La Pologne a engagé un plan de modernisation de ses forces armées qui prévoit une enveloppe de 40Mds€ sur la période 2013-2022 pour notamment renouveler sa flotte de sous-marins, acquérir hélicoptères et drones et se doter d’une défense aérienne. La part du PIB polonais alloué à la défense est l’une des plus importantes des États membres de l’UE (1,95% du PIB en 2013, soit environ 8Mds€). Le ministre polonais des Affaires étrangères Radoslaw Sikorski déclare en juin 2014: “Un contingent renforcé de militaires américains et européens doit être déployé en Pologne”. La Pologne, un acteur de la défense européenne: cette série issue du dossier stratégique de la lettre de l’IRSEM 3-2014 est publiée sur notre site avec l’aimable autorisation de Barbara Jankowski que nous remercions très chaleureusement. Une traduction en polonais a été réalisée par le Centre de Civilisation Française et d’Etudes Francophones.


Par Tomasz Badowski International Relations Research Institute (1)

During his visit to Paris in May 2013, the Polish President Bronisław Komorowski was told by President Holland, “We, France and Poland, will build Europe’s defence policy together.”

Since the end of 2013 there has been an increase of activity in the field of European security and defence policy. The gradual return of European countries to consider the safety of Europe with the need to improve European defence capabilities is undoubtedly connected to the decision of U.S. President Barack Obama, to shift the centre of gravity of the American foreign and defence policy towards the Asia-Pacific region. Besides, this need for the European countries to be more responsible of their own safety was confirmed by the statements of U.S Supreme Commanders: NATO’s operational commander – Gen. Philip Breedlove in November 2013, and the commander of U.S. ground forces in Europe – Maj.-Gen. Donald Campbell in September 2013.

According to their statements, the United States will reduce defence spending in Europe by 20%, and will also reduce the number of its troops in Europe up to 30,000 in 2014. To compare with the end of the Cold War in 1989, the US Army had in Europe, more than 213,000 troops. However, although some European countries including Poland are currently undertaking a very strong diplomatic action to keep the U.S. military presence on the European continent (at least at current levels), the United States is undoubtedly becoming less and less interested in European security and this should be a strong impetus to the development of common strategies within Europe. Thus, an important role in this field can and should be played by Polish-French cooperation.

Last fall, when NATO conducted the exercise Steadfast Jazz 2013, France has very clearly expressed interest in developing its activity not only in Africa, but also in the safety of the countries on the eastern borders of the European Union.

French ground forces (1,200 soldiers) participating in the exercise were the second force in numbers after the Polish (3,000 troops) strength. France’s share in the exercises was also a test of NATO Response Force (NFR), therefore, the French Rapid Reaction Corps is the backbone of the land component command NFR – 2014, which was certified in Janu-ary 2014.

This highly stressed part of the French and Polish components clearly reflects the direction of development cooperation in the field of the Common Security and Defence Policy, which is a real tool for the implementation of EU defence policy. French defence potential is experiencing its “golden age” after returning to the military structures of the Alliance announced in 2009 and is the core of European defence. While the U.S. cut expenses allocated to ensuring European security, France has declared in April 2013 that it will keep spending on defence at the same level for the next six years. According to the, the “White Paper on Defence and National Security 2013”, published on 29th of April 2013, the amount of defence spending in the period 2014-2025 is expected to be 364 billion Euros.

In addition, the Polish defence budget increases. In the next 10 years Poland will spend over 32 billion Euros, only for technical upgrading. Poland is also playing an active role in defence matters, at the diplomatic level in the entire central European region.

In January 2006, representatives of Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and the Ukraine had already started talks on the establishment of 2015 Visegrad Battle Group. A letter of intent in this case was signed in March 2013. In July 2006, the foreign ministers of Poland, France and Germany declared the establishment of the Weimar Combat Group; In November of the same year, Poland signed a memorandum on the establishment of the Multinational Battle Group (Germany, Slovakia, Lithuania, and Latvia). Moreover, since July 2011, Poland, along with Lithuania and Ukraine have formed the Multinational Brigade – LITPOLUKRBRIG.

Furthermore, the Polish armed forces are very active in foreign operations almost all over the world. Polish soldiers have served, under the Sixth rotations of PKW EUFOR/MTT in Bosnia and Herzegovina (50 soldiers); XXIX rotations of PKW KFOR in the Republic of Kosovo (220 soldiers) ; XIV rotations PKW Afghanistan (1099 soldiers) ; II rotations PKW Mali (20 soldiers); permanent Navy contingent of NATO forces to Operation Active Endeavour in the Mediterranean Sea and the permanent Air Forces contingent “Orlik” for the implementation of the NATO Air Policing mission in the terri-tory of the Baltic States ( Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia). These actions are the best examples of Polish involvement in the implementation of the alliance commitments as well as a leading role in the development of the EU Eastern Partner-ship. In the foreign missions, combined with the highly developed modernization of the Polish armed forces planned for the next 10 years, makes Poland a natural and important partner for France to develop and strengthen CSDP.

However, if we would like this cooperation to have a real dimension to be beneficial for both countries, and bring as soon as possible real and measurable results, we could not focus only on political declarations about the need to in-crease European defence capabilities. The best test and confirmation of the reliability of the Polish – French alliance in the field of defence should be to develop industrial cooperation between Polish and French defence industry.

Actually, n the area of defence industry cooperation, past experiences between Polish and French defence companies were very successful. Early 1990’s cooperation between France and Poland on upgrading the IFF System, by Warsaw-based RADWAR in collaboration with the French Thales, serves as a good example.

