Jędrzej Graf: Dear Mr. Minister, we were to start our conversation with the NATO Summit, however, this week you have released information, according to which the “Wisła” programme, being one of the key elements of the Polish Armed Forces Technological Modernization Plan, enters a new stage, as a letter of intent has been signed by and between Raytheon and the Polish Armament Group.
Antoni Macierewicz, Polish Minister of Defence: Yes, we treat the Modernization Plan as a priority, and it needs to be talked about. When it comes to the latest negotiations, the companies which are going to follow the example set by Raytheon, adopting a rule that half of the price of the offered product would be placed with the Polish factories, at hands of the Polish engineers and workers, would be warmly welcomed. This is what the US-based company has agreed to. Obviously this required quite a hard stance from us, which was an object of severe critique. I am not saying that the negotiations are over – the process is in progress, it is not known how the process is going to continue – however, there is no doubt that the offer is interesting, and that we treat it as a superior proposal.
However, we should not confuse this with the offset. Here, we do not mean the offset. Here, we are referring to the fact that half of the price of the procured product is going to be paid to the Polish defence industry. Thanks to this, should this contract be concluded, the delivered Patriot system is only going to enter service as a Polish version. This would be de facto a joint product. This is what Raytheon has agreed to as early as at this stage of negotiations. This is an interesting and beneficial thing for us.
In the light of what you have said, does any time-line exist, pertaining to the Wisła programme?
From the point of view taken by the Polish Army, the Wisła programme issue shall be closed by the end of this year. Thus, I am going to make efforts, regardless of who the other Party of the prospective agreement is, that this agreement is signed by the end of this year.
In your statements, you have stressed the fact that a breakthrough happened, when it comes to the industrial cooperation. Is the change as such also the case, when it comes to the proposal of configuring the system? Does the negotiation process involve the existing PDB-8 system, which had been mentioned before?
If it is introduced at all, the existing Patriot system would act as a bridge version, not the ultimate one. The new system would be, de facto, a joint product of the US and Polish industries.
Throughout the recent weeks, some statements emerged, made by you and Secretary Bartosz Kownacki, concerning the underestimation of the Armed Forces Modernization Programme.
This statement is wrong, because the modernization programme proposed by the former government was basically fictitious. In the light of the fact that the estimated amount which was to cover the programme was defined as PLN 91 billion, while the Supreme Audit Office has come to a result of calculations, according to which implementation of the programme would require an amount of PLN 235 billion – for me, this is not an underestimation. Mistake could be spoken of if the underestimation was close to 1/10th, and here the amount is twice as high.
When, in that case, a modified and updated modernization programme is going to be presented?
Our new modernization plan is going to be published in September this year, first in front of the government, and then in front of the public. The plan is currently a subject of works undertaken by Vice-Minister Bartosz Kownacki, however we have already indicated the most important directions. I would like to stress the fact that the air defence system is of the highest priority for us, with a variety of variants being prepared. The second direction of a very high relevance is seen in the submarines. Here, the talks are going in the right direction. These are our priorities, whereas missile defence is understood both as the Wisła programme and other missile defence systems, as well as artillery or rocket strike systems, including howitzers, Homar systems, which are considered to be the most important elements, to be implemented in the Polish Army, as soon as possible.
Can you confirm the unofficial information, according to which the Ministry is considering initiation of a multi-role fighter procurement programme, within the framework of updating the modernization plan?
Obviously, such information is being circulated, and I can confirm the fact that it has been also received by the Ministry – not in a form of rumours, but in a form of a kind of offer – it is being considered. This is not an issue which, from our point of view, bears the highest priority.
Starting from the beginning of this term of office, a wide programme which is aimed at creating the territorial defence component is being carried out, and at the same time, the operational forces are being gradually reinforced, which is to raise the quantity of troops up to 150 thousand. Are the assets remaining at disposal of the Ministry of Defence sufficient to implement these plans?
Above all, we have restored the operational forces. They have been burdened by an incredible corset of limits, imposed on the service of professional privates which was 12 years long, promoted to the ranks of NCOs and officers. Believe me, the commanders have been crying that they are unable to expand the Army, due to the lack of Non-Commissioned Officers. Everywhere, artificial limits were being imposed, to keep the army “locked out”, with a smallest possible size. This was incredible. Of course, I understand the reasons for that. This was a result of a failed substantial diagnosis, according to which no risk of war existed, the Army was irrelevant and that we are safe. In the light of the thinking above, the Army could have been an object of cuts, it may be limited to a small quantity of personnel. This was the diagnosis determined by the former government. The Army was a budget section where money cuts were being implemented, with concomitant existence of the detrimental corruption phenomena. This network of connections, from politicians, through commanders, finishing with foreign secret services, was demoralizing and destroying the army from the inside.
