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The Strongest Army in Europe?

In response to Russia’s war in Ukraine, Poland’s populist government has embarked on what looks like a major rearmament program. Yet, despite all the announced plans to purchase state-of-the-art weaponry from the United States and South Korea, very little thought seems to have gone into how to plan the country’s defense.

WARSAW – There is a growing belief that Poland will soon have Europe’s strongest army. Poland’s ruling party, Law and Justice (PiS), has not missed any opportunity to drum this message home, and one increasingly hears it being echoed abroad, too. But is it true?

The claim largely rests on the PiS government’s unprecedented arms purchases and plans to expand the army to 300,000 soldiers by 2035. Under the new national-defense law, military spending should reach 3% of GDP this year – a full percentage point above what is expected of NATO members generally. Jarosław Kaczyński, Poland’s de facto leader, who formally serves as deputy prime minister, has publicly considered a longer-term target of 5% of GDP.

In response to Russia’s full-scale invasion of neighboring Ukraine, Poland is expanding its military – currently comprising 128,000 active personnel and about 36,000 territorial defense troops – and its arms purchases, both to bolster its own defense and to replenish its supplies. Poland has donated so many planes, tanks, guns, combat vehicles, and other equipment to Ukraine that, without rapidly resupplying purchases, it would be on track to lose nearly half its defense capabilities.