Sa, 4.02.2023

Commander of the Polish army: Poland’s defense begins in Tallinn

Evelyn Kaldoja
, välisuudiste toimetuse juhataja
Commander of the Polish army: Poland’s defense begins in Tallinn
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General Rajmund Andrzejczak, commander of the Polish army.
General Rajmund Andrzejczak, commander of the Polish army. Photo: Eero Vabamägi

The Estonian servicemen dispatched to Poland during the migration crisis were a good example of the philosophy that Poland’s defense begins in Tallinn, says General Rajmund Andrzejczak, commander of the Polish army.

They are presently talking about sending weapons and military equipment from NATO’s western part to the eastern flank. Which capabilities would Poland value the most?

I would like to leave these decisions for the politicians to make.

Of course, the situation is developing rapidly. There are many discussions going on and parallel to them we are preparing for certain options in the armed forces. I would not reveal more details because this is very sensitive information.

Poland is a credibly ally which makes great investments in its security. Poland spends more than two percent of GDP on national defense - by increasing the figures as well as by improving quality. New programs are coming up, for example the F-35s. We have long-range air defense systems, more than 100,000 high readiness servicemen and more than 30,000 territorial defense troops.

But it is very important that NATO gives a common answer [to the current tension]. Therefore a number of debates are in progress about how to respond. It all depends on the Russian army at the Ukrainian border and in Belarus. Poland is one of the few NATO countries having common border with Belarus and also with Kaliningrad.

The Polish army has been active in reinforcing Poland’s border with Belarus during the migration crisis. How large is its share of your activities?

The border police are largely responsible for the border but we were asked to help due to the extent, intensity and nature of this crisis. Therefore we sent various units to support the protection of the border and to build a new border fence.

Estonia was the first country to respond to our request for help – not only at the political level but with troops. This was a very close debate from the beginning, between friends, between soldiers. This was a result of our long-time cooperation, based on joint exercises and personal acquaintance. A very quick decision resulted in the arrival of a reconnaissance unit and then engineers and additional troops.

This was a fine example of the philosophy that the defense of Poland begins in Tallinn. This situation showed that this works both ways – when we were in crisis, Estonia responded very quickly.

British units are present as well. This is not about additional capabilities – the Polish army is large enough to solve the problem on its own – but rather a display of unity and determination.

Is the fence useful in the military sense?

Turning illegal migration into a weapon is an example of a hybrid scenario. People were encouraged and sometimes forced to cross the birder. This was a typical phase zero of the new generation of warfare. Therefore it is absolutely crucial that the state deployed all its resources – the army was one of them.

I have been talking about it to soldiers many times: there is no question that the border fence contributes a lot to ensuring security. We would like the situation to be different but at present it is rather like the one in Israel or along the US-Mexican border. It is regrettable that the new generation of warfare forces us to take such measures.

The attack with migrants was highly visible – these images reached everywhere. Have you recently observed other attempts to attack Poland?

One can still see a long list of hostile behavior – throwing stones, firing blank ammunition, pointing weapons at us. We also observe certain cyber-hostility, much propaganda – a textbook case of how the new generation of warfare should look like.

At the same time a much more conventional military activity is going on: concentration of more than 100,000 troops near the Ukrainian border, highly provocative air operation, flying drones, crime, and smuggling. All that is very vague and complicated. Unfortunately this is what the new generation of warfare is about.

What are the most urgent tasks of the Polish army in the present situation?

A few typical matters. The first one is obviously the protection of Poland’s territorial integrity in the conventional sense. This is a constitutional task.

The second one is crisis management – this is something new. One of the crises is the continuing corona epidemic – the armed forces contribute a lot to supporting the public health system. The third issue is foreign missions and we have to handle all three at the same time. Situational awareness is very important here.

I am deeply concerned with what I would call energy battle, which is much more conventional – tanks, armored personnel carriers, aircraft, and warships. At the same time we are viewing a battle of emotions – cognitive warfare, affecting and attacking people’s way of thinking. The modern soldier is a fine warrior, skillful and highly motivated, but it also requires emotional resilience to prevent being manipulated by propaganda.

We had very here good discussions with General Martin Herem and I am very happy with our excellent cooperation.

I also visited the Baltic Defense College and the questions and answers session there was tough for me: very many inspiring questions from Baltic and other countries’ officers studying there.

I also visited your brigades and saw the soldiers. This was no Powerpoint presentation: you look in their eyes and see commitment, preparedness to sacrifice everything. This was truly inspiring and motivating to me. Estonia’s contribution to the security of NATO’s eastern flank is huge.