Poland plans volunteer force to deter Russia

 Polish Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz during a press conference in Warsaw on Sept 15, 2016.
Polish Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz during a press conference in Warsaw on Sept 15, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

WARSAW • Poland has said it will build a new territorial defence force of 53,000 volunteers by 2019, announcing it with an eye on heading off any threat from Russia.

Similar to the United States' National Guard, the force will be made up of civilians who undergo military training. It is intended to deter Russia from seizing Polish territory by infiltration, as it is accused of having done in eastern Ukraine.

"By 2019, the (force) should have 53,000 men," Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz said on Monday, adding that the new force would cost €800 million (S$1.2 billion) over the next three years.

But he insisted that the new "units are the cheapest way to increase the strength of the armed forces and the defence capabilities of the country".

"It is also the best response to the dangers of a hybrid war like the one... following Russia's aggression in Ukraine," he added, pointing to Moscow's 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula.

Experts and officials say hybrid warfare is a tactic employed by Russia that uses deception rather than a formal declaration of war.

"Professional soldiers will constitute between 6 and 8 per cent of these units and will command the volunteers," Defence Ministry spokesman Beata Perkowska said.

Volunteers will be paid a nominal sum, undergo basic military training, and be required to hone their skills regularly.

The first three units of the force will be deployed in eastern Poland - deemed to be the most exposed to Russian pressure. Plans call for each of Poland's 16 provinces to have a force of between 3,000 and 5,000 volunteers.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 16, 2016, with the headline 'Poland plans volunteer force to deter Russia'. Subscribe