On May 12, 2020, Polish President Andrzej Duda signed a new National defense strategy that annuls the previous, 2014 document. The strategy has high importance because it defines clearly and concretely almost all significant regional changes and challenges: Russia’s aggressive and growing expansionist policies, in the wake of cyber and energy threats, as well as economic and environmental issues and underlines priority of rapid infrastructure development.
It is important to emphasize the fact that the new defense strategy labels potential threats from Russia as neo-imperialism, which is primarily reflected in the occupation of Georgia and Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea. The Defense Strategy not only supports the territorial integrity of Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova but also urges to take action to resolve them.
The strategy acknowledges real threats from Russia and does not end with the occupation of the territories of neighboring or allied countries. The Defense Strategy discusses Russia’s rapid development of offensive weapons and their deployment to the Polish border in the Kaliningrad region, which threatens the security of both Poland and the Baltic states. In 2017, during the unprecedented large-scale military exercise “Zapad”, Russian troops deployed not only in Kaliningrad but also in Belarus, adjacent to Poland. During the exercise, Russo-Belarusian command considered Poland as an imaginary opponent. After “Zapad”, not only did the number of US troops increase in Poland but by 2032, an additional $ 55 billion in defense spending has been determined.
Given this threat, the document highlights the need for civil defense, which can be informed even by social media assistance to increase public awareness and to deter Kremlin’s propaganda. Also, civil defense units can be trained for basic military training. The strategy also aims to allocate 2.5% of GDP for defense by 2024, which will significantly increase the defense budget and develop the above-mentioned civil defense.
The following of the Russian occupation of Ukraine and Georgia, alongside with the hybrid warfare, Poland’s defense strategy directly points to the strengthening of cybersecurity and raising awareness of hybrid style of warfare, thus limiting disinformation and Russian propaganda. The strategy speaks of the important fact that the purpose of misinformation is not only to polarize the political environment within Poland but also to introduce and sow disagreements between NATO and EU members and their allies.
The defense strategy also draws attention to global challenges and, on the one hand, speaks of the China-US tensions, which connects both economic and military means, and, on the other hand, points out repeals a number of agreements aimed at reducing the proliferation and reduction of weapons which poses further international threats. Indirectly, the strategy recognizes that modern international politics has returned to the Cold War-era challenges and competition, especially since tensions have spread outside the Earth, even in outer space, where Russia, China and the United States are the main opponents. To balance this latter issue, the strategy emphasizes the need to launch military and civilian satellites on the orbit and underlines the importance of developing new technologies.
Energy is the Achilles heel of European politics. First of all, it is noteworthy that the strategy is directly opposed and perceives North Stream 2 as a potential threat. The project involves the development of underwater passage for Russian gas to German markets under the Baltic Sea. Through this Germany becomes increasingly dependent on Russia, while Poland and Belarus, as energy transit countries, remain completely out of the game, thus losing political leverage in addition to economic losses.
On the other hand, the strategy emphasizes the need to develop domestic energy infrastructure. The document talks about increasing the sources of electricity generation, as well as replenishing reserves and maintaining energy transmission systems, which means the development of underdeveloped infrastructure or their complete removal. Energy is a political issue for Poland especially in terms of that the Baltic states will receive a large part of their energy directly through Poland, which will not only connect them directly to the common European energy network – also known as the synchronous grid of Continental Europe – but will also increase Poland’s soft power.
It is also important to emphasize regional cooperation: the document not only promotes Poland’s relations with the EU and NATO and supports establishment of possible EU armed forces, but also seeks to expand its ties with the Visegrad Group, the Bucharest Nine and the Weimar Triangle. All of these connections make Poland much more significant and almost unreplaceable member of not EU and NATO in general, but the US too.
Finally, the strategy identifies two important challenges: rapid development of economic innovation and technology and environmental protection. The first one is Poland’s desire to become the economic center of Europe, the second one is much more problematic, as rising air pollution and drought have not only threatened the agricultural economy and adjacent activities, but also the health of the population, while latter is crucial for every country.
The opinions and conclusions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Tbilisi or The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland.