Tuesday, 19 July 2022 — New Eastern Outlook
Author: Brian Berletic
While Western governments and the Western media continue clinging to the hope of an eventual “victory” for Kiev’s forces in Ukraine, the “frontline” is quietly being moved back to western Ukraine and even Poland just across the border. Recent pledges by NATO as well as arms deliveries this year and next appear to be headed in the direction of using Poland as the next battering ram with which US-led NATO will use against Russia.
More immediately, Poland could serve as a springboard for launching a NATO incursion into Ukraine, not necessarily to confront Russian forces directly, but to establish a “buffer zone” in western Ukraine just as the US and NATO-ally Turkey did in Syria.
The Build Up Continues
Poland has hosted a build-up of US troops since as early as the beginning of February 2022. US state media Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in their February 5, 2022 article, “US Soldiers Arriving In Europe To Reinforce NATO Amid Russian Buildup,” noted the movement of US troops to Europe and specifically Poland as well as the transfer of US troops in Germany to Romania which also shares a border with Ukraine.
More recently, a Retuers article, “US to boost military presence in Europe as NATO bolsters its eastern flank,” would note:
US President Joe Biden pledged more American troops, warplanes and warships for Europe on Wednesday as NATO agreed the biggest strengthening of its deterrents since the Cold War in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The article also mentioned Poland specifically, stating:
The United States will also create a new permanent army headquarters in Poland, which was immediately welcomed by Polish president Andrzej Duda, as Warsaw long sought a permanent US military base on its soil. “It is a fact that strengthens our safety a lot … in the difficult situation which we are in,” Duda said.
It should be kept in mind that similar sentiments had helped reinforce US-NATO involvement in Ukraine since 2014, ultimately precipitating the current crisis rather than strengthening any sense of “safety.”
Poland serves as both the most logical geographic location for this build-up as well as the most logical political location for it. The current Polish government has demonstrated an eagerness to play a central role in Washington’s proxy war with Russia both in terms of support for Ukraine as well as feeding heavily into the Russophobic rhetoric used to justify continued Western involvement politically.
Turkish state media in a recent article titled, “Poland takes delivery of 1st batch of US-made M1 Abrams tanks,” would note Poland’s own military build-up. In addition to hosting a growing number of US troops, Poland is purchasing the latest and most sophisticated weapons the US and its allies have on the market. The article claims:
On April 5, the country signed a contract worth nearly $4.75 billion to buy 250 MA12 SEP battle tanks from the US following a December 2020 agreement with Washington for 32 F-35 jets.
It also revealed that Poland agreed to a contract with the US on the purchase of 116 more used M1 Abrams tanks.
The Abrams tanks will operate near Poland’s eastern border “to deter an aggressor,” Błaszczak stressed, according to PAP.
The article also notes Poland’s acquisition of High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), Turkey’s Bayraktar drones, as well as additional main battle tanks from South Korea.
NATO’s Paper Tiger in Eastern Europe
The once vaunted weapon systems produced by the US and its allies have suffered tremendously in recent years as M1 Abrams used by Saudi Arabia found themselves outmatched and destroyed in Yemen and more recently Russian air defenses have eliminated Turkish-built Bayraktar drones from Ukraine’s airspace while Russian long-range weapons have begun hunting and destroying US-built HIMARS on Ukrainian battlefields.
Apparently these weapons systems are not as formidable as advertised. The secret to their success until relatively recently had been Washington’s ability to carefully pick its adversaries, avoiding hostilities with nations or organizations capable of undermining the illusion of military superiority the United States attempts to cultivate.
The loss of M1 Abrams in Yemen by Saudi Arabia became so concerning, US policymakers questioned the wisdom of providing replacements. The Brookings Institution in a 2016 piece titled, “Is selling tanks to Saudi Arabia such a good idea?,” would point out:
The State Department this week notified Congress of an impending sale of 153 M1A2 Abrams main battle tanks and twenty heavy tank recovery vehicles plus assorted ammunition, weapons and other kit to the Saudi army. Buried in the fine print of the notification is the statement that twenty of the Abrams tanks are intended to replace tanks destroyed in combat. The only place Saudi tanks are in combat are along the Saudi–Yemeni border in the Kingdom’s southwest where the Houthi rebels have been surprisingly effective in striking targets inside Saudi Arabia since the start of the war sixteen months ago. It’s probably a good bet that more that just 20 Saudi tanks have been damaged. The Kingdom has an inventory of 400 Abrams.
