The year 2019 proved to be particularly significant for Poland, as it recapped our country’s up-to-date achievements as a sovereign state. We celebrated three red letter days: the 30th anniversary of the democratic transition, the 20th anniversary of our accession to NATO and the 15th anniversary of joining the European Union. Despite substantial changes of the European security landscape over the previous 30 years, strong alliances, wise decisions and determined efforts remain of utmost importance.

For that reason, Poland continues to invest and further develop its close ties with NATO and the U.S. as principal pillars of its security strategy. In 2019 we witnessed some pivotal events in the Polish-American partnership history. In June, Presidents Andrzej Duda and Donald Trump signed the Joint Declaration on Defense Cooperation Regarding United States Force Posture in Poland. It was followed by the adoption of a second presidential declaration specifying the provisions of the concept of the enduring U.S. military presence in Poland on Sept. 23, 2019.

These documents foresee deploying to Poland command, reconnaissance and other logistics support elements for training or contingency, special operations forces capabilities as well as providing infrastructure for combat elements. We have already initiated the implementation of these projects and will keep moving forward in the year to come.

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Given the decisions that have been made on the U.S. posture in Poland, the number of the U.S. troops will grow to approximately 5,500. Only a few years ago this figure was over 10 times lower. Without any doubt, the agreed projects will create a new quality of the allied presence on Polish territory and — in the wider context — will strengthen the deterrence and defense posture of the whole of NATO’s eastern flank. Constantly present forces and the capabilities of their quick integration and reinforcement will facilitate facing any type of scenarios, including short-notice and no-notice ones.

This new approach toward the security of NATO’s eastern flank will be confirmed by the Defender 2020 exercise, to be held in spring 2020. It will be one of the largest deployments of U.S. forces to Europe since the Cold War. Approximately 37,000 of combined U.S. and allied troops are expected to participate. The exercise will be a practical test of our interoperability, readiness and ability to quickly receive and integrate forces, if necessary.

Poland is not only committed to fair burden-sharing and allied solidarity, but also takes its own obligations very seriously. Therefore, we put strong emphasis on the necessity to invest in developing our defense capabilities. Our defense budget continues to grow and is expected to reach 2.5 percent of gross domestic product by 2030. With that in mind, in October we announced a new Technical Modernization Plan of the Polish Armed Forces. Its long-term perspective, until 2035, ensures ambitious but stable and well-balanced development of technologically advanced capabilities.

We have extended the traditional 10-year planning cycle with the intention to facilitate long-standing contracts. A substantial part of the financial resources will be allocated to the procurement of state-of-the-art equipment such as multirole fifth-generation F-35 fighters or attack helicopters. Our intention is also to purchase submarines capable of combating targets underwater and coastal defense vessels. We have committed ourselves to initiate or continue programs related to air and missile defense, artillery, and cyber defense. To put it in a nutshell, our expenses will strengthen all armed forces branches with the aim to meet requirements of multidomain warfare.

Poland — cognizant of the importance of NATO’s Article 3 — is also in the process of strengthening of its armed forces’ size and structure. We are currently forming an additional, fourth division and developing our Territorial Defence Forces, which exceeded the level of 20,000 in 2019, and we focus on training of our reserve forces component.

This kind of a properly synchronized and balanced strategy of investing in our own national capabilities on the one hand and, on the other, building strong alliances is a key to efficiently responding to the nature of current global challenges.

Mariusz Błaszczak is the minister of national defense for Poland.

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