With the conflict in neighboring Ukraine raging and defense taking center stage ahead of scheduled parliamentary elections in October, NATO member Poland held its largest military parade since the Cold War to commemorate a victory over Soviet forces in 1920.
Tuesday’s march commemorated the 103rd anniversary of Poland’s triumph over the Red Army of the Soviet Union in the Battle of Warsaw in 1920, when Polish troops stopped Bolshevik forces from expanding throughout Europe.
The country’s ruling nationalist party Law and Justice (PiS) has declared strengthening the Polish military forces a top priority in response to Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The massive exhibition of military equipment on Tuesday gave the administration an opportunity to highlight its security credentials as the nation’s election campaign was in full swing.
In his statement at the event, Poland’s President Andrzej Duda, who also serves as the country’s top military commander, declared that “defending our eastern border, the border of the European Union, and the border of NATO is today a key element of Poland’s state interest.”
In sweltering temperatures that reached 35C (95F), crowds flocked to see the march of American-made Patriot missile systems, HIMARS mobile artillery systems, and Abrams tanks through the streets of the nation’s capital while waving patriotic white-and-red flags.
South Korean FA-50 aircraft, F-16 fighters, and K9 howitzers were also on exhibit. Poland is also purchasing these cutting-edge fighter aircraft, as evidenced by the US Air Force F-35 roaring overhead. There was other weaponry built in Poland, such as Rosomak armored carriers and Krab tracked artillery howitzers.
The parade featured 2,000 soldiers from Poland and other NATO nations, 200 military vehicles and various pieces of gear, and over 100 aircraft.
Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak addressed the troops and onlookers who had gathered near the Vistula River, saying, “August 15 is not only an opportunity to pay homage to the heroes of the successful Battle of Warsaw and to thank modern soldiers for defending our homeland.”
Additionally, he added, “Today is the ideal opportunity to demonstrate our resolve and the strength of our armed forces, which will resolutely protect our borders.”
— Mariusz Błaszczak (@mblaszczak) August 15, 2023
More over 175,000 soldiers make up Poland’s army, up from roughly 100,000 eight years ago, according to Duda.
The highest percentage in all of NATO, he added, Poland’s defense spending will reach a record 137 billion zlotys ($34 billion) this year, or around 4% of GDP.
In a show of respect for the armed forces, Duda stated, “The aim of this massive modernization is to equip Poland’s armed forces and create such a defence system that no one ever dares attack us, that Polish soldiers will never need to fight.”
We cannot afford to be idle, Duda said in response to accusations that Poland, a country of over 37 million people, was taking out large loans to fund the acquisitions. We are currently bolstering our armed forces because of this.
“The security of Poles is priceless,” he continued. In a report from Warsaw, Al Jazeera’s Osama Bin Javaid stated that more than a century after the conflict with Soviet forces, “a shadow of war” once more lurks on Poland’s frontiers. And for that reason, he continued, “the government keeps telling its people that it needs a strong, powerful army.”
Poland’s conservative government has prioritized bolstering the military forces and spent more than $16 billion on tanks, missile interceptor systems, and fighter jets, many of which were purchased from the US and South Korea, since Russia began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
Poland has a border to the east with Kaliningrad, a Russian outpost, Lithuania, another NATO member, Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia’s most important ally.
Poland’s defense capabilities have been strengthened by military improvements, and certain things have replaced Soviet- and Russian-made gear that Poland had sent to Ukraine in its conflict with Russia.
Poland has raised the number of troops along its border with Belarus to about 10,000, where it has also built a wall to prevent migrants from coming from that direction. Poland is building one of Europe’s strongest militaries to strengthen deterrence against prospective aggressors.