Poland connects the European security puzzle

Natalia Wojtowicz suggests that Poland can play leading role in connecting regional security initiatives to make EU and NATO strategies more coherent.

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Judging by the growing engagement of Europe in security cooperation, the times have never been more supportive for a combined strategy. Defense spending is on the rise, new structures are established, and old ones reinforced. The Russian strategy of “divide and conquer” has brought the responding “ally and counter”.

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Poland’s love-hate relationship with the EU

Tuula Koponen has a very interesting account of Poland’s troubled relationship with the European Union in Diplomaatia.ee. It seems like a love-hate relationship where Poland is in opposition to almost everything that the EU stands for, yet the EU is extremely popular among Poles with an 88 percent approval rating.

Kaczyński’s policy in Poland is based on the same values as Orbán’s in Hungary. Family, faith and fatherland are important. Both swear allegiance to democracy, but both find liberal democracy and multiculturalism as abhorrent as repressive communist power.

Poland thinks, like Hungary, that it is fighting foreign dominance. And, just like Hungary, Poland also wants to become a model state that the rest of Europe can learn from.

It is said that Orbán’s “illiberal democracy” has the same origin as Vladimir Putin’s in Russia. Even though the Polish model may look the same from outside, it is never acknowledged. Russia is now a strategic partner for Hungary, but Poland’s main enemy. Polish identity is based on opposition to Russia.

On the surface this has little to do with defense politics, but in the long term it is dangerous for the alliance cohesion if Poland has dramatically different values from the other NATO countries in the Baltic region.

Ocean capable corvettes could be affordable force enablers

Yesterday the Russian Ministry of Defense announced that Soobrazitelnyy, a corvette from the Baltic Fleet, had passed through the Suez Canal from the Red Sea into the Mediterranean. This was the latest in a series of press releases covering the journey of two Steregushchiy class corvettes and an auxiliary vessel from the Baltic Fleet.

The three ships Boiky, Soobrazitelnyy, and Kola departed from Baltiysk on 14 October, and it was announced that they would complete tasks in the Atlantic Ocean. Since then, the ministry’s press service has been generous with updates on the journey. Reports have been made on the passage of the Strait of Gibraltar, AAW and ASW exercises, a port visit in Limassol, how the ships split up with Boiky completing tasks in the Mediterranean (I suppose around Syria) and Soobrazitelnyy passing the Suez Canal to participate in anti-piracy operations and visit the port of Djibouti. With the ships reunited in the Mediterranean I suppose it is reasonable to assume that the group will head home soon, perhaps in time for Christmas which in Russia is on 7 January.

Obviously, with this massive press coverage one has to wonder whether the point of the whole journey was to generate attention. Nevertheless I do think that the proof of concept is really interesting. Medium sized warships that are large enough to endure the ocean yet small enough to be affordable could prove very useful in the future.

These are ships with a displacement around 2000 tons. Aside from the Russian Steregushchiy class, I think the German Braunschweig class and the British Batch 2 River Class are interesting examples of such warships. A look at the Baltic navies reveals that most only have ships that are much larger or much smaller.

For countries like Denmark, Norway, and Poland such medium sized warships could permit the country to participate in low-risk maritime security operations while the larger frigates could focus on tasks where their broad warfare capabilities are needed. For other countries like Sweden ocean capable corvettes could make it possible to participate at all.

US approves sales of Guidable MLRS and air-to-air missiles to Poland

The American Defense Security Cooperation Agency has approved the sale of the HIMARS rocket system to Poland from Lockheed Martin. This will give Poland a potent ground-to-ground missile system capable of hitting targets at ranges up to 300 kilometers. Poland intends to equip three divisions with the high-precision missiles which will be installed on Polish Jelcz vehicles.

The sale of 150 additional AIM-120C-7 AMRAAM medium range air-to-air missiles for Poland’s F-16 fighters was also approved. Poland had expressed a desire to buy the improved AIM-120D, but apparently USA was not willing to provide this missile that so far only has been exported to Australia.

Poland receives new minehunter

The first ship in a series of new minehunters joined the Polish Navy this week when ORP Kormoran officially entered service at a ceremony in Gdynia. It was expected that Poland could receive Kormoran in 2016 but the process was delayed by about a year.

The Kormoran project was initially initiated in 1999, but it was canceled in 2002. In 2007 the project was reactivated under the name of Kormoran II, and in 2013 the final contract with the shipyard was signed. In 2015 Kormoran was launched, and since then technical trials have been conducted.

Kormoran is a modern minehunter that is constructed of non-magnetic steel. It features a low noise profile and high maneuverability due to the two Voith Schneider propellers that combine propulsion and steering in one unit. The ship has a displacement of 850 tons. The crew size is 45 persons, and the maximum speed is 15 knots. It operates the Saab Double Eagle and Kongsberg’s Hugin 1000 MR autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV).

The two next ships of the class are the Albatros and the Mewa which are expected to enter service in 2019 and 2022. The three ships will replace the old Krogulec-class ships built in the 1960s.

Sale of Patriot missiles to Poland approved

The U.S. State Department has approved the sale of Patriot missiles to Poland, reports Reuters:

The proposed sale includes 208 Patriot Advanced Capabilty-3 (PAC-3) Missile Segment Enhancement missiles, 16 M903 launching stations, four AN/MPQ-65 radars, four control stations, spares, software and associated equipment.

In addition, Poland is authorized to buy U.S. government and contractor technical, engineering and logistics support services as well as range and test programs for a total estimated potential program cost of up to $10.5 billion.

It is expected that the final negotiated price will be lower. Poland has mentioned an estimated price of $7.6 billion on the deal.

Fire on Polish submarine

Poland’s Kilo-class submarine Orzeł has had a fire accident while docked in Gdynia, reports Naval Today. The damages are so bad that it is uncertain that Orzeł will ever come into service again.

Orzeł is Poland’s only Kilo-class submarine. Poland also has four Kobben-class submarines but they have all passed the 50 year mark and are much less capable than Orzeł.

What a terrible string of bad luck for NATO’s submarine fleet in the Baltic. Last week the German Navy announced that none of their submarines are operational for the time being, and now Poland may effectively be in the same situation.

Poland increases defense spending

Poland is increasing defense spending, according to Digital Journal:

Poland on Friday hiked defence spending above the 2 percent of GDP target set by NATO which few member states have so far have met.

The parliament, in which the rightwing government has a majority, endorsed plans by Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz to raise the budget from the current 2 percent of GDP to 2.5 percent by 2030.

Under this plan, spending is initially expected to reach 2.1 percent by 2020.
[…]
Troop numbers in Poland are also expected to grow from 130,000 to 200,000, by 2030, including 130,000 professional soldiers. The rest will be reserves.

That’s a lot of soldiers.