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NATO member Poland staged a military parade on Tuesday to showcase its state-of-the-art weapons and defense systems, as war rages in neighboring Ukraine and ahead of parliamentary elections on Oct. 15.
President Andrzej Duda, the chief commander of the armed forces, said in his opening speech that the protection of Poland’s eastern border is a key element of state policy. He also noted that Poland is supporting Ukraine in its struggle against Russia’s aggression of almost 18 months.
“The defense of our eastern border, the border of the European Union and of NATO is today a key element of Poland’s state interest,” Duda said.
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Crowds gathered in scorching temperatures that reached 95 degrees Fahrenhei)t to see U.S.-made Abrams tanks, HIMARS mobile artillery systems and Patriot missile systems. Also on display were F-16 fighter planes, South Korean FA-50 fighters and K9 howitzers. Polish equipment including Krab tracked gun-howitzers and Rosomak armored transporters were also featured.
Some 2,000 troops, 200 vehicles and almost 100 aircraft took part in the parade. Poland’s armed forces have more than 175,000 troops, up from some 100,000 eight years ago, Duda said.
People wait for an upcoming military parade during the Polish Army Day, in Warsaw, Poland, on Aug. 15, 2023. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
Since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Poland’s conservative government has spent more than $16 billion on tanks, missile interceptor systems and fighter jets, many purchased from the U.S. and South Korea.
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The parade was held in Poland’s capital on the anniversary of the 1920 Battle of Warsaw, in which Polish troops defeated Bolshevik forces advancing on Europe.
The military upgrades have bolstered Poland’s defense capabilities and some items replaced Soviet- and Russian-made equipment that Poland gave to Ukraine.
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Poland is building one of Europe’s strongest armies to beef up deterrence against potential aggressors and has increased the number of troops to some 10,000 along its border with Russia’s key ally, Belarus.
Showing off its military might is also a way for Poland’s government to attract voter support ahead of the October elections, in which the populist ruling Law and Justice party will seek to win an unprecedented third term.