The Polish national character in all ages has displayed a number of brilliant qualities in a remarkable state of development — impetuous bravery, restless ambition, and intense national pride. But upon a closer view no less distinctly an excitability and inconstancy of passion becomes apparent, and a great susceptibility alike of sensual and intellectual pleasures, with a highly winning amiability in personal intercourse. In all these points there seems a certain resemblance between the Poles and the French.
Polish history and Polish national character are an outcome of geographical conditions. Poland is a country which represents an open door between Western and Eastern Europe—that is to say, it is a passage-land. It is a country in which the characteristics of Western Europe gradually mingle with those of Eastern Europe. It is in Poland that are found the western or eastern boundaries, where they meet, struggle, and combine. It is the reciprocal action of these different influences which gives a distinct color to all life, considered from the point of view both of history and geography. The position of Poland is precisely a central one. It lies in the center, between the most northerly and most southerly points of Europe, midway between the North Cape and Crete and nearly midway between the westerly point of Ireland and the most easterly point of the Ural Mountains.
The history of Poland is given its tragic color by the circumstance of being caught in an indefensible plain between Germany and Russia, forced either to ally itself with one or the other or to try to chart an independent course that has often ended in partition.
Poland is one of the most successful post-communist transition countries, in both a political and an economic sense. The sweeping economic and political changes that have transformed Poland since the collapse of communism in 1989 have had significant effects on the Polish defense sector, as it applies to both government and industry. From the ashes of a centrally planned economy, a vibrant free-market has emerged, and the defense industry has had to both change its client base and reorganize itself.
Changes since 1989 have redrawn the map of Central Europe, and Poland has had to forge relationships with seven new neighbors. Poland has actively pursued good relations, signing friendship treaties replacing links severed by the collapse of the Warsaw Pact. The Poles have forged special relationships with Lithuania and particularly Ukraine in an effort to firmly anchor these states to the West.
Poland is a founding member of the United Nations, belongs to most international organizations and maintains diplomatic relations with 182 countries. In 1967, Poland joined the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, or GATT, and is a member of the World Trade Organization, or WTO, the successor to GATT. In 1986, Poland rejoined the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, known as the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund, or IMF, having withdrawn its original memberships in 1950. Poland is also a member of the International Finance Corporation and was a founding member of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, or EBRD. In 1996, Poland was accepted for full membership in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD. Poland is also a member of the International Development Association, or IDA, the Council of Europe Development Bank, or CEB, and the European Investment Bank, or EIB.
In November 1992, Poland signed an agreement on free trade with the member countries of the European Free Trade Association, or EFTA. By 2001, in accordance with the terms of this agreement, Poland had removed tariff barriers for almost all industrial goods from EFTA countries.
Integrating Poland into the European Union is a top government priority. Since Poland became a member of the EU on May 1, 2004, all external security matters must comply with the "Common European Security and Defense Policy", which defines external action through the development of military management capability. Poland is the sixth largest country in the EU with a population of nearly 38 million people. Its 1,100-kilometer eastern border is now the longest external border in the European Union.
Poland's military is essentially changing everything at once: force structure, staff organizations, training programs, doctrine, security procedures, etc. This makes for a very dynamic as well as a very unsettling situation for its officers. The changes in Poland's military and the reorganization/privatization plan for the defense industry must compete with other reforms that the state budget must also finance.
Poland continues to be a regional leader in support and participation in the NATO Partnership for Peace Program and has actively engaged most of its neighbors and other regional actors to build stable foundations for future European security arrangements. Poland continues its long record of strong support for UN peacekeeping operations by maintaining a unit in southern Lebanon, a battalion in NATO's Kosovo Force (KFOR), and by providing and actually deploying the KFOR strategic reserve to Kosovo. Poland is a leading contributor to NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. Polish military forces also served in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The Government of Poland has identified full and active participation in NATO as one of its top foreign policy goals. With its entry into NATO in 1999, Poland's enemies of forty years are now its allies. The military activities of Poland have aimed at meeting NATO goals. The Polish army is moving away from a draft-based army towards a smaller professional unit better suited to the NATO mission. NATO force goal requirements are driving equipment-related decisions, ranging from aircraft and helicopter to air navigation and communications equipment, to tank turrets and computers, to name just a few.
Nearly 70% of modernization spending is allocated for implementation of NATO force goals. The majority of these projects include improvement of command, communications and reconnaissance systems, development of air defense systems, improvement of troops capacity and mobility. The Ministry of Defense estimated the total cost of technical modernization of the Polish army in 2003-2008 at about 3.6 billion EURO.
Poland's military numbers have decreased from 450,000 in 1989 to 160,000 in 2003. By 2006, Poland planned to reduce its forces to 150,000. As of 2003, the Polish military consisted of 34,080 personnel in airforce, 86,970 in land forces, and 14,770 in the navy. Poland maintains a sizable armed force, numbering as of 2012 about 141,000 troops divided among an army of 87,900, an air and defense force of 31,100, and a navy of 21,500. Poland relies on military conscription for the majority of its personnel strength. All males (with some exceptions) are subject to a 12-month term of military service.
Poland's military is traditionally land force heavy. Two thirds of the force was army, 23% is air force, and 7% is navy. Poland's military is undergoing changes - all designed to restructure itself into a more capable and mobile force compatible with NATO. The Polish Land Forces, after restructuring and downsizing is complete, will have six divisions. The Polish Air Force is grappling with rapidly aging aircraft. The Polish Navy has mainly coastal, minesweeping and ASW capabilities, although the acquisition by grant transfer of the U.S. frigates "Clarke" and "Wadsworth" provide a blue water capability.
The Polish military continues to restructure and to modernize its equipment. The Polish Defense Ministry General Staff and the Land Forces staff have reorganized the latter into a NATO-compatible J/G-1 through J/G-6 structure. Although budget constraints remain a drag on modernization, Poland has been able to move forward with U.S. assistance on acquiring 48 F-16 multi-role fighters, C-130 cargo planes, HMMWVs, and other items key to the military's restructuring.
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