WASHINGTON — Polish Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz has been removed from his position and will be replaced by former Interior Minister Mariusz Błaszczak, the Polish government announced Tuesday.
Macierewicz was removed from office as part of a broad reshuffle of cabinet positions by the ruling conservative Law and Justice party, or PiS. Local reports indicate he had clashed with Polish President Andrzej Duda, who wields a strong hand on internal PiS issues.
The 69-year-old Macierewicz had served as defense minister since PiS took power in 2015 and served as the public face of a major military buildup for Poland. He was also the local defense host for the 2016 NATO summit in Warsaw, during which Poland announced it would clear the 2 percent gross domestic product defense spending target for NATO members.
In a recent essay for Defense News, Macierewicz pledged that in 2018 his country would finalize agreements in air defense, long-range artillery, helicopters and submarine projects, as well as continue Polish missions in Latvia, Romania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
Macierewicz also warned that Russia will continue to try and influence global politics, saying that “Russia is governed by the former KGB officers and their followers. As long as they are at power, we have to assume that disinformation and deception are their principal policy. … This is why we have to always remember that whenever we struggle against some kind of security threat, there may be the Russian factor in it. And there often is.”
Błaszczak had served as interior minister since 2015. It is unclear whether other top defense voices, such as deputy defense minister Tomasz Szatkowski or Bartosz Kownacki, secretary of state in Poland’s Ministry of National Defence, will remain in place.
In November, Błaszczak was quoted in media as describing marches of far-right groups, some of whom chanted racist slogans, as “a beautiful sight,” a quote which is unlikely to mollify Poland watchers who worry about the military’s ties to nationalist groups.
Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.