WARSAW — Poland’s ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party has set off a security storm by publishing parts of a top secret defense plan as part of a campaign spot aimed at discrediting the opposition ahead of the October 15 general election.
“Attention! The Tusk government was ready to give up half of the country in the event of a war,” Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak said in a video published by PiS on social media on September 17 — the 84th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s attack on Poland in 1939.
The minister was referring to a 2011 strategic defense plan prepared by the former government of then Prime Minister Donald Tusk. The former European Council President is now head of the Civic Coalition alliance that’s trying to prevent PiS from winning an unprecedented third straight term in power.
“The plan assumed … that Poland could only defend itself for two weeks and the enemy will reach the right bank of the Vistula after seven days,” Błaszczak said in the video.
His words were accompanied by images of what appeared excerpts from the plan, its cover — also featured in the video — bearing the “top secret” mark, now crossed out.
“The plan shows it clearly: Lublin, Rzeszów, or Łomża could have been the Polish Bucha,” the minister also said, referring eastern Polish cities and to the Ukrainian town where Russian troops last year massacred hundreds of civilians.
The ad is designed to shore up PiS support in the east of the country — its traditional heartland — by showing that the liberals from Tusk’s party don’t care about them. It’s also aimed at changing the narrative after a disastrous week for PiS that saw the party scramble to avoid questions about an alleged visas-for-bribes ring inside the foreign ministry.
Not very top secret
Even though the defense plan is not current, publicizing some if its contents caused an uproar among top generals who were in active service under administrations before PiS. They noted that plans to fall back to more defensive lines are normal parts of military doctrine.
“Publishing such a document once again undermines the trust we have with our allies. It proves that we are capable of anything, that we can betray the deepest secrets of Poland and NATO,” retired General Waldemar Skrzypczak told the Wirtualna Polska news website.
“Does anyone think that NATO will just get over this? They may now fear that more documents about the Alliance’s activities will be disclosed,” the general added.
Mirosław Różański, former head of Poland’s joint chiefs of staff and now an opposition candidate to the upper chamber Senate, denounced Błaszczak, saying: “War is not a picnic or a show, you have to know how to do it.”
Another retired general, Stanisław Koziej, said that the military plans originated in 2009, when the president of Poland was Lech Kaczyński, the twin brother of PiS chief Jarosław Kaczynski, and was prepared on the basis of documents issued by the government of Jarosław Kaczyński when he was prime minister in 2007.
Tusk’s former Defense Minister and current member of the European Parliament Radosław Sikorski said that PiS was manipulating public opinion by highlighting just one scenario of a broader military plan in the event of a Russian invasion.
“The fact that the military has contingency plans for every circumstance and situation is a good thing, not a bad thing,” Sikorski told the gazeta.pl news website on Monday. He added it was “scandalous” to reveal the plan as there are only a limited number of defensible positions in Poland and so the strategy still has intelligence value for Moscow.
Civic Coalition said if it wins the election, it will put Błaszczak before the State Tribunal, a court used to try the country’s highest officials.
But Błaszczak was unapologetic about the fuss, tweeting that Tusk’s party “resents the fact that we have revealed their plans to hand over half of Poland to the enemy. Poles have the right to know what fate you were preparing for them! In the event of a conflict, the Polish army is supposed to fight for every meter of our territory and for every human life.”
Jarosław Kaczyński slammed the plan as “one big scandal that should be investigated by the methods foreseen by the justice system.”
PiS has made security and national defense a cornerstone of its reelection strategy.
Defense spending is expected to be 3.9 percent of GDP this year, one of the highest in NATO. Poland has stepped up arms purchases, spending billions on tanks, rockets, artillery, planes and helicopters from the U.S. and South Korea, as well as beefing up its domestic industries. The government also wants to more than double the military to some 250,000 troops from the current 120,000.
Poland has sent most of its Soviet-era tanks and jet fighters to Ukraine and is a crucial transit hub for weapons from the rest of the world headed to Ukraine.
PiS is ahead in POLITICO’s poll of polls, with 37 percent support, while the Civic Coalition trails with 30 percent. If that holds, neither party will win enough seats to rule without coalition partners.