Poland, both as a trading and military partner, has become of great importance to us here in Norway.
Therefore, Associate Professor Haakon Lundy Saksi at the Staff School believes that it is time to start paying attention to Polish politics.
– He explains that they buy large quantities of American military equipment such as tanks, fighter planes, and surface-to-air missiles.
They also concluded a huge agreement with South Korea, where Poland will receive about 1,000 tanks.
Poland already has more tanks than Germany, France, and Great Britain combined.
If these purchases are implemented, they will have NATO’s second-largest army in Europe, after Turkey, he said.
Politico describes the Polish army as the best in Europe.
Poland also aims to spend 4% of its gross national product on the military, twice what most other NATO countries spend.
– Poland has already exceeded 2 percent, and will reach 3 percent during 2023. Recently, they issued a statement saying that the target is 4 percent of GNP, says Saksi.
– In sum, this will make Poland a more important country in NATO than it was in the past.
So it is more important for us in Norway.
– It strengthens NATO’s eastern flank, which is something Norway is very interested in, says senior researcher Jakob Godzimirski at the Norwegian Foreign Policy Institute (NUPI).
Poland has concluded a major arms agreement with Norwegian arms manufacturer Kongsberg Gruppen. This is the largest agreement in which the group has ever participated. A huge order worth NOK 16 billion.
– They will buy missiles to defend their coasts, but they can also be used in many contexts, says the NUPI researcher.
“What did we say?”
Poland and Norway previously had very different views on Russia.
Until 2014, Poland was more skeptical of Russia than Norway. Godzimirski says Norway considers Russia a potential partner for cooperation in the North.
But after the annexation of Crimea and the use of military force against Ukraine, Norway and Poland became closer to each other.
Both of them view Russia as a party that uses military force as part of its political tools, and thus deterrence has become more important for both of them.
Poland has been worried about Russia for a long time and has therefore been arming itself for a long time, says Lundy Saksi.
– Saxy says the Poles were always afraid that Russia would come back and take back control over them.
– They’ve been worried about it since day one. Therefore, they wanted to join NATO as soon as possible. And they always took defense seriously.
They believe that other countries were too lazy to see the challenge posed by Putin’s Russia.
“They say, ‘What did we say?’” Saxy says.
The main reason for Poland’s continued suspicion of Russia is that Poland was under Russian control from World War II until 1989, when the Soviet Union collapsed.
Poles like to say that the war ended for the rest of Europe in 1945, but they remained occupied until 1989, says NUPI researcher Godzimierski.
Poland was not allowed to formulate its own policy until after 1989.
Poland gained a free market economy, a democratic political model and major changes in security policy.
– The World Bank shows which countries have experienced the greatest economic growth in the past 30 years. He says Poland ranks second after China.
The Polish economy has grown eight times since the end of the 1980s. Not 8 percent, 800 percent.
A complex ally
– For Norway, Poland is becoming an important market and an even more important ally, says Saksi.
– This is the positive part of the story, he says.
But Poland is also a difficult ally. This has been made clear in recent weeks.
Poland is governed by a right-wing, conservative, nationalist party. It’s not uncomplicated. They have become increasingly authoritarian and the country has become very polarized, Saksi says.
Poland is among the most important arms suppliers to Ukraine. But recently, the two countries have quarreled on several occasions. Tensions escalated when Poland, contrary to European Union rules, refused to import cheap Ukrainian grain to protect its grain production.
When Ukraine criticized them for this, Poland’s Prime Minister threatened to withdraw all arms support in the future.
He explains that Poland’s internal politics becomes more important for us in Norway when Poland becomes a more important player.
Nupi’s Gudzimirski believes this should be seen as just a pure election campaign.
An important part of the voter base of the national conservative Law and Justice Party, which is now in power, are people from the countryside who like to work as farmers. When cheap grain from Ukraine enters Poland, they become dissatisfied.
– This should be known to us. Norway does the same thing, and this is one of the reasons why Norway does not want to join the European Union, Godzimirski says.
Meanwhile, PiS is being challenged by the far right, which is more skeptical of Ukraine.
– We must distinguish between elections and long-term trends, explains researcher Nobi.
Polish voters will go to the polls in a few weeks. Thus, much of what happens and is said in Polish politics must be interpreted as part of the election campaign.
The government party feels challenged by the far right, and the party to its right is likely to get between 6 and 14 percent and could sit on the edge.
Therefore, PiS invested heavily in portraying itself as more critical of Ukraine than before in order to remove the right’s spine.
But Poland is one of the NATO countries that has the longest border with Ukraine.
Poland has a great interest in Ukraine not falling because Russian forces will then be on the Polish border, Saksi says.
“Organizer. Social media geek. General communicator. Bacon scholar. Proud pop culture trailblazer.”