Since coming to power in late 2015, Poland’s right-wing government has been a lightning rod for criticism at home and abroad. Opponents have castigated the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS in Polish) for its conservatism and resistance to the European Union, de facto led by Germany’s Angela Merkel, on a host of issues, above all Muslim migration.
No PiS official has attracted more opprobrium than the minister of National Defense, Antoni Macierewicz, a hero of the Solidarity movement and Polish resistance to Communism. Since 1991, Macierewicz has held numerous positions in government, mostly in the national security realm, and he possesses deep insights into issues of defense and intelligence—which are very topical now given the rising Russian threat on Poland’s frontiers.
Time has moderated Macierewicz’s piquant views only slightly in his 69 years, and the defense minister ranks among the most straight-talking politicians I’ve ever met. I recently sat down with him in Warsaw to discuss what’s on his mind. Our conversation started with Poland’s impressive defense modernization efforts and the nature of the Russian threat to NATO, then moved on to issues of counterintelligence—where Macierewicz rightly considers himself an expert. We concluded with the sensitive matter of Smolensk, the mysterious April 2010 air crash that decapitated Poland’s government, an issue that rests close to the heart for Macierewicz and for the many Poles who fear Vladimir Putin’s intentions.
What would you like the American public to know about Polish defense modernization?
We want to do everything we can to have a military that is able to defend our country and to be a solid partner of the United States and NATO—but first and foremost, as our top objective, we want to have a military that is able to defend ourselves and our allies. And we want our friends in the United States to know exactly this: We are of course grateful to the United States for the support that we have received in the dramatic situation in which we find ourselves and share a joint-Polish American awareness of this threat, which is a threat to all off Europe.
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