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Polish defence minister ‘impressed’ by US counterpart

The US defence secretary’s “determination” to beef up NATO presence along its eastern flank is impressive, Poland’s defence minister has said during an alliance meeting.

Poland’s Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz said he was impressed by US Defence Secretary James Mattis’ “conviction and determination … of the need to support NATO’s eastern flank, face threats that are unfortunately ever greater, and mobilise all NATO and US forces to stop those threats”.

During a closed two-day defence ministers’ council, which ends on Thursday at NATO’s headquarters in Brussels, US Defence Secretary James Mattis warned NATO allies that they must honour their military spending pledges to ensure the US did not “moderate its commitment” to the alliance.

In 2014, NATO recommended alliance countries set their military spending at two percent of GDP by 2024.

Macierewicz said that Poland has already hit that target.

“The government, which has for 14 months been managing Poland’s issues, including military, has met the challenge and will continue to do so,” Macierewicz said.

He added that Poland would help other countries reach the level of spending through “political, organisational, media, information” and also “spiritual” support.

Also discussed at the two-day session was the progress of plans to send four multinational battalions to Poland and three Baltic countries, agreed at a NATO summit in Warsaw last year.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the process was “on track”. The first soldiers arrived in Lithuania in late January and Macierewicz confirmed that a battalion would arrive in Poland in April.

Stoltenberg also said that the meeting would approve new plans on defence against cyberattacks, which were 60 percent more numerous in 2016 than the year before.

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