Night view of Europe

Technology instead of soldiers
That is why defence industry cooperation should be seen as the best opportunity to strengthen and develop Polish-French security cooperation, making failures like 10 years ago, which involved the purchase of modern fighters for the Polish army, a story of past times. Thus, the Polish Ministry of National Defence must call in the near future at least two large upcoming tenders. They concern the purchase of a new type of submarine for the Navy and a modern air defence system with the ability to counter tactical ballistic missiles.

In both of these tenders France should play up its strengths. France’s Scorpene-class submarines and Germany’s Type 214 ships are currently favourites to replace the Old Norwegian Kobben-class sub generally used by the Polish Navy. In addition to technical parameters, the advantage of the Scorpene-class vessel from Poland’s point of view – which includes the need of developing deterrence capabilities – is its missile launch capability. Potential opponents will think twice before attacking Poland, because they will be aware of the Polish army’s ability to make a silent retalia-tory strike deep inside their territory from beneath the surface of the water. The cost of one such ship, based on a Malaysian order from 2002, is about $480 million. Assuming that the Polish Navy will purchase at least three subma-rines of this type, the total cost would be about $1.5 bn. Despite the relatively large Polish Defence budget, this amount is undeniably a significant burden for Polish public finances. For this reason, involving as many Polish com-panies as possible in the production of these ships is paramount. This way at least a part of the cost will be returned to the Polish tax payer in the form of new jobs and technological development of Polish firms. And, since France agreed to de facto teach the Russians how to produce the modern Mistral-class amphibious assault ships, there should not be any reason why some of the Scorpene-type submarines production could not be done in Polish ship-yards under the guidance of French specialists. This technology conveys would benefit to the French shipyards. As a result France would gain a stable industrial partner, with implementations for other export contracts.

However, while the issue of purchasing new submarines for the Polish Navy is still in the analytical phase, the construction of a modern air defence system with the ability to counter tactical ballistic missiles is much closer to reali-zation.

The law signed by President Komorowski guaranteeing the funding for this program leaves anywhere from four to as much as eight billion euros up for grabs. Unsurprisingly, all the major international missile system manufacturers are preparing for the contract-of-the-century tender to construct the Polish air defence and anti-missile system. They include Israel, the United States and Norway, as well as France. The ability to deal with Russia’s Iskander tactical bal-listic missile, as well as the degree of cooperation with Polish defence industry and how much of the production will end up in Poland; will be key factors in determining the tender. So far, currently, the French-European MBDA concern presents the greatest potential for cooperation with the Polish industry. In contrast to its competitors, the French offer looks to provide Poland with only the rockets (the medium-range ASTER 30 and the short-range MICA VL mis-siles) that will work with Polish radar systems from Bumar Electronics, and with Polish command and battlefield management systems. Both the Americans and the Israelis, however, want to provide Poland with a complete system, without providing much in terms of cooperation with the Polish industry.

Given this fact, the French offer seems to be the most beneficial in terms of both operational and economic Polish interests. Krzysztof Krystowski, former President of Polish Defence Holding, who together with the MBDA consor-tium shaped the “Polish Shield”, a modern air defence system, also shares this point of view. In an interview with Polish daily Rzeczpospolita, he stressed that “the MBDA-based system is in the development phase, which means we would take part in that development, and more than half of the investment would end up in Polish munitions factories.”

Undoubtedly, cooperation with France on constructing Poland’s modern air defence system could provide an impor-tant impetus for modernizing the Polish economy. Unofficially, Poland could also gain the ability to produce short-range missiles (20 km or more), missiles that Polish companies are not usually, or are only in the initial stages of re-search and development.
Mutual benefit should be the guiding principle when it comes to cooperation in any area. Although Poland has a lot to gain from the cooperation with France, especially in terms of modernizing the Polish army, France too has much to gain, especially in its armaments industry. From the point of view of Polish raison d’état, is there more that Poland could count on beyond the purchase of French weapons and possible collaboration in the development of European defence capabilities? Unfortunately, probably not –since, the current crisis in Ukraine and the significant difference in assessing the degree of Russia’s potential threat to European security.

Another possible point of contention between Poland and France is energy. As far as the issue of building a nuclear power plant in Poland, the Poles can certainly count on French favour; however, the situation is much more compli-cated when it comes to extracting shale gas in Poland. The development of shale gas extraction technology in Poland, which according to various estimates, ranks the third place in Europe after France and Norway, presents a real chance for energy independence from Russia. This, in the current situation, has become increasingly important not only from the point of view of Warsaw, but the entire region.

The area where there is the greatest chance of success for cooperation between Warsaw and Paris, is in the develop-ment of common defence capabilities, however, such cooperation should take place alongside full-fledged coopera-tion between the Polish and French companies, which would bear immeasurable benefits for both the French and the Poles.

Polish-French cooperation can give also significant rate of construction of the Common Security and Defence Policy of the EU and to appropriately foster its development in the framework of the transatlantic alliance. The last EU summit on EU Defence confirmed the strong commitment of Warsaw and Paris to a common continental security. However, without an open discussion with the other Member States it will be hard to achieve success. However, there is no doubt that, the Polish-French action may constitute flywheel creating a common defence structure, developing a European combat capability and ensuring Europe’s strategic autonomy.
Tomasz Badowski

Notes de bas de page :
1. Author is the vice-president of International Relations Research Institute – www.ibnsm.org.pl , an independ-ent Polish think-tank, which specialising in the international foreign and defence policy. He is also editor-in-chief of Stosunki Międzynarodowe, a magazine devoted to foreign policy and international affairs / www.stosunki.pl

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