Polish Defense Minister Wants to Almost Double Size of Army

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Poland's defense minister Antoni Macierewicz at the Law and Justice party headquarters in Warsaw, Poland, November 9, 2015. Kacper Pempel/Reuters

Poland’s minister of defense says the country should increase its army to 150,000 soldiers, almost double its current size, Polish weekly military magazine Polska Zbrojna reported on Monday.

Speaking about his assessment of the armed forces since stepping into the office late last year, Antoni Macierewicz said there needs to be a move to strengthen Poland’s military. According to Macierewicz, Polish parliament allows for a military force of 100,000 but in reality the country’s ground forces number less than 80,000.

“For over 200 years we have not had a 100,000-strong army,” he said. “I believe that in effect the Polish army should comprise of 150,000 soldiers. This is the minimum which is necessary to respond to military threats.”

Macierewicz said Poland plans to create three new brigades for territorial defense on its eastern borders and reinforce the region with existing units currently deployed elsewhere.

“We don’t want our military to be focused on the western border, as it was in 1989,” Macierewicz added, referring to the Polish military’s dated layout, which still uses some of the networks and facilities designed during its allegiance with the Soviet Union. Poland’s western territory was crucial in Soviet strategy, as it shared a large border with the heavily policed East Germany.

The defense minister called the conflict in eastern Ukraine the biggest threat to European security and offered to support France’s airstrikes in Syria, provided France supports the deployment of NATO troops to Poland.

“I am very impressed with the efforts of the Ukrainian state, its defense ministry and the army have made since the start of the Russian aggression,” Macierewicz said. “Undoubtedly, there was a great mobilization, not only patriotic, emotional, but also organizational and political.”

He said Warsaw would never “accept” Russia’s annexation of Crimea but added that despite Kiev being a “strategic partner,” there are chapters of Polish-Ukrainian history that still complicate relations.

One of those is the Volyn massacre, when around 40,000 Polish civilians were killed during World War II, allegedly at the hands of Ukrainian partisans, in Nazi-occupied southeastern Poland. The two countries are investigating the tragedy, which is named after the area where it took place.