So, does the government, in the light of the underestimated modernization programme in existence, and the statements according to which the army would be quantitatively expanded, consider increase of the financing for the armed forces above the level of 2% of GDP? Are such steps possible to be implemented, considering the other plans made by the government such as the 500+ programme, or increase of the social welfare spending?
We have increased the budget up to 2%, as calculated in line with the NATO system. This is more than before, and this is going to constitute a constant coefficient for financing of the Army. The financing is going to be dependent, obviously, on the level of threat and on the economic capacity of the country on the other hand. However, realistically speaking, we are prepared to increase the quantity of the army personnel up to the level of 150 thousand troops, and the budget, up to the level of 3 percent. However, this perspective is reaching beyond the upcoming year, since the plan assumes that the current level of financing is going to be maintained. This would also be dependent on the assessment of the current situation, so no, let me call them ideological, assumptions are made, but if Poland is threatened, if Russia is aggressive, then we will have to expand the Army in line with the capacity and needs of Poland.
During the NATO Summit In Warsaw, relevant decisions are going to be made pertaining to reinforcement of the NATO combat presence in the Central-Eastern European states. In your opinion, would the summit create a permanent change and return of the alliance to the basic defence mission, assuming that the member states are protected, along with balancing of the status, of all of the member states?
The decisions that have been made during the conferences, with the latest one taking place in Brussels in June this year, preparing the NATO summit, follow the philosophy you have just brought up. The status of the member states is going to become equal, we won’t have the differentiation implemented so far, between the first and second class members. This is very important, because Poland, along with the Central European states, has been, in an obvious way, treated as a state of secondary meaning, since the Russians were “crouching”, while NATO accepted the Russian “veto rights”. The situation was, obviously, conditioned by the behaviour of the governments of those countries. This was the case in Poland, when the former government remained in power, accepting such status quo and it was not demanding within the scope of the possible options. The former government did not even present the level of threat properly, meaning that in some sense it has contributed to the process of pulling wool over the world’s eyes, when it comes to the real intents of President Vladimir Putin. The whole behaviour of that government pertaining to the Smolensk crash, regardless of the cause of that crash, when the government got involved in telling the whole world that behaviour exhibited by the services of President Putin is absolutely credible, excessive, is a result of an assumption that truth is intended to be reached. In a situation when lie followed a lie, and no doubt exists here, this was a detrimental action, not only for Poland, but also for the whole Europe. This is just one of the problems, more such issues exist. Here, I would like to confirm it clearly – our stance is going to be dependent on the Russian stance.
In what way the long term effects of the NATO summit shall be viewed, in the context of constructing an immunity to the potential threat posed by Russia?
The change which is happening in Warsaw now is of the same scale, as the event in which Poland joined NATO. It is the same kind of breakthrough and it has the same extent of geopolitical consequences, not only for Poland, but also for the whole North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The alliance made a decision that it is going to change. This is a result of learning the Russian lesson, which is so brutally served to the whole world by the Kremlin. It was clear for me, when I first met the Ministers of Defence of the EU member states, and NATO member states, during the further meetings, collective and individual, full understanding. And this is a difficult issue in Poland – there – full understanding.
Regardless of who I was speaking to – Defence Ministers of Malta, Greece, Germany or the United Kingdom, the conclusion was that even if the Eastern and Southern Flank threats are different in their nature, shape, the source is the same. Thus, everyone is aware of the fact that a great game is being carried out, the aim of which to transform Europe into a stronghold under siege, forcing Europe and the US to reject the foundations of the ideas which were the basic building blocks of NATO. In the light of this, we need to get back to the roots of the alliance, to the mission of absolute defence for its members. Hence the crossing out of this detrimental manner, the concept of differentiating the member states between those who may use assistance and who may have allied forces deployed within their territory, and those, against whom Russia holds a vetoing right. This is going to be rejected at that summit, and this constitutes a historical breakthrough for NATO and for the Polish security.
Up until 2014 NATO did not, according to the common opinions, place enough emphasis on assessment of the threat posed by Russia. The alliance is willing to establish permanent presence of the combat units in the Central-Eastern European states. Is this going to be related to reinforcement to other, widely understood defensive measures, e.g. by updating of the event plans?
