Nation of 37 million in Putin's firing line: 'Enemy for centuries'

Poland is calling for US troops to be permanently based on its soil as it carries out a 'pivot' role in arming the fight against Russia.

A nation of 37 million people is staring down the barrel of Vladimir Putin's war machine as it facilitates Europe's response to the crisis in Ukraine, and beefs up its only military hardware in case it's also attacked by Russia.

Poland shares a border with Ukraine and knows full well what could be in store if its neighbour falls to Russia. The country has become the key transfer point for western weapons to the battlefield as it marshals Europe's response, builds up its own arsenal and calls for US troops to be permanently based on its soil.

"We know Russia well," senior Polish diplomat Adrian Kubicki told VICE News this week. "It’s been our enemy for centuries.

"We've been very vocal for, I'd say many years already, that Poland should actually be a place for maintaining a permanent base of US troops," he told the publication. "Because this is probably one of the most, if not the most pivotal spots on earth in terms of global security."

Poland has a long and fraught history with Russia. The city Warsaw in 2020. Source: Getty
Poland, which shares a border with Russia, has a long and fraught history with the country. Source: Getty

Poland is 'pivotal' in fight against Russian aggression

Poland's involvement in the ongoing conflict has been "fundamentally important" as Ukraine continues to gain access to NATO supplies via the country as well as being "pivotal" for the exfiltration of refugees.

A loss for Ukraine would be a loss for Poland, says Professor John Blaxland, an expert in International Security & Intelligence Studies at the Australian National University.

"Allowing Ukraine to fall to Russia would be to invite further adventurism that would potentially and most likely threaten the independence and integrity of Poland," he told Yahoo News Australia.

"They see the Ukrainian fight as their fight."

Poland announced earlier this year it is raising its national defence spending in light of the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, increasing their military budget from 2.4% GDP to 4% this year, the BBC reported.

"The war in Ukraine makes us arm ourselves even faster. That is why this year we will make an unprecedented effort," Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said, before adding, "this will be the highest percentage... among all Nato countries".

More tanks arriving for Ukraine

Supplies from NATO countries such as Germany, France and the UK as well as Australia [we are an 'Enhanced Opportunity Partner' of NATO] have all passed through Poland to reach the frontlines of the war. The US remains the most generous in providing military equipment with the promise of more artillery, high mobility rocket systems, and missiles to come.

In January, the US said it was sending about 30 tanks to Ukraine to fight the Russians. On Tuesday (local time), Poland said it will send 10 more German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine this week.

"Four (tanks) are already in Ukraine, another 10 will go to Ukraine this week," Poland's defence minister Mariusz Blaszczak told a news conference, adding that the country is hoping to become a service hub to repair and maintain the vehicles of war.

Australia announced jointly with France at the end of January it would send more artillery shells to Ukraine, AP reported.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki shake hands in front of tanks.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki shake hands next to the first Leopard 2 tanks delivered from Poland last month. Source: Reuters

'Hoax video' claims to show vehicles at Polish border

It's easy for misinformation to find a footing in the fog of war, and confusion about the level of artillery and when it's arriving in Poland has led to some wild claims online this week with an eye-popping video being shared on social media.

The clip shows a huge amount of heavy weaponry purported to be at the border of Poland and Ukraine. The vision was shared on Twitter by insights trading firm ADFC, among others, and shows an aerial view of a huge number of tanks, support trucks, logistic vehicles and repair and maintenance equipment. However Prof Blaxland is confident the video is not legitimate.

"I don’t think it's all that likely it's at the Ukrainian border," he told Yahoo. "It's not consistent with what we’re seeing from America’s messaging about the tanks taking a bit longer to be delivered."

Instead he thinks it likely shows a deployment previously sent to the Middle East — a sobering reminder of the depths that could still be plumbed in the current Ukraine conflict.

We might not be there yet, "but Ukrainians would be very happy to receive it," Prof Blaxland said.

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