The Polish parliament on Wednesday approved the creation of a new territorial defense force aimed at deterring a possible Russian attack that critics say could end up serving as the armed wing of the ruling right-wing Law and Justice party.
The force would be made up of 53,000 part-time soldiers stationed throughout the country by 2019. That would constitute a third of all Polish military personnel.
The bill still has to be approved by the Polish Senate, where the government has a majority.
“The units are the cheapest way to increase the strength of the armed forces and the defense capabilities of the country,” Antoni Macierewicz, Poland’s defense minister, told reporters. “It is also the best response to the dangers of a hybrid war like the one following Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.”
The government said the units will become Poland’s “fifth service,” alongside land, sea, air, and special forces. As the proposals currently stand, the units would have their own separate command center, and the head of the new force will report directly to Macierewicz, bypassing the command structure of the rest of the armed forces.
“It’s too early to say what precisely the government intends to do with these units,” said Marek Świerczyński, a defense analyst with Polityka Insight, a Warsaw think tank. “But it’s not too early to say that it appears to be constructing a parallel army outside of established military structures.”
My report for Politico Europe can be found here.