We are pleased to inform that on 6th of December 2017, Warsaw Institute for Strategic Initiatives organised a debate summarizing the area of Maritime capabilities. The following area is one of the elements of the Programme for Development of Polish Defence Capabilities pursed under the auspices of Minister of National Defence, Minister of Maritime Economy and Inland Navigation and Minister of Digital Affairs. On behalf of Grzegorz Witkowski, the Under-Secretary of State at the Ministry of Maritime Economy and Inland Navigation, guests were also welcomed by Maciej Styczyński, head of the Shipbuilding Industry Department, who had read out the ministerial letter to the participants. One of the important elements of the debate was the presentation of the report based on conclusions from two expert workshops engaging representatives of the Navy of the Republic of Poland, central military institutions, industry as well as scientific research centres. Main assumptions and recommendations which appeared in the report, were presented by Antoni Pieńkos, Director of Analysis Division at WISI - the following presentation introduced the audience with discussion panels which, just as the report, were divided into two separate spheres: costal defence and international maritime cooperation. Director Pienkos underlined the importance of building compromise in terms of Polish Navy’s future development which shall be based on seeking for common elements, such as importance of Poland’s engagement in EU and NATO’s exercises – also beyond the Baltic Sea – as well as participation in Standing NATO Maritime Groups.
First of the panels was initiated by a short presentation prepared by general Dariusz Wroński, WISI expert, who underlined the importance of the supporting role of aircraft component for the Navy and Land Forces in Joint Operations. In this context, our expert underlined the significance given to the combined arms approach within the Polish Armed Forces which in terms of coastal defence shall require cooperation of Air Forces and Long-range artillery. Nevertheless, gen. Wroński also concluded that Navy forces can play a supporting role in land activities. The second speech given by Professor Andrzej Makowski from the Polish Naval Academy concentrated on the characteristics of the Baltic Sea basin, which due to its size fosters Joint Operations and is prone to be influenced from both, land operations and naval operations from other basins. Professor Makowski also claimed that Russians are aware of such situation and they consequently expand their Anti Access capabilities in the region. Moreover, Professor underlined that any ideas concerning modernization of the Polish Navy shall take into account financial limitations as well as the issue of underestimation of the operational program “Counterbalancing naval threats”. - probably due to financial aspects, only one of the main modernization plans will be accomplished.
After this, not too excessively optimistic, introduction debate within the first panel has occurred. Professor Hubert Królikowski from the Ministry of National Defense concluded tha one of the main elements of the recently published Strategic Defence Review, in which he personally participated, is the priority treatment of states security as a whole. Professor Królikowski noted ‚on the contrary to a popular belief, SDR does not belittle the role of Polish Navy within the armed forces of the Republic of Poland, and it is very important to regenerate the command and the information sharing system between different military branches”. Captain Ryszard Grudziński from the Inspectorate of Polish Navy claimed that due to shallowness, size limitations and the immensity of electromagnetic disturbances, Baltic Sea basin is highly opportunate in terms of Submarine and Maritime patrol aircraft activities. Such conditions create a situation in which it is easier to conduct defensive actions rather than offensive ones, thus advantageous from Polish point of view. As Captain Grudziński argued, our aim is to prevent the potential adversary from gaining entire control over the sea. Nevertheless, Polish Navy , mainly thanks to Naval Missile Division’s capabilities, is well prepared for such scenario. The Division, together with high class submarines, are highly resistant to actions taken by adversary’s air forces, which is crucial in today’s realities. Afterwards, Cezary Cierzan – vice chairman of the Bureau of Naval Platforms at the Polish Armaments Group, discussed about industrial aspects concerning modernization of Polish Navy: we do possess sufficient technical background and some shortages in terms of competency which might be improved through transfer of technology within big naval programmes. As Director Cierzan noted, the aim of contemporary actions is also to cover negative experiences, undermining the whole process of army modernization, from the construction of ORP Ślązak vessel.
Second panel begun with the introduction made by Professor Piotr Mickiewicz from the Polish Naval Academy. Professor underlined the need for integration of Polish interests with NATO’s interests, and therefore implementing them in a way that these interests will become interests of all member states. Furthermore, Maciej Styczyński from Ministry of Maritime Economy and Inland Navigation, noted: cooperation with partners is important, yet Poland should poses some features which will make as more attractive as partners for cooperation. Mainly by technological innovations and our shipyard capacities. Marcin Wróblewski, Deputy head of Security Policy Department in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs underlined that the importance of sea areas in global politics has risen significantly and also in Poland we are slowly appreciating this fact. Baltic Sea is important in terms of transportation of NATO’s forces during the war. Furthermore, naval transportation would be used mostly in such case. Despite the cooperation within NATO, Director Wróblewski also underlined the importance of cooperation with other states in the region having similar perception of threats, i.e. Sweden and Finland. In reference to Professor’s Mickiewicz speech, he added that Poland’s participation in NATO’s and EU’s activities also helps us gaining more favourable decisions within these organisations. Nevertheless, as Professor Makowski concluded, in order to effectively cooperate, it is necessary to possess adequate units. Firstly, such units should have adequate tactical and technical parameters. Secondly, these units should also worthily represent our state. Such vessels, in opposition to the civilian ones, are not only required to be capable of operating in difficult conditions but also to carry out much more complicated tasks.