In September 2019, the State Department approved a $6.5 billion deal to sell Poland thirty-two F-35A Lightning II stealth jets, as well as training and maintenance packages. The deal awaits only likely congressional approval.
Though President Andrzej Duda’s turn towards increasing authoritarianism has chilled Polish relations with western Europe, the Polish right remains close with Washington and still sees Russia as a serious threat—in stark contrast to pro-Putin nationalist parties in Austria, France, Hungary and Italy.
Russia and Germany dominated Poland throughout the majority of the twentieth-century and nearly all of the nineteenth century. Since Putin’s seizure of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and involvement in the separatist conflict in Eastern Ukraine, Warsaw has increased military spending substantially to 2.1 percent of Gross Domestic Product in 2019.
Warsaw’s current Technical Modernization Plan projects a €43.2 billion in spending from 2017-2026, by the end of which 39 percent of which will be directed at procuring new systems.
However, Dr. Krzysztof Kuska, a defense analyst and contributor to Janes and other publications, wrote to me that those numbers don’t tell the whole story.
“Polish armed forces, although looking good on paper, were left behind for many years. It will be difficult to bring them back into shape with limited resources that Poland has. Although spending 2 percent of the GDP, you have to take into account the size of the GDP compared to other Western countries.”
Warsaw is struggling to modernize its diverse military assets, ranging from Soviet-era Su-22 Fitter attack jets and T-72 tanks to more modern Western F-16C/D Falcon jets and Leopard 2 tanks, and domestically produced W-3 Sokół medium helicopters and PT-91 tanks.
Poland’s northeastern border includes the forty-mile wide Suwalki Gap—NATO’s only land-corridor connecting the militarily vulnerable Baltic states. But Poland itself is exposed to attack by Russian tactical ballistic missiles and long-range artillery in the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, and potentially from Russian forces staged in Belarus.
Even the airspace directly above many Polish airfields could theoretically be interdicted by Russia’s S-400 long-range surface-to-air missiles.
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