On May 23, 2019, Russian-language website of Sputnik-Georgia released an article headlined “Georgia: Farewell to Soviet Armament.” The author claims that Georgia’s desire to replace Soviet military machines by western armament is unreal and even NATO member state, Poland fails to do it. The author also noted that Poland enjoys the status of “a second-tier country” in the alliance.
Sputnik: “During its 20-year membership to NATO, Warsaw failed to reject Soviet-old armament. This country has a military budget exceeding USD 9 billion and it owns a huge amount of Soviet-produced old planes, helicopters, artillery systems, tanks and armored vehicles. Simultaneously, Poland is still concerned over “the second-tier country” status in the alliance.”
Sputnik-Georgia’s article contains disinformation, because actually Poland has been long trying to replace Soviet military equipment and modernize its armament. Poland is a NATO member state and it has defense cooperation with western states in various formats. “A second-tier NATO member” does not exist at all.
Fact No. 1: Poland is replacing Soviet armament
On February 28, 2019, Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak signed a military modernization plan under which the country will spend 185 billion zloty (U.S. $49 billion) on new weapons and military equipment by 2026. The acquisition of 32 fifth-generation fighter jets is one of the priority procurements aimed to help Poland replace its outdated Soviet-era Su-22 and MiG-29 aircrafts. Other acquisitions include short-range air defense systems, combat helicopters, cybersecurity systems and new submarines for the Polish Navy.
Acquisition of the F-35 – 5-generation aircrafts is especially important. The U.S. is considering selling the F-35 to five allied nations: Poland, Romania, Greece, Spain and Singapore. On Apr. 17, the Polish President, Andrzej Duda, expressed his hopes with regards to the F-35 procurement. During an Easter meeting with the soldiers, Duda emphasized the need to replace the post-Soviet jets (MiG-29 and Su-22) so that the Polish Air Force could operate “the best aircraft available in the world now.” The first claims made with regards to procurement of the F-35 by Poland were made in 2008. Back then the price of this fighter jet was too high. However, today their procurement cost is much lower. For example, Belgium would be getting the F-35 paying 89 million dollars per unit.
After Russia’s annexation of Crimea, western countries saw military capabilities of this country quite well, especially during the hybrid warfare. It prompted Poland to launch military reform to strengthen its defense forces. In 2015, they purchased 105 German tanks - Leopard 2A5, also started to modernize German Leopard 2A4. Poland also started to upgrade important components of air forces – Mi-24 helicopters, equipping them with new sensors and guided missiles.
Fact No.2: “Second-tier” NATO member does not exist
NATO is an organization of collective defense established under the Washington Treaty. According to article 5 of the Treaty, armed attack against one or more of members in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all. What is most important, NATO member states make decisions through a consensus. Consensus decision-making is a fundamental principle which has been accepted as the sole basis for decision-making in NATO since the creation of the Alliance. It means that consultations take place until a decision that is acceptable to all is reached. Facilitating the process of consultation and consensus decision-making is one of the NATO Secretary General's main tasks.
The U.S. intervention in Iraq in 2003 is a good example. The Atlantic alliance was thrown into one of its worst ever crises when France, Germany and Belgium vetoed a U.S. request for NATO to make plans to protect Turkey if Saddam Hussein attacks.
Prepared by Giorgi Loladze
Myth Detector Lab