Poland’s U-turn on European Defense: A Missed Opportunity?

Introduction: In the last three years, Poland has completely overhauled its approach to transatlantic defense cooperation . For most of the last two decades, the large Central European country’s overarching security priority was to work with the United States and NATO. Warsaw was wary of European defense efforts which excluded Washington. In addition, Poland’s ties with the EU and several of its neighbors – in particular Germany – were marked by mistrust and, at times, open hostility. But since 2009, largely in response to the perceived decline of US attention to European security, Poland has become one of the most vocal advocates of common European Union defense efforts. In addition, it has striven to work increasingly closely with Germany and to be a leading player within the EU.

But Poland’s efforts to strengthen European military cooperation have been met by limited interest from its EU partners, most of which have a dwindling appetite for defense. These partners may be missing an important opportunity to improve Europe’s fledgling ability to tackle military crises abroad. They also risk making Poland feel so vulnerable that it could create new strains for the EU and the transatlantic alliance.