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Central Europe is its own Best Friend

A few weeks ago, Poland's defense minister made the following appeal, reported in the Telegraph:
Radek Sikorski, Poland's foreign minister, said he was alarmed by recent military exercises conducted by the Russian army in Belarus, a country that borders Poland, and wanted the US military as a counterweight.

"We would like to see US troops stationed in Poland to serve as a shield against Russian aggression," he said.

"If you can still afford it, we need some strategic reassurance."
It is hard to see why Sikorski would be so deeply worried by a military exercise featuring 900 tanks when Poland itself has more than that at hand. In an interview for Czech television, Zbigniew Brzezinski told East Europeans to grow up:
East Europeans should stop behave like small children, start to deal with their own problems by themselves and not to go to the United States complaining about Russian aggressiveness, for instance, Zbigniew Brzezinski said in in interview for the public Czech Television
Countries like Poland and the Czech Republic should be able to take care of their own - conventional - defence concerns to a large extent. Especially if they cooperate. They are both richer than Russia per head, they're not too small, and they have access to superior conventional technology. Meanwhile, the SIPRI database shows that Poland spent 2% of its GDP per year on defence in 2007, and the Czech Republic 1.4%. This compares to 3.5% for Russia and 4% for the United States.

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Pat Patterson on :

But Poland only has some 128 Leopard MBTs and those were acquired used from Germany. While Russia has over 4,500 T-80 MBTs which are comparable to the Leopards. Poland does indeed have some 994 tanks but most are twenty to thirty years old and are classified as light. While, the Russians claim to have 22,000 tanks, in all liklihood the number is much lower, around 7,000, and most are the most modern equipment the Russians have. So being outnumbered almost 7 to 1 by a country that can attack Poland from two directions and just recently had no problem invading a much smaller nation is not cause for Sikorski's concern then I must ask what would be a legitimate fear? It also should be noted that Russia/Soviet Union forces have invaded Poland over four times just in the last 100 years so there might be some anxiety on the part of the Poles that can't be solved by maybe a bump of 1.5% in military spending might alleviate.

Nanne Zwagerman on :

I don't think the T-80 is comparable to the Leopard 2. The Leopard 2 is a much heavier tank. Only the M1 and the Merkava compare. I guess the T-80 should be better than Poland's PT91. Of course, Poland is stuck with a load of obsolete material (T-72s), but Russian capabilities can be exaggerated. Most of their T-80s are in storage. The Poles could buy plenty of the latest Leopard 2A6s by a single-year 1.5 percentage points hike in spending. Something on the order of 1,000. Of course, that's without paying for the crew and training, and there are plenty of other things they'd need (like an air superiority fighter). Mostly, though, this shows the folly of reforming the Polish army into a lighter, more mobile force capable of fielding missions abroad, as desired by NATO and the EU. The logical consequence of the reduced military support from NATO should be a greater focus on traditional domestic defence. That would be the downside for the US.

Pat Patterson on :

That's why I used the lower number whiahc are from Russian sources who claim that only the smaller number are actually deployed and operational. And as the Germans discovered during World War II in regards to the Sherman and the T-32 (I could have the wrong designation) numbers overwhelm superior firepower and weight every time. The Poles are upgrading but are refusing to buy the new Leopards and instead are purchasing the Ukrainian T-84 which is combat capable against any MBT in the world. What is also interesting, but slightly off topic, is that in October the Georgian army replaced some of the equipment lost in the war with the new Ukrainian MBT. They still won't have enough to really forestall the Russians in another war but coupled with their purchases of the Indian Su-30 upgraded model and the tanks might make Russia think twice about using narrow tunnels or mountain roads to attack Georgia. But I most emphatically agree that the Poles and the other near frontier (I'm having some mental blocks today and can't view more than one tab at a time) countries should think less about helping set up road blocks in Lebanon and Kosova and more to their strategic situation.

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