA-50 light combat fighter jets from South Korea. The first 12 jets are to be delivered in 2023 and a further 36 aircraft from 2025 to 2028.
Poland is not only building the strongest Armed Forces in Europe (after Ukraine), but it is also building the defense industry needed to sustain it. It is also diversifying the suppliers, increasing the speed of delivery, and reducing its dependency on the U.S.
Eastern Europe knows Russia better
The bottom line is that Poland is thinking, planning, and acting according to NATO’s late strategic concept. It is building military power to do – if needed – what the U.S. and NATO will not: i.e., fight alongside the Armed Forces of Ukrainian to stop a war that threatens European security and stability.
That makes sense. After all, the latest NATO members understand Russia perfectly well. The oldest members do not.
According to Hanno Pevkur, the Estonian defense minister, NATO is responsible for assisting Ukraine because it’s fighting for the free world. Estonia has provided military assistance to Ukraine worth more than 1% of its GDP, making Estonia’s assistance the world's largest in this term.
“I could also ask why the others are not doing as much as Estonians,” Pevkur said. “Because we all understand that Ukraine is not fighting only for itself and for the Ukrainian people. They are fighting for a free world and a rule-based world. So this is why we have to help Ukraine as much as we can. Of course, we know that Ukraine needs that help desperately.”
In Madrid last year, NATO declared that “the Euro-Atlantic area is not at peace. The Russian Federation’s brutal war of aggression against Ukraine has shattered peace in Europe… and poses the most significant and direct threat to Allies’ security and to peace and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area.”
Eastern Europe is acting accordingly. Ukraine is fighting for its right to exist. And yet, 20 out of 30 NATO members are still not meeting their commitment to invest 2% of their GDP in defense. The defense industries are still not producing what is needed at a speed reflecting the urgency of the situation.
A month before the full-scale invasion I argued that the likelihood of a military escalation had increased because of the lack of political courage in the West – the lack of the Churchills and the surfeit of Chamberlains. Unfortunately, this is still the case.
In the absence of NATO resolve, President Xi Jinping is pondering China’s next move.
The views expressed in this opinion article are the author’s and not necessarily those of Kyiv Post.
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"Over a half century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of old people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: 'Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened. Since then I have spent well-nigh 50 years working on the history of our revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: 'Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened
Has anyone ever considered the fact that Russia has set the record for devouring it's own people?
According to Solzhenitsyn about sixty million! China, seemingly learning from Russia may have killed more, but nowhere nearly the percentage that Russia did.
Something bad wrong with the Russian mind.
Still killing it's own. Ukrainians are Slavic, just as well as Russians.
I seem to recall, from my reading on the subject, that the Poles and Ukrainians, did quite the number on the Soviet Gulag System, back in the day...
Any country, in this day and age, who relies on NATO to protect them is stupid. France, Britain, America is run by woke liberal idiots who develop dial it down gravity dropped nuclear bombs to defend Europe from planes that will not even make it off the ground in a nuclear war with Russia or China. Develop your own!!! There would be no war with Ukraine if Ukraine had nuclear missiles capable of hitting Moscow. Start thinking like North Korea...really China but for idiots!!!!!
Terrific essay, which largely captures my sympathies. As I said to countless Ukrainians last summer, "You will win. My country [The United States of America] should be doing more . . . ." ✌️I still believe that. What I do not believe are these comments that liken President Biden to Prime Minister Chamberlain as well as those that deem President and the United States to be cowardly. Yes, I would like to see a far more robust response by my country and the United Kindom.
There is, after all, a moral (if not treaty} obligation assumed under the Buda Pest Memorandum of 1994. Yes, the U.S., the U.K. and N.A.T.O. are stepping up. No, I am not seated in the chair of President Biden or that of Prime Minister Sunak, who have to weigh the possibility of precipitating a nuclear exchange. Call me a coward, but it is easy to be brave when I am in a position of no power and less influence. 😉
@Ned McDonnell (want to serve as retiree in Ukraine),
". . . . President Biden and the United . . . ."
*(if not treaty)
Does Europe want to die for Ukraine? That is what it would mean if Poland were to launch its armed forces. It is one thing to supply weapons and another to supply soldiers. I think the people of Europe are in solidarity! But there are limits. To send own soldiers is probably unthinkable for many. No matter how the war ends.
@Roland Ruckstuhl, either you face Putin in Ukraine and hope the damage/killings will be limited or you face Putin in your own land, knowing that your children, hospitals, schools are all fair game for that war criminal. Right now, Ukrainians are dying for Europe.
So now now America is the cowards of the world.
Excellent article with a great deal of thought. It is up to Poland, Biden has no resolve to do it.
@John Karns, Biden is a coward like Neville Chamberlain.