Poland has said it intends to buy long-range cruise missiles as the country scrambles to strengthen its armed forces owing to mounting fears of Russia’s intentions in Central Europe.
If purchased, the cruise missiles would be fitted into the country’s new submarine force, and would give Poland the ability to strike targets at a range of more than 600 miles with a missile carrying a 1000-pound warhead.
“We are preparing to purchase new submarines and the capability to fire cruise missiles is a requirement,” said Tomasz Siemoniak, the Polish defence minister. “We are asking everyone who is able to deliver such weapons, including our American partners. It is a highly advanced weapon and to buy it requires special permission.”
In response, a Russian defence expert quoted by the Interfax news agency said the purchase was “clearly anti-Russian”.
The most likely supplier of the missiles is the US firm Raytheon, the producer of the tomahawk cruise missile. Used extensively against targets in Iraq, its destructive and lethal capabilities have given it a formidable reputation – although so far the UK remains the missile’s only foreign operator.
The desire to purchase the weapon reflects mounting security concerns in Poland triggered by the Ukraine crisis. Poles have viewed with alarm Russia’s apparent willingness to use force to secure its influence in Central and Eastern Europe, and old fears of Polish vulnerability at the hands of its giant neighbour have been rekindled.
This, along with the need to replace aging Soviet-era equipment, has led to Poland launching a massive £28-billion defence spending programme, making it one of the few Nato countries to spurn austerity-induced cuts in favour of ramping up spending on guns and bombs.
“Equipping our armed forces with weapons that work as a deterrent is part of a plan to modernise the military and so strengthen national security,” said Malgorzata Kidawa-Blonska, the Polish government’s spokeswoman, adding that the “conflict on the borders” had increased the need to do this.
Last year Poland bought 40 American-made air-launched cruise missiles, and the country is looking to buy air-defence missile systems and a new advanced jet trainer. The Polish government has also brought forward by two years a programme to purchase 30 attack helicopters by 2018 to 2016.
Along with spending more, Poland has taken steps to increase the size of its army. At the beginning of March it launched a recruitment campaign to get more people to volunteer for reserve forces, and Ewa Kopacz, the Polish prime minister, signed rules allowing the army to call up any able-bodied man. Under the previous system only Poles who had served in the military were eligible for the draft.