.“Had the Battle of Warsaw ended with a Bolshevik victory, it would have been a turning point in the history of Europe; as there is no doubt that with the fall of Warsaw, Central Europe would have been left open to Communist propaganda and Soviet invasion.” This is how Edgar Vincent D’Abernon, British diplomat and the head of the Interallied Mission to Poland, a witness to the Polish-Bolshevik war, wrote in 1920 about the decisive battle in the war against the Bolsheviks. The words refer to the Battle of Warsaw of August 1920, better known as the “Miracle over the Vistula.” The battle that crowned the acts of war between Poland reborn after years of enslavement and the Bolshevik Russia, shaped the history of contemporary Europe. Fortunately, the words of the future marshal of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Tukhachevsky: “Over the corpse of White Poland, the road leads us to a world ablaze. On our bayonets we shall carry happiness and peace to the labouring masses. Onwards to the West!” never came true. It is owing to the heroic attitude of Polish soldiers, blood and sacrifice of the entire society which had just recovered from the Great War that peace and safety could be assured to Europe – at least until another authoritarian regime came to power in Germany.
While looking at the present war in Ukraine, one cannot help to notice similarities to the Polish-Bolshevik war conflict. And despite over 100 years that have passed, one thing has not changed: the opponent, the aggressor. Previously, it was Poland who effectively opposed the Bolshevik attack, nowadays Ukraine does the same to the Russian army. In both cases, the threat has the same source. The Russian Empire, Bolshevik Russia, the Soviet Union, and the present Russian Federation: each of these regimes strived to expand the empire at the cost of enslaving other nations. Each time, barbarian acts of Russian imperialism were justified by Moscow as counteracting some imagined threat, and were referred to as: brotherly aid, protection of the native people, unification of ethnic lands, or ideological crusade.
Propaganda specialists from Kremlin, however, tend to forget that the USSR, as a communist state, was equally effective in its criminal activities to the Nazis. Nowadays, the same state and its symbolism are celebrated during each anniversary of the Great Patriotic War, which is identified with World War II, although it started in 1941 with the attack of the Nazi Germany on the USSR. Nothing is being said about USSR’s attack on Poland on 17 September 1939, about USSR’s attack on Finland in 1939, about incorporation of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia in 1940, or about occupation of the eastern part of Romania in 1940, not to mention the attack on Crimea in 2014, and finally about the attack on Ukraine on 24 February this year.
History has run a full circle, but the progressing globalisation, technological advancement, and the accompanying democratisation of societies have led to an entirely different shape of the global security system than in the early 20th century. The experiences of both world wars and a number of different conflicts, not to mention the Cold War and the establishment of NATO, have entirely remodelled what we now call as global security system. The present conflict in Ukraine has partly become the conflict: Russia vs. the free world. Democratic countries face the attack of a country which, from the onset of its establishment, has questioned other nations’ right to self-determination.
Russia’s attack on Ukraine makes us aware that Russia does not follow any rules of peaceful co-existence, partnership, or respect for international law. Nowadays, the demons of the past have awakened in the east of Europe; what was to be a warning for future generations, a warning against political extremism, imperial ambitions, and worship of power, is not returning in the form of blood-soaked images from Bucha or Irpin.
At the present situation, every responsible state realistically assessing the state of affairs must be prepared to face any challenge, either military, or political, which may potentially arrive from the east. As regards safety of Poland and the entire region, the Polish Army has a special role here because it is our army that guards the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the state, being at the eastern flank of NATO. For over 20 years, we have been a member of NATO: the oldest, the largest, and the most effective defence alliance in the history of the world. This internationalisation of security, with continuous development of the national potential, constitutes our insurance policy. Polish arms industry forms part of the system. It is an important and effective part of the system, as can be seen by good opinions about the effectiveness of our Piorun MANPADS, Krab self-propelled guns, or Grot guns: all this equipment has been tested during the ongoing war in Ukraine and constitutes part of military aid provided to Ukraine by Poland. The aid which has long exceeded over USD 1.7 M worth, placing Poland among the world leaders in donations.
Current geopolitical situation, in particular the war in Ukraine, has accelerated the consistent and far-reaching modernization and extension of the Polish Army. As one of the few NATO members, Poland already devotes over 2.2% GDP to defence; the expenditures are to exceed 3% GDP next year. It is owing to responsible planning policy that we have built the grounds necessary for developing the Polish Armed Forces in the coming years, as stated in the new Homeland Defence Law. Our target is to have the Polish Army of 300,000 soldiers: 250,000 professional soldiers in operational troops, and 50,000 territorial defence soldiers. Large, excellently trained and equipped Polish Armed Forces constitute the basis for deterrence and defence strategy.
While speaking of NATO as one of the pillars for Polish defence policy, it must be pointed out that Poland has long been not just the “receiver” of security: our army are tested professionals who have proven their courage and professionalism during many foreign missions, both under the umbrella of NATO and the European Union. We keep collaborating with our allies: our forces are currently present in NATO’s international combat groups that station in Latvia and Romania.
While speaking of international campaign for security, we must not forget about the recent NATO summit in Madrid. It was a particularly important event because it drafted a perspective for the Alliance’s activities in the coming years. Decisions taken there clearly contribute to greater security not only of Poland alone, but of the entire eastern flank of NATO. One must mention here not only Sweden’s and Finland’s decision about joining NATO, but also USA’s decision on the permanent HQ for US Army’s V Corps to be established in Poland to be in charge of commanding the US land forces across the eastern flank of NATO.
.We are consistent in building a complete security system. It is not only the long-term increase in financing for development of the Armed Forces or technical upgrade. It is also about building civic awareness and readiness to take the responsibility for our common safety. Despite the tragedy of war in Ukraine, Poland is a safe country. Despite the passing years, the memory of the Polish-Bolshevik war is still vivid, and the values such as courage, honour, and love for the Homeland are cherished, among others, during the national Polish Army Day celebrated in Poland on August 15.