The detailed arrangements to be made during the summit may be surprising, they will exhibit, to a greater extent, the depth of the NATO and US involvement on the Eastern Flank. To an incomparably greater extent, in relation to our current cognition.
So, in such case, can you tell us about the nature of those arrangements, also within the scope of the plans?
I can confirm that a breakthrough is in order, but a hierarchy regarding that issue exists. These issues are going to be released to the public by the Prime Ministers, and by the NATO secretary General. This is their responsibility, and their privilege.
The upcoming summit, on one hand, reinforces the NATO presence on the Eastern flank, and at the same time, announcement emerged that NATO-Russia Council talks are going to be restarted.
It seems to me that such comparison is not accurate, that on one hand persistent presence is considered and on the other, NATO-Russia talks are to be initiated again. The condition proposed by the other party was that the NATO-Russia talks refer to the arrangements of the summit in Warsaw, meaning that the talks are organized prior to the summit. No such situation is going to be witnessed. The talks will take place after all decisions are made, and the decisions will not be negotiable. We will talk with the Russians assuming a position of not necessarily strength, since NATO is a defensive alliance and we are not threatening anyone, but a position of internal solidarity, coherence and determination pertaining to achievement of the basic goal and fulfilment of the duty, seen in collective and several defence. And it does not matter whether we are referring to Estonia or any other, larger state. The formula related to the battalion battle groups assumes that they shall be capable of full and complete deployment of assets that would be sufficient to defend the given portion of the front-line, within which these groups are destined to operate, and they shall be capable to withdraw or stop the adversary until the moment when the VJTF and NRF arrive, along with potential support from overseas.
What issues may be mentioned during the meeting of the NATO-Russia council?
Certainly, the issues which must be a subject of the talks. For example, the recent, purely provocative actions undertaken by the Russian aircraft which, with transponders turned off being invisible in the airspace, posed a threat for the NATO aircraft operating over the Baltic Sea. In his talks with the Finnish leaders Putin admitted that the above events actually took place, and he is ready to talk about the plan to make the Russian aircraft turn on their transponders. In fact, a “lord’s mercy”, one could claim, but this shows how basic are the issues that need to be arranged, from the point of view of everyday safety in the air and on the sea. Such issues are going to be a subject of those talks, seen as being driven towards prevention of accidental breakout of an armed conflict, since the operations undertaken by the Russian aircraft raise the risk within that scope.
Germany, as the only European state, decided to take a role of a framework nation, within the scope of permanent forward presence on the NATO Eastern Flank. How do you assess the German involvement in the process of bolstering the security of the NATO member states in the Central-Eastern Europe?
I would like to stress one thing which I am repeating - but apparently I am not heard effectively. I have an impression that some of the Polish media are determined to mislead the politicians, and the public opinion, to situate Germany as the main opponent of the permanent NATO presence in the East and of reinforcement of the NATO presence in our region. This is incredible. Since seven months I have been saying this – it is not Germany. The main problems are not situated there, but still this is systematically recirculated by the German newspapers and the Polish media following them. Once again, I can repeat, it is not the German Ministry of Defence that is opposing the implementation of reinforcement, even though some conflicting views are present in the German government. The Ministry of Defence, to a large extent, understands the current, difficult geopolitical setting. When it comes to the German government itself, a variety of streams exists when it comes to the German involvement in the NATO alliance, and they are reflected in statements made by the individual politicians.
If one looked at this in a long-term, how do the chances for development of Polish-German industrial-defensive collaboration after the NATO summit look?
I want to say that we are starting the cooperation, and it is very interesting within the scope of the initiative assuming a joint design of the next generation tank. Talks regarding that issue are currently in progress. It seems that there is a great chance that this cooperation is undertaken. We are also talking about collaboration related to the naval command, where agreement is also achievable. Germany is supporting Poland, within the scope of locating command, intelligence and reconnaissance assets on the Eastern Flank. The Germans are, through expression of the above support, accepting the Polish proposal in that dimension. Thus, numerous fields for collaboration exist, from industry, through command structures, finishing with the combat collaboration.
Is the cooperation going to refer to the modernization of the Polish capabilities regarding the submarines?
I am reserved when it comes to declarations regarding that issue, we are involved in negotiations with a variety of partners. Thus, freedom of achieving a proper solution is required.
Let us go back to collaboration with the United States. We know that a battalion battle group is going to be stationed in Poland.
This is your statement. Presence of a heavy brigade is certain.
Throughout the recent months you have been declaring reinforcement of military cooperation with the United States in the areas including air defence, cyber-security, establishment of a territorial defence component or within the domain of army aviation. Can you share any more details regarding that collaboration?
