Poland’s Strategic Position in NATO


Poland is located at the heart of Europe with almost no natural protection except for the Baltic sea and the Carpathians mountains. Poland also borders the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, which is one of the most militarized areas in Europe, making it a territory that can be rapidly targeted and invaded. However, its central position on the continent is equally an advantage, given its proximity to European capitals and centers of power. Considering this, in this article we’ll examine Poland’s key role in NATO.

A necessary adaptation

A necessary adaptation Poland’s special geographical position, mentioned above, made it necessary to develop military power after the Second World War. But it was only after the collapse of the USSR, on March 12, 1999, that Poland joined US military authorities and the Atlantic Alliance, which was seen as a “definitive adhesion to Europe.” In fact, NATO justifies its enlargement to include the former members of the Warsaw pact because of the danger posed by Russia to european security: “NATO has increased its military presence in the eastern part of the Alliance as a direct result of Russia’s behaviour, which reflects a pattern of aggressive actions against its neighbours and the wider transatlantic community”. Then, the Polish army has been standardized to NATO standards, and soldier training has evolved, switching to a professional army4 .

Poland has made efforts to be integrated, allocating 2.4% of GDP to military spending last year, becoming a model member of NATO to the point of being thanked by the Secretary General: “We are grateful to Poland for its constant contribution to NATO,” said Jan Stoltenberg. A powerful military presence American military bases in Poland are abundant, as illustrated on this map from the American Embassy in Poland. This makes Poland one of the Central European countries with the most American military structures.

A powerful military presence

American military bases in Poland are abundant, as illustrated on this map from the American Embassy in Poland. This makes Poland one of the Central European countries with the most American military structures.

(Source: US embassy and Consulate in Poland)

Furthermore, in 2023, in the face of the Russian threat, the Polish government has revised its military objectives and budget, with the aim of doubling the size of its army (from 125 000 today to 300 000 in 2035) and increasing its armament, equipment purchases representing 52% of Poland’s defense budget in 2023. 

This reinforcement of the Polish military force has enabled the country to lend its support to Ukraine. In spring 2023 Duda announced the delivery of four Mig-29 air fighters to the Ukrainian Air Force. The first NATO country to deliver such aid.

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, almost all western weapons dedicated to the Ukrainian force have also passed through Poland. Poland has thus come to embody NATO in Central Europe. Since joining NATO in 1999, Poland has steadily improved its potential and become increasingly integrated into international institutions, to the point of becoming a military pillar in Central Europe within NATO’s institutions.



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Euronews. “La Pologne ou la nouvelle tête de pont de l’OTAN,” February 20, 2023. https://fr.euronews.com/2023/02/20/la-pologne-ou-la-nouvelle-tete-de-pont-de-lotan.

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“NATO-U.S. Military Presence in Poland  – U.S. Embassy & Consulate in Poland.” Accessed December 4, 2023. https://pl.usembassy.gov/nato_us/.

Regnier, Cindy. “Kaliningrad Au Cœur de La Confrontation Russie-OTAN.” The Conversation, June 26, 2022. http://theconversation.com/kaliningrad-au-coeur-de-la-confrontation-russie-otan-185790.

Turbanska, Agata. “Le bilan positif des dix années de la Pologne au sein de l’OTAN.” Perspective Monde, 15:13:11Z. https://perspective.usherbrooke.ca//bilan/servlet/BMAnalyse/867.

Emilie Koch

Emilie Koch

Dear Readers,

I'm delighted to have joined the Global Observer team for this academic year! I have a particular interest in international relations, as it's my field of study, and I'll be keen to keep you up to date with the latest world news!

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