Global Analysis from the European Perspective. Preparing for the world of tomorrow




Poland Should Rethink its Defense Strategy

It was 77 years ago today that the Second World War began. Early in the morning on September 1st German troops violated the country’s territorial integrity along all of the shared borderline and later that same day Chancellor Adolf Hitler delivered a speech in the Reichstag some of whose words went down in history: Polen hat heute Nacht zum ersten Mal auf unserem eigenen Territorium auch mit bereits regulären Soldaten geschossen. Seit 5:45 Uhr wird jetzt zurückgeschossen!

Poland had heavily relied on the alliance that it had with France and on the British guarantees. These two made her bold in her dealings with Germany, stiffening her attitude in resisting German proposals as to the Polish Corridor, a strip of land separating East Prussia from Germany, or any other alterations of the borderline that had been agreed upon at Versailles. Approved historians have argued that Poland was the first after the fall of Austria and Czechoslovakia to militarily oppose German expansion; not mainstream historians have put forward a thesis that Warsaw let itself be used by Paris and London in encircling Berlin and provoking it to launch an attack in the east rather than in the west. The western powers sought ways to contain Germany within the Munich 1938 borders, or to bring it into contact with the Soviet Union and funnel the German impetus there, in which they tried to employ Warsaw’s help. The British guarantees concerning Poland’s independence of April 1939 sent a clear message to the German government, which in an attempt to break out of the encirclement struck a political deal with Moscow in August 1939 (the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact). Thus it was Poland that eventually found itself encircled by two neighbouring and powerful states (the Third Reich’s eastern territory looked like a horseshoe with a Polish wedge pushed into it). When at 5:45 on September 1st it came to a showdown, it soon turned out that neither France nor Great Britain could be bothered to lift a finger in the defence of their ally save for making a meaningless declaration of war against Germany; when, in keeping with the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact on September 17th the Soviet Union invaded Poland from the east, claiming it needed to protect Ukrainians and Belorussians living across the border, neither France nor Great Britain declared war on Moscow.

77 years later Poland is relying heavily on the military assistance from and protection guaranteed by NATO, whose member she became in 1999, and especially on the aid from the United States. Today it is Vladimir Putin, who is touted to the world as another Adolf Hitler, and Poland again is instigated by western powers to stiffen her attitude towards its mighty neighbour, which she is duly doing, counting on the Western support. It can again be observed that German politicians are showing signs of being willing to improve the relations with Russia rather than act against Moscow on behalf of the United States. Will things repeat themselves when push comes to shove? The Polish government is playing into the hands of Washington’s interests in Ukraine, which is not much to the taste of the Polish people; Warsaw is militantly critical of Moscow’s policy, and does Brussels every bidding despite the fact that when business is being discussed, it is Paris, Berlin and Moscow who ‘are invited to decide Ukraine’s future, with Warsaw being left out. Yet, Poland is trying to be obliging. And what if Vladimir Putin loses his patience in, say, 2019 the way Adolf Hitler did in 1939 and declares to the whole world that Прошедшей ночью польские солдаты впервые учинили стрельбу на нашей территории. От 5.45 утра мы отвечаем огнём? What would the chances be in an all-out war between the two countries?

 

Poland

Russia

Total population

38.500.000

142.500.000

Manpower fit for service

15.500.000

47.000.000

Reaching military age annually

435.000

1.355.000

Active military personnel

120.000

766.000

Aircraft (all types)

461

3.547

Helicopters

210

1.237

Tanks

1.009

15.398

 

What if two weeks later, on the basis of a Ribbentrop-Molotov repeat of the Pact Germany finishes Poland off from the West, claiming it has to regain the territories it (“unjustly”) lost to Poland in 1945?

 

Poland

Germany

Total population

38.500.000

80.850.000

Manpower fit for service

15.500.000

29.900.000

Reaching military age annually

435.000

790.000

Active military personnel

120.000

180.000

Aircraft (all types)

461

676

Helicopters

210

359

Tanks

1.009

408

Data provided by GlobalFirePower.com.

The Warsaw government is being flattered by the West, which keeps saying that Poland is “the only thing staying between Putin and Europe,” and Warsaw is acting as though it had risen to the bait1)Don’t Mess With Poland, War is Boring, 2014-03-28..

Rough comparison of the armed forces and the military potential demonstrated above shows that Poland stands little chance in a confrontation with either of her neighbours, let alone with the coalition of the two. No amount of armament development can account for the edge they have, and still Warsaw has announced it was going to increase military expenditure towards enlarging the size of the Polish army.

When a small nation is confronted with an aggression from a much bigger one, it may take one of the two courses:

1 have alliances; or

2 have very strong armed forces of its own, acting as a deterrent.

Alliances prove now and again to be unreliable, especially when the country in need is too weak. Reliance on one’s own military capability seems to be the only rational option. Still, a much smaller state cannot possibly manufacture and maintain a number of tanks and aircraft comparable that owned by a larger aggressor. A different strategy is called for. Rather than producing or purchasing heavy and technologically advanced weaponry that can easily be incapacitated by the sheer numerical advantage of the enemy, a small nation may choose to employ guerrilla-war tactics like those practised in Spain during the Napoleonic invasion, Yugoslav partisans during the German occupation or Vietnamese fighters at the time of war that that small country successfully waged against the powerful United States. Such tactics mean a dispersal of resources (munitions of war and life-sustaining resources) and turning each able-bodied citizen into a warrior in his own right who has at his disposal an assault rifle, (like American and Swiss citizens do) shoulder-fired missiles (like ISIS fighters do) and has been trained in the basics of military expertise. The country might be strewn with a myriad of small bunkers (the likes of which were built in Albania at the time of Enver Hoxha). Such a nation, even if small, could brace itself against any kind of enemy who, though more powerful, reckoning with the sting it might be given, would sooner have second thoughts rather than attempting to occupy the small country. A citizenry armed like this can only be thinkable in an ethnically homogeneous country (Poland is one) where there is no enmity between the people and the ruling class (there is none at present in Poland) and people do not turn their weapons against each other

It was small Finland, which for three months in 1939 resisted the Soviet aggression without having recourse to large armoured or aircraft units and without foreign armies coming to its aid. Such tactics now and again have been proved successful.

References   [ + ]

1. Don’t Mess With Poland, War is Boring, 2014-03-28.

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