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Mariusz Błaszczak: The Polish Army “has more than 175,000 soldiers under arms.” NATO data does not confirm this

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The Minister of National Defense Mariusz Błaszczak once again boasted about the size of the Polish army – this time he said that the Polish Army “has more than 175,000 soldiers under arms”. On the same day, however, NATO provided much lower data on the size of the Polish army. We explain where this difference comes from.

On July 7, 2023, the Minister of National Defense, Mariusz Błaszczak, took part in the military oath-taking ceremony by volunteers of the voluntary basic military service (DZSW) in Biała Podlaska. This is a new type of service introduced by virtue of the act on defense of the homeland in force from April 2022. One of the goals of this act is to increase the size of the Polish army, e.g. by creating new opportunities for military service. In Biała Podlaska, Minister Mariusz Błaszczak said:

The Polish Army already has over 175,000 soldiers under arms. I say it again: over 175,000 soldiers under arms.

Then he added: “Even the best-equipped army must be numerous, so once again thank you very much for applying for service in the Polish Army. Today and tomorrow 3,400 soldiers have taken and will take the oath. Most of them will be professional soldiers. Some of them will go to the Territorial Defense Forces , so it will combine professional activity with military service. Even those who decide not to serve in the Polish Army will become trained reservists. This is also very important, because they will already know how to behave in a crisis situation. This is extremely important for security Poland, but also for the security of Europe.

Under entry The Ministry of National Defense, with the words of Minister Błaszczak, many commentators questioned the number of 175,000 “soldiers under arms” given by him. “According to Blaszczak, ‘soldiers under arms’ = professional soldiers + students + WOT + candidates + volunteers”; “Secretaries already counted or not yet?”; “It is a pity that the Ministry of National Defense practices creative accounting in terms of the number of the Polish Armed Forces, such actions will take their revenge sooner or later” – they wrote (original spelling of all entries).

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Two days later – on July 9 – the number of 175,000 Polish soldiers appeared in entry Ryszard Terlecki – Deputy Speaker of the Sejm and head of the PiS club. The politician took part in the oath ceremony of the 11th Małopolska Territorial Defense Brigade in Zakopane, after which he wrote on Twitter: “Military oath of the soldiers of the 11th Małopolska Territorial Defense Brigade in Zakopane. Poland already has 175,000 soldiers and soon we will have the strongest army on the European continent.”

Because on the same day when Minister Mariusz Błaszczak spoke about 175,000 “soldiers under arms”, NATO published data on the size of the Polish army, we show where the discrepancies between the numbers of MON and NATO came from.

NATO on Polish military personnel: 124,000

It is not the first time that Minister Błaszczak says that the Polish army has over 170,000 “soldiers under arms”. When on June 2, 2023 in Tomaszów Mazowiecki, he stated that it was 172.5 thousand. soldiers, we translated in Konkret24that the budget documents of the Ministry of National Defense for 2023 mention only 125.7 thousand. professional soldiers. For the remaining almost 47 thousand. “soldiers in arms” consists mainly of soldiers of the Territorial Defense Forces (about 36,000), volunteers from DZSW and candidates for professional soldiers.

Moreover, as follows from answers from the Ministry of National Defence sent to “Dziennik Gazeta Prawna” – in October 2022, the ministry changed the method of counting professional soldiers only: since then, it also includes all students of military universities after completing their first year. The ministry explained that this was due to the provisions of the Homeland Defense Act.

Now, however, the lower number of the Polish Army than stated by Minister Błaszczak is confirmed by the data of the North Atlantic Alliance (NATO). In published on July 7 document on military expenditures of the alliance states, the latest information was presented not only on how much the countries spend on armaments, but also what their military potential is. According to the estimated data from the table “Military personnel”, the Polish army in 2023 has 124,000 soldiers. people. Therefore, this is a figure comparable to that presented in the budget documents of the Ministry of National Defense and much lower than what Minister Błaszczak publicly announces.

NATO data also shows that the size of the Polish Army has increased since 2015, but much less than suggested by the defense minister. At the beginning of June 2023, he said: “In 2015, the Polish Army had 95,000 soldiers. Today it has 172.5 thousand soldiers.” NATO, on the other hand, states that in 2015 there were 98,900 Polish military personnel, and now there are 124,000. The increase is therefore 25 percent, not almost 82 percent, as Mariusz Błaszczak argues.

Ryszard Terlecki stated in his entry that “soon we will have the strongest army on the European continent.” According to NATO data, Poland currently has the seventh largest army among all NATO countries and the fifth largest among European countries. We are ahead of the United States (1.35 million), Turkey (462,000), France (207,000), Germany (192,000), Italy (174,000) and the United Kingdom (156,000). Right behind Poland (124,000) are Spain (118,000) and Greece (112,000).

There is no information on the number of WOT and DZSW

The difference between the size of the Polish army, which is given by Minister Mariusz Błaszczak, and that published by NATO, is therefore 50,000. From information about the budget of the Ministry of National Defense published in previous years we know that this difference is made up of WOT soldiers, DZSW volunteers and candidates for professional soldiers, whom NATO does not count as “military personnel”. However, we do not know the exact numbers, because the Ministry of National Defense did not include them in this year for the first time information about the budget.

At the beginning of the year Mariusz Błaszczak only gavethat 36,000 soldiers serve in WOT. people: for the remaining approx. 14 thousand. so it consists of volunteers from DZSW and candidates for professional soldiers. We asked the Ministry of National Defense exactly what groups are included in the 175,000. “soldiers in arms” and where the NATO data comes from and whether they are reported by the Polish ministry, but we have not received an answer until the publication of the article. Also, NATO did not answer our question about where the data comes from and whether its source is the Polish Ministry of Defence.

When we asked a military pilot, reserve major Michał Fiszer, about the phrase “soldiers under arms” in relation to WOT and DWSZ, the expert emphasized that it is not the number of military personnel that is most important, but their training. – It is known what the combat ability of students or volunteers is until the end of training. WOT is under arms only in the sense that these weapons lie in warehouses near the barracks, where they undergo training and during these trainings they can use them – said Major Fiszer.

Main photo source: Marcin Obara/PAP

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