The Polish soldier between national traditions and international projection MARIA W A˛ GROWSKA
The Polish soldier finds himself at an important stage of democratic development in Poland, both as an individual in the armed forces and in his role as a citizen in Polish society. The radical political transition that led Poland out of the so-called People’s Democracy towards a democratic state in the 1990s is over. The transformation was launched at the turn of the 1990s. It involved political and military integration into the West, including the Partnership for Peace programme of NATO, and membership of NATO 1999 and of the European Union 2004. The country continues to strive to reduce the distance separating it from its more developed allies and partners in economic, civilizational and military terms (compatibility and inter-operability) and is working to improve its democracy. At the same time, the Polish Armed Forces have abandoned the centuries-old tradition of conscription that was practised until 2009. The main factors determining the current changes are the continued transformation of the Republic of Poland towards a state with advanced democratic mechanisms, including those affecting the army; and the strengthening of Poland’s role in NATO and the EU, with the ambition to be among Europe’s ‘top six’ most influential countries. Cooperation with these international organizations in foreign missions1 and the transition to fully professional armed forces in 2010 has begun to change Poland’s image substantially. All matters connected with the implementation of the assumed functional model of the Polish soldier serving at home and abroad are reflected in the growing expectations of the armed forces as an employer, of the commanding officers and of politicians. Although a hierarchical structure (Rank System Poland) is typical of the armed forces of every state, the necessity of obeying orders leads some members in the armed forces to demonstrate greater discipline and involvement, while encouraging passivity and opportunism in others. Long-standing traditions and entrenched habits may significantly retard the transformation process. At present, it appears as if those elements regarding the way the armed forces function, which originate from the history of the Polish state, its character
and national tradition, will remain unchanged for quite some time. They have not only been passed on from earlier generations, but also result from a policy of historical remembrance consciously conducted by the state. In the eyes of Polish society, being placed in such a frame lends splendour to the Polish Armed Forces. These elements are connected to systemic changes and should be kept in mind when evaluating the Polish military and the attitudes of individual soldiers. They played an important role in the revamping of the armed forces over the past 20 years and in mapping out Poland’s defence and security strategy for the years ahead, including the role of the armed forces after their professionalization. The following analyses concern Polish experiences during military missions and the basic concepts that underlie Poland’s defence system. Several documents were taken into consideration: the ‘Defence Strategy of the Republic of Poland’; an ‘Armed Forces Development Plan to 2018’; the ‘Prospects of Poland’s Armed Forces till 2030’ and ‘Strategic Defence Review’ (Ministry of National Defence of Poland) documents; and the ‘Strategic Review of Polish Security’ (National Security Bureau of Poland), which is available in Poland for the first time and will be followed by a new national security strategy.