mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
Shocker: EU Country to Increase Defense Spending


In a real man-bites-dog story, an EU country with an economy that has expanded by almost a fifth since 2008 has opted to boost its military procurement in the coming decade by $43 billion. The country in question is Poland, the FT reports:

Until now, most of that spending has gone on personnel, with only around 15 per cent for equipment, leaving the Polish military reliant on outdated Soviet-era kit. The involvement of Polish forces in Iraq and Afghanistan has highlighted the need for better, upgraded equipment.

The programme aims to spend about a third of the defence budget over the next decade on modernisation—amounting to about 140bn zlotys. That will buy a new missile defence system, new vessels for the navy fleet, upgraded tanks, new military training aircraft, 70 new helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles and equipment for troops.

While it might be the equivalent of a rounding error for the US defense budget, Poland’s spending boost is notable for bucking a Europe-wide trend on many levels. Poland is one of the few countries not cutting spending (as well as one of the few with an economy that’s not sputtering). Poland is also an outlier insofar as it’s actually spending money on upgrading its defense capabilities rather than just hiring more soldiers. As Gideon Rachman quipped in a column a few months back, “about 75 per cent of Belgian military spending now goes on personnel—causing one critic to call the Belgian military ‘an unusually well-armed pension fund’.”

Poland’s remarkable economic and political successes since the fall of communism are giving it an expanding role in EU politics, and even in the world beyond. If more EU countries would do likewise, Europe would have a more influential voice in world politics. Perhaps more importantly, the US would be working more closely with it rather than using it as a grudging military backstop as it did in Libya, when the EU ran out of ammunition, or in Mali, when France realized it needed additional air-to-air refueling capabilities that only the US could provide.

[Polish soldiers in Iraq, courtesy Getty Images]

Newer Post Older Post
Features Icon
show comments
  • wigwag

    The Polish story since the fall of communism has been a wonderful. We should be doing everything we can to encourage Poland to continue down the great path that it’s been on. Instead both the President and Congress seem to feel that slapping Poland in the face at every available opportunity is the way to go.

    In his bid to “reset” relations with Russia, President Obama reneged on a promise to Poland to station missiles on its territory capable of shooting down anything nasty that Iran might seek to send our way. The Poles got screwed and the Iranians had one less thing to worry about. How exactly did Obama’s reset with Russia work out?

    Not to be outdone in stupidity, the United States Congress refuses to include Poland in our visa waiver program. A significant number of former Warsaw Pact nations and Soviet satellites participate in the program which means citizens of those nations can travel to the United States with no visa. Amongst these nations are: The Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary (the most anti-Semitic nation in Europe), Lithuania, Slovakia and Slovenia.

    Poland has asked numerous times to be included, but Congress, mostly at the behest of anti-immigration Republicans refuses to consider it.

    The reason given for refusing to include Poland is that supposedly too many Poles come to the United States and refuse to leave; the accusation is that a substantial number work here illegally. The charge is nonsense. There’s no evidence that Poles are more likely to work illegally in the United States than Czechs, Slovaks or Hungarians.

    Even if there was; the United States is lucky that Poles want to come here. These Poles are educated and virtually all of them speak English. They tend to be industrious, thrifty, entrepreneurial and passionately pro-American. Many are religious (overwhelmingly Roman Catholic) and they virtually never seek welfare payments. If our politicians had any brains, they would be begging the Poles to emigrate to the United States.

    There are a large number of Poles, here legally and illegally in the Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens where Professor Mead lives. Just a few miles from there, the second largest Polish neighborhood in the United States can be found in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. That neighborhood is gentrifying quickly. It is a waterfront neighborhood which is one selling point but it also boasts one of the lowest crime rates in New York City. Why? Because so many Poles live there. It’s a great place for New Yorkers to go to eat. Anyone who hasn’t tried the national dish of Poland, bigos, hasn’t lived. As if that wasn’t enough, the perogies, you can get in Greenpoint are otherworldly. The largest community of Poles in the United States lives in an around Chicago.

    One thing that Professor Mead neglected to mention in his post is why the Polish economy is doing well enough to increase defense spending; its because unlike so many of their European neighbors the Poles never adopted the Euro. In Poland, the Zloty is still the official currency.

    The other thing Professor Mead neglected to mention is why the Poles are more focused on defense than their neighbors are. Being sandwiched between Germany and Russia might have something to do with it. The Poles may look to their west and conclude that Germany is a spent power with little interest in playing a dominant military role in the future, but as they look to their east, what they see is President Putin and his grandstanding.

    If I lived in Poland, I would support an increase in military spending too.

    • Tom

      The Democrats aren’t exactly that bright, either.

      • wigwag

        No they are not.

  • Corlyss

    Poland’s EU masters will not be pleased . . . .

  • Jim Luebke

    So if the Turks decide to have another go at Vienna, there will be another Sobieski to stop them?

    What would Poland have to shell out to get the title, “Most powerful military in Europe” these days? The bar is getting awfully low.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service