WARSAW — Recent elections have installed politicians of the anti-Kremlin Law and Justice (PiS) Party as Poland's president and prime minister, and local observers say the new Cabinet is likely to increase the country's defense spending.
Poland's new government, is led by Law and Justice (PiS) partyleadership are, sworn in Nov. 16, are seen as staunchly anti-Kremlin, and local observers say the new Cabinet is likely to increase the country's defense spending.
The Poland’s new government was formed by Prime Minister Beata Szydlo and was sworn into office Nov. 16 by by the country’s President Andrzej Duda. Both the president and prime minister are politicians of the Law and Justice (PiS) party, which is seen as staunchly anti-Kremlin, and local observers say the new Cabinet is likely to increase the country's defense spending.
Law and Justice (PiS ) party won the Oct. 25 parliamentary election with a comfortable enough majority to that allowed it to designate its the party’s candidate, Beata Szydlo, to form a the country’s new government without teaming up with any other parliamentary factions. forces. This situation, unique in the last 25 years, provides the new government with a strong mandate to implement its program.
And Moreover, with the party’s candidate, Andrzej Duda, winning last May’s presidential election, Law and Justice has all the necessary political instruments to reshape Poland’s defense policy. Combined with the party’s pronounced Euroskepticism, its mistrust toward Russia could lead to the Polish government to seek seeking a stronger partnership with the US, local analysts said.
In the wake of the October vote, relations between Warsaw and Moscow are expected to remain tense. and stringent. The party’s leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, is the brother of Poland’s late President Lech Kaczynski, who died in a plane crash that killed 96 Polish politicians and military officials in April 2010. The country’s new Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz has been calling on the former government to further investigate the crash, which, as he claims, could have been orchestrated by the Kremlin.
"Poland is NATO's eastern flank, and its relations with Russia are a key component of the Polish foreign policy," said professor Marek Jablonowski, a political scientist from the University of Warsaw. "There has been much distrust on both sides, and since [the conflict in] Ukraine, this has further intensified."
Defense Spending To Rise
Law and Justice has been calling for a major increase in military spending by Poland, and closer further tightening military ties with the US and Eastern European allies. Poland already expanded its military budget this year following the signing of a law by the country’s Former President Bronislaw Komorowski that obliges the government to raise defense spending from 1.95 to two2 percent of GDP. Poland’s gross domestic product (GDP). However, during its successful electoral campaign, Law and Justice promised to further raise this to perhaps as much as 2.5 percent.
Poland is to allocate 35.9 billion zloty (US $9 billion) for its armed forces in 2016, according to the draft budget for 2016. Of these, some 9.69 billion zloty will be spent on a the country’s ongoing military modernization program under which new weapons and military equipment are to be procured. In total, The program is expected to total some 139 billion zloty from 2013 to 2022.
The new government is planning to introduce new taxes, such as a retail tax, which are to be imposed on large retail chains to fund increased defense spending and its other flagship programs.
Helo Deal Could Be Canceled
Another emerging major issue to be addressed by the new defense minister is Poland’s program to acquire 60 new multirole helicopters from Airbus Helicopters. Last April, the Defense Ministry selected the Caracal EC-725 to replace the military’s Soviet-designed Mil Mi-8, Mi-14 and Mi-17 helos. The decision to award the multibillion zloty deal to Airbus Helicopters has been criticized by Duda, who instead supports However, according to the president, the former government should instead opt for Sikorsky’s Black Hawk or AgustaWestland's AW149, which also competed in the tender. Both companies operate local offshoots, PZL Mielec and PZL Swidnik, respectively, and employ local workforce at their Polish plants.
Shortly after he was appointed as Poland’s new defense minister, Antoni Macierewicz said that his ministry will investigate the tender procedure, according to the information obtained by local news agency PAP.
"We are currently carrying out an evaluation of this contract," Macierewicz said Nov. 18. "The documents which I could access as an MP indicated that this procurement should be annulled and started from scratch. We will see whether this evaluation will confirm this information.," Macierewicz said Nov. 18.
Should the ministry decide to relaunch the copter tender, Macierewicz said that all three producers would be allowed to place new offers.
"The Ministry of Defense is interested in the development of the Polish defense industry, including production facilities which make helicopters in Poland," Macierewicz said. "If these helicopters comply with the technical specification formulated by the military, then we are interested [in them].," Macierewicz said.
The latest announcement by the new minister indicates that, under Law and Justice’s rule, the Defense Ministry could shift its focus toward awarding an increased share of military procurements to manufacturers that produce their gear in Poland.
Among Poland-based manufacturers, state-run companies could expect a boost in business, higher amount of procurements, Poland's Deputy Defense Minister Bartosz Kownacki said. in a Nov. 18 interview.
"We need to support the Polish defense industry, above all, state-owned companies, but also private ones," Kownacki told local news site Wpolityce.pl. "If we decide to buy some technologies from abroad, we will aim to enable a cooperation [between foreign companies and] the Polish industry. We are interested in an enhanced economic and political cooperation, mainly with the US."
With the copter procurement indicated as the most important armament program to be completed by the new government in the coming months, other programs in the pipeline include the ongoing tender to acquire tactical UAVs, with the UK, US and Israel approached by Poland as potential partners, as well as the ministry’s missile-defense procurement, under which Warsaw aims to acquire Raytheon’s Patriot missiles by 2025.
In addition to this, the incumbent government is planning to expand the Polish military to about 150,000 troops, according to Kownacki, up from the current 120,000.