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Poland plans to double military spending

Poland plans to nearly double its military spending in an attempt to be able to defend itself “alone if necessary” against potential foreign invasion.

Under the plan, Warsaw is expected to raise its military spending to 2.5 percent of its GDP by 2030 and add a further 100,000 personnel to its armed forces.

It also plans to buy 70 multi-task helicopters, with deliveries starting next year. The government also said it would sign a $7.6-billion deal by the end of 2017 with a US firm to buy eight Patriot missile defense systems.

Poland also aims to buy two squadrons of Lockheed Martin F-35 fighters, which each costs at least $100 million.

The government claims the new military strategy will increase its ability to defend Poland against foreign aggression. Critics, however, describe the plan as “ambitious” and “absolutely unrealistic.”

American soldiers are pictured during a ceremony at the Polish-German border in Olszyna, Poland, January 12, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

“Self-sufficiency? How? This is absolutely unrealistic,” one government official told Reuters. “Do we really want to send a message to our NATO allies that we don’t care about them?”

NATO has not publicly commented on Warsaw’s change of track, but it seems to be wary.

“No one can stop any member country from shooting itself in the foot. The consequences of that will be apparent when something really collapses,” Reuters quoted a NATO official as saying on condition of anonymity.

Waldemar Skrzypczak, a general who resigned as an adviser to the Defense Ministry earlier this year, said that Poland’s major problem right now is “the lack of army modernization.”

Two-thirds of Poland’s military equipment still dates to the Soviet era. Its armed forces have also suffered from decades of under-investment.

Poland has also been criticized for taking its modern, German-made battle tanks away from its western border and sending them to Warsaw, closer to the border with Russia.

Critics say moving the tanks there requires equipping the base with the infrastructure and trained personnel to operate them, which experts say would take about two years.

In case of a sudden attack on the country, Poland would not be able to use them, the experts said.

Russia, which views the deployment of NATO forces near its borders as a threat, has strongly denied any plans to invade Poland or the Baltic countries. It has repeatedly slammed NATO’s military buildup near its borders, saying such a move poses a threat to both regional and international peace.

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