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Military Doctrine

Throughout the existence of the Warsaw Pact, Poland was a key element in the security system of the Soviet Union. The Polish armed forces were the largest non-Soviet national component of the alliance. Located in the "northern tier" between NATO countries and the Soviet Union, Poland was expected to play a major role in any major conventional conflict with West European forces. Polish force structure gave priority to armor in expectation of a blitzkrieg-style theater offensive across Europe. In joint offensive warfare training exercises in the early 1980s, Poland had the mission of attacking northern West Germany and Denmark. Poland was also the major corridor for supply and communications between the Soviet Union and the large Soviet force in place in the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). These factors were the rationale for the assignment of approximately 30,000 Soviet ground and air troops on Polish soil from the late 1940s until 1992.

After essentially following Soviet military doctrine for forty-five years, in 1990 Poland began formulating independent doctrine taking into account a vastly different European strategic situation. The first public declaration of a new approach came in February 1990, when Poland was still a member of the Warsaw Pact. The guidelines issued by Jaruzelski's national security agency, the National Defense Committee (which at that point still included some communists), were clearly labeled as transitional, and the statement included a one-sentence reiteration of loyalty to Warsaw Pact obligations. Nevertheless, some independent positions were taken. Poland now categorically rejected initiation of military action against another state and participation in a war unless its allies were attacked. Maintenance of Polish troops beyond national borders was described as contradictory to national interests. In case of an attack on a Warsaw Pact member, only Polish authorities would determine the appropriate response of Poland, Polish commanders would retain full control of Polish troops, and Polish forces would remain discrete units rather than being integrated with Soviet troops. As an extension of the Warsaw Pact doctrinal revision that began in 1987, the guidelines assigned the highest priority to defending against attack by air, armored, and amphibious forces.

In 1990 the Commission on National Defense of the Sejm, the lower house of Parliament, strongly criticized the initial KOK reform program as insufficient for full military reform and as retaining too much of Poland's past subservience to the Warsaw Pact. The total collapse of the pact in the following year required more complete revision of military doctrine. A new program called Armed Forces '90 represented a second, truly postcommunist, phase of military reform. It was a long-term plan of steps to be completed by the year 2000. Already in mid-1990, the military began implementing plans to apportion defensive forces more evenly between Poland's eastern and western borders.

From mid-1990 to mid-1992, the topic of appropriate doctrine for Poland received extensive treatment in general and specialized forums, but doctrinal reform was stymied by internal political conflicts. All agreed that henceforth the basic mission of the Polish defense system should be protecting the sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of the Polish nation. The means to that end were more problematic, however. In mid-1991 a deputy to the chief of the General Staff proposed that the new Polish Army (the word people's having been dropped from the title in 1990) be built around assault-landing brigades, helicopter regiments, armored and motorized units, and special forces such as mountain infantry, to achieve optimal flexibility and mobility in the defensive posture. Poland would also begin manufacturing sophisticated modern weapons and purchase medium-class warships. The chief obstacle to this plan, however, was a military budget that in 1991 barely sustained routine maintenance.

A comprehensive doctrinal reform first proposed in mid-1991 was never approved because of disagreement between President Lech Walesa, on one side, and Prime Minister Jan Olszewski and Minister of National Defense Jan Parys, on the other, over the question of which office should control military policy. In mid1992 , after the Olszewski government fell, a new draft doctrine was prepared by the president's National Security Bureau (Biuro Bezpieczenstwa Narodowego--BBN) and officials of the ministries of foreign affairs and national defense.

The basic assumption of the new doctrine was that Poland was not threatened with any form of attack from outside, excepting possible spillover from ethnic or border conflicts in the former Soviet republics. Instead, the chief threats to Polish national security would be serious civil unrest or strikes, a massive influx of refugees from the east, or the failure of other countries to fulfill economic obligations. In early 1992, Russia provided a prime example of the third type of risk by unexpectedly demanding a revision of the terms of a crucial barter agreement to supply natural gas to Poland. Within Poland conversion from a centrally planned economy to free enterprise would cause social strains, leading to mass emigration, crime, and relaxation of social rules. The new doctrine therefore recommended completing social reconstruction as quickly as possible to minimize disruptions that might threaten national security. Given budgetary constraints, planners estimated that national security requirements could be met with a total force of about 200,000, or 60 percent of the force level in the 1980s, together with a National Guard force of unspecified size.

In the spirit of cooperation with all neighbors, the doctrine refused membership in any military alliance directed against any neighbor. It also rejected deployment of Polish forces abroad except in accordance with international agreements; a United Nations (UN) peacekeeping mission, for example, would be permitted. Specifically mentioned were close and friendly relations with Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Lithuania. Regional cooperation was described as the foundation of a general international security system that included North America. An important element of this general concept was membership in NATO and close cooperation with the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE--see Glossary) (see Military Cooperation and Exchanges , this ch.).

Data as of October 1992

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