“Energy and persistence conquer all things.” The words of Benjamin Franklin. And while Poland’s government remains persistent in its demands for a stronger NATO presence – preferably permanent – in this region, the Foreign Minister, Witold Waszczykowski, thinks that NATO itself lacks action and energy.
Writing in US magazine Foreign Policy, Waszczykowski says that NATO should recognize “the menace posed by a restless and intrusive leadership in Moscow.” He argues that “what Europe and the United States need is a more active, energetic NATO that takes practical steps to ensure the real safety of its citizens.” For him, the place to start is NATO’s eastern flank, thus repeating appeals made by the Polish president and defence minister for NATO troops to be present in the region permanently.
“Only a substantial investment in infrastructure, the deployment of military units on the ground – reinforced by precise contingency plans in the event of attack – can give Poland and its neighbours the security we need,” he wrote. And, in an attempt to pre-empt the argument, often made by Russia, that such a move would be provocative, he wrote that these measures are not meant to provoke anybody, “Rather, they are important steps toward reducing the risk of conflict.” A view which certainly chimes with the old adage, if you want peace prepare for war.
Poland, one of only five NATO members to meet to the target of spending two per cent of GDP on defence, is at least putting its money where its mouth is with the army expected to increase by fifty per cent to 150,000 over coming years. On Monday the Polish Defence Minister, Antoni Macierewicz, on signed an official document to pave way to the creation of a new “territorial defence” force, some 35,000 strong. Last week Macierewicz had said that the new territorial defence units were needed because Poland “is threatened by the actions of our north-eastern neighbour Russia, which makes no secret of its aggressive intentions and which systematically, at least since 2008, has been undertaking action aiming to destabilize the peaceful order in Europe, systematically directly endangering Poland and our immediate neighbours.”
Rather more alarmingly, perhaps, Macierewicz had also said that paramilitary organizations would be an integral part of the territorial defence force, adding that the new force was linked – in a phrase more usually associated with totalitarian communist regimes – to the need for “patriotic education”. There’s nothing like a man with a gun to make sure one is on message, of course, but patriotism seems to be the one thing Poland has never been short of. With brown shirts taking to the streets (please see March) and the continuing controversy over, nay opposition to, reforms at the Constitutional Tribunal and state-owned media, the rhyme, if not the repetition, of history is becoming clearer. However, there is no need to panic since here is as yet no sign of a people’s motor car to complement the shiny new motorways and sports stadia completed in recent years.
Be that as it may, the government does make a serious point about defence, which should be the first priority of any government anywhere. At a time when the world is hardly becoming a safer place, defence spending by NATO members and ability to engage verges on the pitiful. While removing military capability, the UK only makes the cut on spending by re-classifying as defence spending, expenditure which hitherto came under other budgets. A cynical manoeuvre if ever there were one.
But perhaps worse than the lack of spending on men and matériel, is the apparent lack of will on the part of Europe’s politicians to defend Europe’s borders, its values, its civilisation or, even if one sees every issue in purely economic terms, the long-term interest of its long-suffering tax payers. Why, I know not. Perhaps they regard the sacrifice of Europe’s well-being for personal advantage as perfectly acceptable for the “professional” politician who now sees political office not as an end but as a means to an end. Perhaps drunk on the fatal brew that is the PC terror they have become insensible to reality.
Whatever the reason, those who bear us ill will are gambling on the fact that Europe has simply lost the will to defend itself and the evidence suggest that is, alas, a safe bet. For without the triumph of the will there can be no other triumph. Whatever else of which one might accuse the current Polish government, there is no lack of will or energy.