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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » August 1, 2014
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Security: The Philosophy and the Practice
August 1, 2014   
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Twenty-five years ago, when Poland was on the cusp of becoming an independent country, it was still a member of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (Comecon), the Soviet-dominated organization that comprised the Eastern Bloc along with a number of socialist states around the world. The Warsaw Pact, the Cold-War defense treaty between eight communist states in Central and Eastern Europe, was still in existence and 300,000 Soviet Army soldiers were stationed in Poland. Poland’s numerous military training sites were busy with activity and in the country’s military plans Denmark was still listed as the number one potential target.

And then the Round Table talks between Poland’s Solidarity activists and the Communist party suddenly precipitated a surprising sequence of events. The communists ceded power to the democratic opposition. Few expected that Comecon and the Warsaw Pact would be dissolved almost overnight and even fewer anticipated the imminent demise of the Soviet bloc and the collapse of the Soviet Union. And nobody was picturing Poland as a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization or Polish soldiers with NATO stripes on their uniforms. Not even the most forward-thinking Polish officers envisioned themselves as NATO commanders, nor could they imagine their men fighting under the NATO flag.

Having traveled a long and winding road with many obstacles on the way, Poland joined NATO 15 years ago. It accepted all the obligations that came with membership and received all the security guarantees it was entitled to as a member. To incorporate a country this large and populous—and situated on the boundary of two worlds—was a major challenge for everybody involved. Above all, it was a challenge for those on either side of the barricades and for us Poles. We were ready to take on all the political, military and economic obligations arising from our membership of NATO. We have fully met those obligations, for example by introducing a change to the constitution under which 1.95 percent of GDP must be allocated to the military. We have also met all our other obligations, including those that come at the highest price. Poland has not hesitated to deploy its troops to the front during NATO missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Forty-four of our soldiers have died there. We have proved that we are trustworthy allies. Our presence has also been noticed in NATO command and military strategy units. We have made a substantial contribution to developing both short-term and long-term plans for NATO operations.

A lot more besides has happened over the past 15 years. The Polish army, now made up of professionals instead of conscripted soldiers, has modern troops, modern equipment and combat experience acquired serving alongside other NATO armies. And billions will be pumped into upgrading Poland’s armed forces in a far-reaching modernization program.

We report on all of this in this special edition of the Voice, which marks the 15th anniversary of Poland joining NATO. We highlight the strategic aspects of NATO membership, focusing on the contribution Poland has been making to collective security, which extends far beyond Poland’s individual security. Meanwhile, the crisis in Ukraine has forced us to rethink many problems that we believed we had solved. Ukraine, however, is not the main focus of our interviews with Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak and Ryszard Kardasz, a top defense industry executive. The Ukraine crisis is a pressing problem that needs quick decisions. Long-term conclusions will be drawn from thorough analyses and strategic decisions worked out by NATO as a whole.
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