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 Justyna Zając, Institute of International Relations, University of Warsaw

NATO membership and close relations with the USA make up the most important of the three pillars of Poland’s security and defense policy. The remaining two are: 1) Building up the state’s own military resources and capabilities and 2) co-operation within the EU framework. These three pillars are reflected in Poland’s strategic documents presently in force: The White Book on National Security of the Republic of Poland elaborated at the National Security Bureau in 2013 on the basis of the National Security Strategic Review (NSSR), the Strategy of Development of the National Security System of the Republic of Poland 2022 adopted by the Polish government in 2013, and on the Polish Foreign Policy Priorities 2012-2016 drawn up by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2012.

Poland considers the North Atlantic Treaty’s Art. 5 (casus foederis clause) to be the most important aspect of the NATO alliance. At the NATO summit held in Lisbon in November 2010, Polish representatives sought to have Art. 5 adopted as the basis of NATO’s new strategic concept, with its possible extension to include cyber-terrorism attacks. This entailed calls for the equal dislocation and the modernization of the alliance’s defense infrastructure, including a guarantee that contingency plans would be updated so as to include possible threats or a crisis in the vicinity of Poland’s boundaries. In March 2014, Polish ministry of defense Tomasz Siemoniak also announced that during the next summit – to be held in the United Kingdom in September of this year – they will call for NATO to concentrate on preparations for the defense of its members. Calls for the clarification of Art. 5 are also being heard in the Polish public discourse.


Poland’s efforts arise from its fear of Russia, even if this is not formulated explicitly. Russia’s proximity in conjunction with negative historical experiences and an often exaggerated sense of insecurity invariably influence on keeping fears of a resurgent Russian imperialism directed at Central Europe among a significant part of the Polish political elite and Polish society. Those fears have increased considerably with the escalation of the conflict in the Ukraine. As President Bronisław Komorowski said on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of Poland’s accession to NATO (12 March 2014): “Poland today is safe […] but historical experience and observation of what is taking place beyond our borders to the East force us to be continuously thoughtful and vigilant. It makes us conscious of the fact that we live near an area of instability.”

NATO is undeniably perceived in Poland as the only effective guarantor of its military security. Extremely important is the fact that the USA, whose military strength gives it a hegemonic world position, is NATO’s main pillar. Despite the increase in defense expenditures that took place in the last few years in other countries, especially BRICS countries, the United States remains unsurpassed in this respect. The maintenance of close relations between Poland and the USA is also due to historical factors. The USA is perceived as a country that contributed to Poland’s liberation from Soviet domi-nation in the late 1980s.

At the beginning of 21st century, the active steps taken by successive Polish governments to maintain especially close relations with the USA took on the nature of a “bandwagoning” strategy, understood as joining the strongest country in order to ensure one’s own security. This became particularly evident following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. In March 2003, Poland took part in the armed intervention in Iraq, which was illegal under international law. Even though Poland’s participation in the operation’s initial stage, lasting a few weeks, was modest (about 200 Polish soldiers, including the GROM), it was symbolically important. It helped to legitimize President G.W. Bush’s controversial strategy that included the doctrine of preemptive strikes. As part of the fight against terrorism, Poland also allowed the establishment on its territory of a secret CIA prison in which terrorism suspects were tortured in violation of international law. Allegations that Poland had breached international conventions first appeared in 2005 in the report of Human Rights Watch, and then in the reports of the Council of Europe of 2006 and 2007. The matter was taken up by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg which, on 3 December 2013, began proceedings about Poland’s violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Poland’s close relations with the USA are also reflected in the strengthening of bilateral military cooperation. In April 2003, Poland signed an agreement for the purchase of American fighter planes – 36 single-seat F-16Cs and 12 two-seat F-16Ds. Two years later, the Polish government pronounced itself in favor of hosting elements of the American anti-missile system on Polish territory. Negotiations in this matter, initiated in early 2007 by the PiS-led coalition government, led to the signing of an agreement on the 20th of August 2008 by the government of PO and PSL. The signing ceremony took place a few days after the outbreak of the Georgian-Russian war, which intensified fears among Polish decision-makers of a Russian attack. The WikiLeaks portal disclosed that Polish foreign minister Radosław Sikorski had told US officials that the Polish government used to think that Russia would be a threat in 10-15 years, but after the Georgia crisis, it could be as little as in 10-15 months. In this context, Polish decision-makers requested additional security guarantees from the USA.

