Poland to spend $42 billion on military buildup
Poland, a NATO member, has launched an unprecedented multi-billion military spending spree amid tensions between the Western military alliance and Russia over the crisis in Ukraine.
Warsaw has reportedly earmarked 33.6 billion euros (USD 42 billion) to upgrade its military equipment over a decade, including a missile shield and anti-aircraft systems as well as combat drones.
The largest purchase is seventy multi-role helicopters worth 2.5 billion euros, while the Eastern European NATO member also plans to buy armored personnel carriers, submarines and cruise missiles.
The cruise missiles would reportedly enable the Polish air force to attack targets in Russia without having to leave their own airspace.
Polish Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak has said that the military boost is a reaction to the crisis in neighboring Ukraine, which he has described as the biggest security threat to Europe since the end of the Cold War.
NATO expansion in Eastern Europe
The move also comes as NATO is planning to expand its military presence in Eastern Europe amid the Ukraine crisis.
The defense ministers of NATO’s 28 member states agreed on February 5 to establish six new command and control posts in the Eastern European nations of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Bulgaria and Romania.
NATO also decided to set up a new headquarters in western Poland to support northeastern member states as well as a similar site in Romania for members in southeastern Europe.
The military alliance has over the past year increased its presence and conducted several exercises in Eastern Europe amid the crisis in Ukraine. In 2014, NATO forces held some 200 military exercises and the alliance’s General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg has promised that such drills would continue.
Moscow has repeatedly condemned NATO’s exercises and military buildup toward its borders.
Last week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said NATO’s move provokes confrontation and undermines European security.
Russia’s Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov announced last month that Moscow plans to boost its military capabilities in the Crimean peninsula, the Arctic and the westernmost Kaliningrad region, amid NATO build-up in Eastern Europe.
Relations between Russia and NATO strained after Ukraine’s Crimea re-integrated into the Russian Federation following a referendum on March 16, 2014. The military alliance ended all practical cooperation with Russia over the ensuing crisis in Ukraine last April.
Russia approved last December an updated version of the country’s military doctrine which considers NATO military buildup as a major foreign threat against its national security.
The United States and its European allies accuse the Kremlin of destabilizing Ukraine and have imposed a number of sanctions against Russian and pro-Moscow figures. Russia, however, rejects the accusation and has retaliated with sanctions of its own.