Poland showcases military might in parade as war rages in neighboring Ukraine
NATO member Poland displayed its state-of-the-art weapons and defense systems at a massive military parade Tuesday, as war rages in neighboring Ukraine and ahead of parliamentary elections in two months.
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.
Crowds waving national white-and-red flags gathered in scorching temperatures that reached 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) 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. A U.S. Air Force F-35 roared overhead, in a sign that Poland was also purchasing these advanced fighter planes.
Polish-made 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. Poland's armed forces have more than 175,000 troops, up from some 100,000 eight years ago, Duda said.
Since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Poland's conservative government has focused on strengthening the armed forces and has spent more than $16 billion on tanks, missile interceptor systems and fighter jets, many purchased from the U.S. and South Korea.
Duda said Poland's defense budget this year will be a record 137 billion zlotys ($34 billion) or some 4% of the gross domestic...