The Geopolitics of Missile Defence in Poland

By fate, Poland has always found itself in a geopolitical quagmire forcing the Polish nation to struggle to maintain its own sovereign state, and at the worst of times fight to keep its own nation alive. It comes as no surprise that prominent historian Norman Davies decided to title his book regarding Polish history God’s Playground. The pivotal location of Poland on the map of Europe has made it yet another point of interest for another recent geopolitical play: missile defence.

The US justification for the EPAA is the threat of missiles that may be launched from the Middle East, namely Iran which is predicted to have the capabilities to launch an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile by 2015, which could potentially hit NATO allies and its troops stationed throughout Europe. Poland was chosen to be the host of Phase 3 and 4 due to its supposed ideal location to intercept these middle and long range missiles. Now, it seems, the US is looking for ways to back out of the agreements made by its previous administration.

Poland has dealt with many obstacles hindering what it sees as a critical part of its national security and self-preservation. First of all, it involves the permanent presence of a foreign superpower (in this case for the first time an ally) only 20 years after the Soviet troops left the country. Poland’s history of foreign occupation and the existence of Red Army military bases in the past have brought about caution and suspicion among many Poles, resulting in mixed views among the population regarding the deployment of major military installation on its soil. Secondly, many Poles worry that their homeland will become a new target for state adversaries and terrorists that regard the US MDS as a threat. Thirdly, when initial bi-lateral negotiations of the placement of a US MDS between US president George W. Bush and former Polish president Lech Kaczyński in 2006 started, Poland enthusiastically jumped into negotiations with full confidence despite the many harsh criticisms of its EU partners.

On top of this, Poland has become a target of belligerent rhetoric coming from the Kremlin in response to the US placing a missile defence system in Poland. Thus, one might ask why Poland’s political elite have enthusiastically offered their territory for a US MDS despite the domestic split on the issue, harsh criticisms from its EU partners, multiple reversals of US plans on the MDS in Poland, and threats of nuclear annihilation from Russia. What Poland sees is less of a threat from Iran and more of permanent presence of a strong ally on its soil contributing more to its security. It also wants to be seen as relevant and credible member of NATO contributing to its overall security and defence while improving its own geopolitical standing.

How the US and Polish MDS unfolds in subsequent years will undoubtedly affect European security. A US MDS in Poland will show that the US is still committed to the long-term security of the region as it slowly pivots its national security interests towards the Asian Pacific region. However, as a result of the US’s inconsistencies, Poland has made plans for its own MDS at a crucial time when many of its fellow EU and NATO member states have faced major budget cuts in defence and cannot afford such investments at this time. Poland is currently one of the very few countries in Europe that has increased the size of its defence budget and stays close within the two per cent of GDP target set by NATO. Such a contribution should be welcomed by Poland’s allies. A resurgent Russia and its recent moves to deploy fighter jets in Belarus this year, as well as its plans to place short range Iskander missiles on the EU border in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, already the most militarised area in Europe, should also not be taken lightly and addressed in constructive dialogue as to not reignite an arms race.

Full article: The Geopolitics of Missile Defence in Poland (New Eastern Europe)

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