I am happy that you have listed all of the domains in which collaboration is good and is being developed. When it comes to the Territorial Defence, Director Bartlomiej Misiewicz, in an ongoing manner, is talking to the officers of the Illinois National Guard, who are providing help and advice, we are consulting with them, and we are using their experience, in the process of constructing the Territorial Defence component. All of the mentioned areas are a field for collaboration, but this collaboration does not exhaust the problem. Washington has made decisions to involve the US military potential on the Eastern flank, with a particular emphasis placed on Poland. This is the truth about the great change which contributed, to a large extent, to the potential success of the NATO summit in Warsaw.
Are all the arrangements of the plan, assuming permanent NATO forces presence in Poland, precisely defined, or is there any margin of doubt present there?
The scope of the main decisions is defined, but this does not concern the whole architecture which is going to be programmed in detail and adopted during the Warsaw summit. There are some issues that we know that need to be discussed and defined after the summit and before the next conference of the defence ministers. This is a great structure, a military machine, well programmed, but some details need still to be arranged, such as the command relations and cooperation since, for example, the US division and heavy brigade will have to cooperate with the NATO forces, also involving the Americans. This issue is related to the whole command structure, within which the commands tied to the individual units or elements would be located. The main arrangements are to be undertaken during the summit, however some technical issues are going to be clearly defined after the Warsaw meeting.
Lately, cyberspace has been said to have a chance of being considered a domain of warfare during the NATO summit. How, in this case, the Article 5 mechanisms would look like? It seems that this problem has a key value, considering the number of threats and size of the cyberspace-dependent areas: critical or military infrastructure. Can we expect deep changes within that scope, during the upcoming summit?
It shall be recalled that such change has already been made, with a reference to the hybrid threats. These threats are being considered to be a space for warfare, which forces us to refer to the Article 5. of the Washington Treaty. And the hybrid threats are difficult within the scope of definition, they are ambiguous. I remember those well trained Russian soldiers who pretended not to be soldiers, who took over the Crimean Peninsula and eliminated the Ukrainian forces there and in Donbas. Called “little green men”, which is maybe too delicate, but I think that an important intention is seen here. And the soldiers mentioned above came from Spetsnaz, they were not the “little green men”. As I think, we are going to follow the route which has been undertaken, when the hybrid warfare has been considered to be a warfare. This means that we may consequently refer to the Article 5 in the domain, within which the attack has taken place.
In what way this translates into an option of requesting the allied support? Should we to expect detailed arrangements within that scope?
If we are referring to requesting assistance from other allies, regarding the cybernetic attack, then this assistance is going to be initiated in the cyber-domain. During the upcoming summit, additional mechanisms are going to emerge. Here, I would like to express a positive opinion pertaining to the steps taken by the EU. A memorandum of understanding is going to be signed with the EU, an act of joint declaration in the cybernetic and hybrid threat domains. The act has been developed by Frederica Mogherini, in order to synchronize these operations which are still separate. The joint effort in acting against those threats would be, in my opinion, usable. It is a natural situation that some of the EU and NATO member states place a less significant emphasis on the Eastern Flank threats, simultaneously treating the cybernetic threat with high degree of seriousness, regardless of the location where that threat is dangerous. We have some common ground in there then. Thus, I am optimistic when it comes to coherence of the NATO alliance. I also prefer actions which are aimed at resisting the threats we are facing, rather than discussing this in the media or by the politicians, where voices of catastrophe emerge, referring to the Polish experiences of September 1939. I must say that at least among the Ministers of Defence, the awareness of the degree of threat for the European security, coming from the East to a large extent, but also from the South, is high. The degree of mobilization of the societies in the contemporary Europe, at least on the governmental level, is higher, in comparison with the image presented by the media.
It seems though that the British decision to leave the EU may weaken the transatlantic security architecture.
I don’t agree here. Brexit will have an exactly opposite effect, contrary to what it seems to many of you. This is going to untie the hands of the authorities in London – at least it is seen like this by my interlocutors from the United Kingdom. This will make it possible for the British to get involved deeper in construction of their security in the east. Wider and deeper, since as the British say, they had to face the EU imposed limits which diminished the military effort. The London’s involvement on the Eastern Flank has been growing throughout the last 8 months. Really, the United Kingdom may be stronger, not weaker. We are not aware of the amount of potential which remains in possession of London, globally. Thus, limiting it solely to the European space, the EU, is seen as a limitation and weakening of this potential by the British.
Thank you for the conversation.