Due to the Russian-Ukranian war, it is possible that some form of general compulsory military training could return in Poland. Poles are united with Ukrainians by the proximity of language and culture and are ready to accept refugees, but must be careful not to provide opportunities for human trafficking to Belarusian services. Our interview with Mariusz Patey, the expert of Warsaw Institute on future security policy trends and migration.
How has the security policy of Poland changed due to the war in Ukraine?
By increasing the defence budget to 3% of GDP, Poland wants to increase the costs of potential aggressors and deter them from taking action against Poland. Given the current situation, it is possible that some form of general compulsory military training could return. Poland will intensify programs to modernize the army and saturate it with modern war technology, both imported and home-made. Naturally, Poland will not find an answer to the possibility of using weapons of mass destruction without the participation of NATO. We hope that our army will be able to repel a conventional attack in time to come to the aid of the allied armies. Another important element is the acceleration of the process of withdrawal from purchases of Russian raw materials and reduction of the dependence of Polish exporters on the markets of the Russian Federation and Belarus. Polish refineries need Russian oil less and less. Polish extraction companies are purchasing extraction concessions in various places around the world, and the infrastructure for receiving gas from non-Russian sources is being built. Poland enters into accelerated development of nuclear energy, both large and based on SMR (private capital investments). The development of transport infrastructure in the North-South direction, as well as stronger access for rural countries to EU and NAFTA markets, should compensate for the loss of markets in the East.
What are the expected security policy trends in the future from the Polish perspective?
NATO seems to be consolidating around the defense of its eastern flank. Additionally, tightening cooperation with the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. We should remember that Warsaw was a “Russian city” for 100 years, until 1914. After the subjugation of Ukraine and Belarus, who knows if the future president of the Russian Federation will not want to control the former socialist countries? We remember how the USSR subjugated Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary. We remember Russian tanks on the streets of Prague and Budapest. Poland has a duty to support Ukraine’s independence for the sake of its own security as long as it is fighting. The shorter the border with Russia, the safer Poland will be. As a member of the EU and NATO, Poland will actively work for not only humanitarian aid but also effective military assistance from NATO. The policy of passivity dictated by concern for its own welfare and fear of a nuclear attack from the Russian Federation will not guarantee peace in Europe. Who is the armed criminal afraid of? An armed desperado. Let’s remember that general Jozef Bem and other Poles helped Hungarians in 1848 not because they saw a chance to win against the combined armies of Austria and Russia, but because they believed that the right of Hungarians to have their own state is just as rightful as the right of Poles. Today this right is taken away by Kremlin from Ukrainians, who knows if tomorrow it will not be taken away from Poles and Hungarians?
How would you assess the current migration situation and its economic and social impact?
The huge influx of refugees from Ukraine raises enormous challenges for the Polish social policy system. Within 4 days, 700. 000 refugees left Ukraine, mainly children and elderly people. Some of these people can be absorbed by the Polish labor market, which has been suffering from labor shortages for several years. However, the war at our neighbor’s is an exceptional situation and the involvement of the state in helping the Ukrainians enjoys great social support, although in Polish collective memory there remain painful memories of World War II associated with the activities of the OUN or NKVD. However, Ukrainians are united with Poles by the closeness of language and culture. Let’s remember that Ukrainians were one of the nations of the First Republic of Poland and lived together with Poles, Belarusians and Lithuanians in one country for almost 400 years. However, there are other risks associated with mass migration from the direction of Ukraine. In times of chaos on the territory of Belarus, Belarusian services try to open a transit channel through Ukraine for economic migrants from Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa not fleeing the war in Ukraine. These individuals, who are often claimant-oriented and aggressive, are used in hybrid actions against Poland and also in the image of refugees from Ukraine, including numerous foreign students studying at Ukrainian universities. Poland’s increasingly knowledge-based economy, with a decreasing share of the raw material component, while maintaining high economic growth, will be able to cope with the mass migration of refugees from Ukraine, but must be careful not to provide opportunities for human trafficking to Belarusian services.