The agreement signed in August 2008 was not carried out, however. President Obama’s administration withdrew from its implementation in September 2009. In this situation, Poland decided to participate in the concept – an-nounced during the Lisbon NATO summit in November 2010 and confirmed at the Chicago summit in May 2012 – concerning the dislocation in Europe of an anti-ballistic defense system. It entails the dislocation in European bases of AEGIS ships with a maritime anti-ballistic missile system based on SM-3 missiles, and AN/TPY-2 mobile radars with command based in Germany, as well as the intent to dislocate a land-based version of the SM-3 mid-range missile system in Romania by 2015 and in Poland by 2018. At the beginning of July 2010, Poland and the USA signed an annex to the 2008 agreement. Pursuant to this annex, 24 American SM-3 interceptor missiles and guiding radar are to be installed on Polish territory by 2018. With the escalation of the conflict in Ukraine in March 2014 the Polish govern-ment requested the USA to send additional 12 F-16 multi-task planes, transport airplanes and 300 personnel.

The perception of NATO and the USA as the principal guarantors of Poland’s military security had clear implications for Poland’s position with regard to the emerging security and defense policy being created within the European Un-ion. When, in December 1999, the European Union, at the height of a period of prosperity, proclaimed the emergence of the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP), Poland’s minister of foreign affairs, Bronisław Geremek, stressed that NATO remains the cornerstone of European security and that the ESDP should be its complementary element. Gradually, Poland began to participate in the building of the ESDP: In 2010, along with Germany and France, in a framework of the Weimar Triangle, it issued a letter to the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Secu-rity Policy, Catherine Asthon, containing a proposal to strengthen the Common Security and Defense Policy. Expand-ing the EU security and defense policy became also one of Poland’s priorities during its presidency of the Council of the EU, in the second half of 2011, yet NATO remains a key security organization. As was set forth in Polish Foreign Policy Priorities 2012-2016, “NATO will continue to be the chief multilateral instrument of Poland’s security policy in the political and military dimension”.

In early 2014, Poland’s security and defense policy found itself facing serious challenges. The growing international importance of BRICS countries has led to priority changes in US security policy and has led that country to shift its attention to Asia (the Asian pivot). It seems that in political and military terms, Europe no longer constitutes the main point of interest of the USA, which has been reducing its military presence in this region. However, after the annexa-tion of the Crimean peninsula by Russia, leaders of NATO have deliberated how to strengthen US presence in Europe. Nevertheless the European allies will have to take on a greater share of responsibility in this area, also in financial terms, something Washington has been clearly requesting for many years. This raises the issue of NATO’s future, the necessity to redefine NATO-EU and the development of the CSDP.

Russia’s strength as a global power is growing in turn. Polish-Russian relations, which have been on a difficult path toward normalization since the end of the Cold War, are very likely to deteriorate on account of the Ukrainian conflict. The challenge for Polish decision-makers will be to work out a long-term vision of Euro-Atlantic security with a place in it for Russia, without which Poland’s security will be exposed to increased challenges and threats.

Notes de bas de page :
1. Tomasz Siemoniak o przyszłości Sojuszu, « Polska Zbrojna », 14.03.2014.
2. Orędzie Prezydenta RP z okazji 15-lecia przystąpienia do NATO, 12.03.2014, (
3. Justyna Zając, Bandwagoning w polskiej polityce zagranicznej, « Przegląd Zachodni », 2009, No. 3.
4. Roman Kuźniar, Polityka zagraniczna III Rzeczypospolitej, Warsaw 2012, pp. 312-320; Mieczysław Stolarczyk, Kontrowersje wokół militarnego zaangażowania Polski w Iraku, « Przegląd Zachodni », 2005, No. 1.
5. Justyna Zając, El desarollo de las relaciones polaco-americanas después de la guerra fria, „Lamusa”, 2006, No. 5.
6. Ryszard Zięba, Polityka zagraniczna Polski w strefie euroatlantyckiej, Warsaw 2013, p. 129.
7. Polish Foreign Policy Priorities 2012-2016, Warsaw, March 2012, p. 14, (

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