New Polish government “may invalidate” final arms deals signed by predecessor

Poland’s new government could cancel arms deals signed by its predecessor in the final weeks of its time in power, say two figures from the incoming administration. Their announcement was criticised by the outgoing defence minister.

The Law and Justice (PiS) party, which has ruled Poland since 2015, lost its parliamentary majority at elections on 15 October. Since then, it has been clear that a new government, formed from three opposition groups, would come to power. However, only this week will it finally take office.

In the period since the elections, the PiS government has signed a number of defence contracts, including a $2.6 billion deal with South Korea to purchase over 150 self-propelled howitzers.

Hanwha Aerospace said Monday it has signed a $2.6 billion contract (3.45 trillion won) to ship 152 K9 self-propelled howitzers to Poland through 2027, taking the next step in the arms deal signed between the two sides last year.

— The Korea Herald 코리아헤럴드 (@TheKoreaHerald) December 4, 2023

However, one of the leaders of the incoming ruling coalition, Szymon Hołownia, head of the Poland 2050 (Polska 2050) party, told broadcaster Radio Zet that such deals would be reviewed.

“Agreements signed by the interim PiS government may be invalidated,” said Hołownia, who is speaker of parliament. “From 15 October, PiS should have limited itself to administering the state and not spending public money.”

.@szymon_holownia: Umowy podpisane przez tymczasowy rząd @pisorgpl mogą być unieważnione

— Rzeczpospolita (@rzeczpospolita) December 10, 2023

Another of the coalition’s leaders, Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz of the Polish People’s Party (PSL), likewise accused the outgoing PiS government of taking such decisions “without listening to Poles”, who had voted them out of office.

Kosiniak-Kamysz, who is likely to be defence minister in the new government, said that the new leadership of “the defence ministry will review contracts with the South Korean industry and, where possible, orders for equipment will also be placed with the Polish arms industry”.

Those remarks alluded to some criticism PiS received for ordering Korean K9 howitzers rather than Polish-made Krabs. Days after concluding the deal with Korea, the defence ministry announced that it would purchase the same number of Krabs.

Poland signs deal to buy more Krab self-propelled howitzers

— Defence Blog (@Defence_blog) December 8, 2023

PiS’s outgoing defence minister, Mariusz Błaszczak, criticised Hołownia and Kosiniak-Kamysz for their “populist” statements.

“If they cancel the contracts I concluded with Korea, they will weaken our security and expose us to real danger, because war with Russia is not a science fiction scenario,” wrote Błaszczak. “We need weapons now, not in 10 or 15 years. We cannot wait idly by for Putin to move further west.”

“Favorable financial conditions, industrial cooperation and short delivery times were a great negotiation success for Poland, especially since, after Russia’s attack on Ukraine, the global demand for weapons is huge,” he added.

Błaszczak also claimed that invalidating the South Korean deal would negatively affect the Polish armaments industry since the agreement assumed not only delivering the equipment but also producing part of it in Poland as part of “extensive industrial cooperation” between the two countries.

Koreańskie czołgi K2, wyrzutnie Chunmoo, armatohaubice K9 i samoloty FA/50 to nowoczesne uzbrojenie, które już służy w Wojsku Polskim. Korzystne warunki finansowe, współpraca przemysłowa i krótkie terminy dostaw były wielkim sukcesem negocjacyjnym Polski, tym bardziej, że po…

— Mariusz Błaszczak (@mblaszczak) December 10, 2023

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the PiS government has launched an unprecedented military procurement spree, raising defence spending to 4% of GDP this year, the highest level in NATO. Błaszczak has pledged that Poland will have “the most powerful land forces in Europe”.

His ministry signed a series of deals with South Korea worth billions of dollars to procure over 1,000 K2 tanks, 672 K9 self-propelled howitzers, 48 FA-50 light combat aircraft and 288 K239 Chunmoo rocket artillery launchers.

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Main image credit: MON (under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 PL)

Agata Pyka is an assistant editor at Notes from Poland. She is a journalist and a political communication student at the University of Amsterdam. She specialises in Polish and European politics as well as investigative journalism and has previously written for Euractiv and The European Correspondent.

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