September 18, 2010:
Poland continues to increase its defense budget, with next year's spending going up 7.1 percent, to $8.9 billion. This will mark a decade of setting the defense budget at 1.95 percent of GDP. In that time, Poland has been spending heavily to bring its forces up to NATO standards, helped along by a robust economy. This was accomplished by spending more on procuring Western weapons and equipment (new and used) and cutting personnel strength and the use of conscription.
A decade ago, the military had 185,000 troops and depended a lot on conscripts who were in for only a year. Now troop strength is down to 100,000 and, as of last year, conscription is gone. Civilian defense employees were also cut. The personnel cuts, and over 70 base closings, saved over a billion dollars a year. Also valuable was the retirement of old Soviet era equipment, which was expensive to maintain. This was especially the case with Russian warplanes, like the MiG-29. Now Poland is replacing them with F-16s. Second hand Leopard 2A4 tanks provide Poland with a more powerful tank than anything the Russians have. Most Polish tanks are Polish made upgrades of the T-72 (the PT-91). Most Polish forces are up to NATO standards, and all will be in the next decade. This is immensely reassuring to Poles, who have been threatened by their Russian neighbor for centuries.