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The Armed Forces of the Republic of Poland (Polish: Siły Zbrojne Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej, abbreviated SZ RP; popularly called Wojsko Polskie in Poland, abbreviated WP—roughly, the “Polish Military”) are the national armed forces of the Republic of Poland. The name has been used since the early 19th century, but can also be applied to earlier periods.
The Armed Forces of the Republic of Poland are the Wojska Lądowe (Polish Land Forces), Marynarka Wojenna (Polish Navy), Siły Powietrzne (Polish Air Forces), Wojska Specjalne (Polish Special Forces) and Wojska Obrony Terytorialnej (Polish Territorial Defence Force) which are under the command of the Ministerstwo Obrony Narodowej Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej (Ministry of National Defence of Poland).
In 2022, Poland ranked 20th in the world in terms of military expenditures and was among the nine NATO member states that have maintained their military spending above the required 2% of annual GDP. In accordance with the Homeland Defence Act, enacted as a response to the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, Poland plans to increase its active military personnel to over 300,000 by the end of 2023, and more than double its spending in 2023, with a projected budget of over US$30 billion.
Pursuant to the national security strategy of Poland, the supreme strategic goal of Poland’s military forces is to ensure favourable and secure conditions for the realization of national interests by eliminating external and internal threats, reducing risks, rightly assessing undertaken challenges, and ably using existing opportunities. The Republic of Poland’s main strategic goals in the area of defence include:
During World War I, the Polish Legions were set up in Galicia, the southern part of Poland under Austrian occupation. They were both disbanded after the Central Powers failed to provide guarantees of Polish independence after the war. General Józef Haller, the commander of the Second Brigade of the Polish Legion, switched sides in late 1917, and via Murmansk took part of his troops to France, where he created the Blue Army. It was joined by several thousand Polish volunteers from the United States. It fought on the French front in 1917 and 1918.
The Polish Army was recreated in 1918 from elements of the three separate Russian, Austro-Hungarian, and German armies, and armed with equipment left following World War I. The force expanded during the Polish–Soviet War of 1919–1922 to nearly 800,000 men, but then were reduced after peace was reestablished.
At the onset of World War II, on 1 September 1939 Nazi Germany invaded Poland. Polish forces were overwhelmed by the German attack in September 1939, which was followed on 17 September 1939 by an invasion by the Soviet Union. Some Polish forces escaped from the occupied country and joined Allied forces fighting in other theaters while those that remained in Poland splintered into guerilla units of the Armia Krajowa (“Home Army“) and other partisan groups which fought in clandestine ways against the foreign occupiers. Thus, there were three threads to Polish armed forces from 1939; the Polish Armed Forces in the West, the Armia Krajowa and other resistance organizations fighting the Germans in Poland, and the Polish Armed Forces in the East, which later became the post-war communist Polish People’s Army (LWP).
Until the fall of communism, the army’s prestige under communist rule continued to fall, as it was used by the government to resettle ethnic minorities immediately after the war (Operation Vistula), and to violently suppress opposition several times, during the 1956 Poznań protests, the 1970 Polish protests, and during martial law in Poland in 1981–1983. The LWP also took part in the suppressing of the 1968 democratization process of Czechoslovakia, commonly known as the Prague Spring. That same year Marshal of Poland Marian Spychalski was asked to replace Edward Ochab as chairman of the Council of State, and General Wojciech Jaruzelski, at that time the Chief of the General Staff, was named to replace him. Jaruzelski, a known Soviet loyalist, was put in place by the Soviets in order to ensure that a trusted group of officers was in control of one of the least trusted armies in the Warsaw Pact.