Poland to launch civilian military training in response to Ukrainian crisis

Members of Poland’s 1st Mechanized Battalion of the 7th Coastal Defence Brigade take part in a joint attack combat military exercise with U.S. 2-8 CAV, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division near Drawsko-Pomorskie November 13, 2014. (Reuters/Kacper Pempel)

Poland plans to allow civilians to sign up for military training. With anti-Russian hysteria spreading like wildfire, Warsaw has rushed to step up its defense systems amid fears over the ongoing military conflict in neighboring eastern Ukraine. “All citizens interested in taking part in military exercises will be able to sign up starting March 1” at regional recruitment centers, Polish Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak told reporters on Thursday. Although Poland, Central Europe’s largest country, ended conscription in 2008, Siemoniak said that some 38,000 reservists would be called up to take part in exercises in 2016, compared to the 12,000 this year. The ministry also plans to involve paramilitary groups in its new defense policy, AFP reported. Since the crisis broke out in eastern Ukraine, Poland, a NATO member state, has been busy revamping its armed forces. Warsaw plans to spend 33 billion euros ($37 billion) over a decade on the overhaul. “The chances of a peaceful resolution to the Ukrainian crisis are increasingly slim. Russia’s obvious goal is to block Ukraine’s path toward Europe,” Siemoniak said, adding that Russia’s use of “military means” poses “a long-term threat to Europe.” Poland currently spends 1.95 percent of its GDP on the army, with a further surge in its defense budget set for 2016. It’s one of the highest rates of military spending. Last year Poland spent $4.7 billion on 48 US-built F-16 fighters, according to The Economist.  More