Meanwhile in Ukraine, even pro-Western media organizations including Al Jazeera in their article, “What do we know about Ukraine’s use of Turkish Bayraktar drones?,” have admitted the limits of hyped weapons like the Turkish-built Bayrakter. The article notes:
…given Russia’s strength of forces, what impact drones might have in Ukraine?
“It will very well depend on Russian air defences. Drones like the TB2 are vulnerable to anti-air defence systems. To be effective, they need to be employed in a savvy way, in coordination with other electronic warfare systems that ‘blind’ enemy radars and through appropriate tactics,” [Mauro Gilli, senior researcher in military technology and international security at ETH Zurich] said.
“However, against capable enemies, these technologies and tactics might not be sufficient. In Libya, Russian forces figured out effective ways to counter Turkish tactics and shoot down their drones. The same [has been] observed in Syria and Nagorno-Karabakh,” he added.
With Retuers reporting the alleged demise of two US-made Ukrainian HIMARS in early July and Newsweek reporting the alleged destruction of an additional HIMARS in mid-July, the most recent “wonder weapon” promoted by Western governments and their media appears just as vulnerable and underwhelming as other advanced Western arms touted recently.
The build-up of all these advanced systems in Poland, while promoted by NATO leadership and the Western media as necessary against “aggression,” represents yet another substitute for the absolute fundamentals that truly underwrite national and regional security.
What Poland Actually Needs for Actual Security
The Russian Federation has not only demonstrated an understanding of these fundamentals, it has put them into practice. Even Western commentators have begun taking note.
A June 2022 piece published by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) titled, “The Return of Industrial Warfare,” would convincingly argue that relatively mundane munitions and military equipment produced in large scale are far more essential to victory on the battlefield than a focus on “efficiency” through sophisticated precision munitions built in relatively small quantities. Basic small arms ammunition and conventional artillery shells were among the examples cited – munitions that are absolutely essential, needed in vast quantities, and are having a far greater impact on the battlefield than the high-tech weapons shipped by the West to Ukraine.
It could also be argued that diplomacy and economic cooperation pursued by the Russian Federation with Europe prior to the events now unfolding in Ukraine reduced the ability and/or desire of at least some European nations to follow Washington down the path toward dangerous escalation.
But above all, Poland and other European nations (if national security is an actual priority) require independent foreign policies – policies that reflect the best interests of each respective state rather than those of an unelected bureaucracy heavily influenced by a small handful of corporate-financier interest not only in Europe, but across the Atlantic in Washington and on Wall Street.
It should be pointed out that among these select few special interests are arms manufacturers who thrive especially when conflict, not peace and stability (or prosperity for everyone else), prevail.
A focus on these latter most factors may make the necessity of focusing heavily on military factors less of a priority.
Also key to regional security is promoting regional stability. Europe’s role in aiding or even just remaining apathetic to US political interference along and far beyond the borders of the European Union created the instability requiring constant military spending in the first place. Whether it is the flow of refugees fleeing decimated nations in the Middle East and North Africa targeted by NATO aggression, or a deteriorating socio-economic crisis following US-sponsored regime change in Eastern Europe, Europe’s inability to address the “causes” of the crises it faces results in ever-growing investments in addressing the urgent “effects” that follow.
Since Poland’s current leadership is focusing on none of the above, while projecting recent policy decisions as the bolstering of security and safety for the Polish people, the Polish government is in fact instead escalating tensions even further on behalf of Washington all while relying on weapons systems and a strategic approach proven right now on the battlefields of Ukraine and elsewhere as wholly inadequate.
Only time will tell if Polish and other European leadership continue down this self-destructive path where they, along with Ukraine, carry the full burden of Washington’s proxy war against Russia, or if they decide to pursue actual security, stability, and prosperity. If they chose the latter they are likely to find they won’t require massive investments into the military means of addressing conflict, because the “enemies” they imagine they would use these means against, would likely be more interested in trade.
Brian Berletic is a Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.