Poland has become a key arms supply route in the war against Ukraine, but it is also becoming more vulnerable to attack from Russia, military analysts have said. The National.
With hundreds of armored vehicles, sophisticated missiles and vital spare parts moving east, the potential for a subversive or direct strike has increased dramatically.
There are also fears that intelligence agents from Moscow have infiltrated Poland to observe the movement of weapons.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Saturday that 150 armored vehicles will be sent to war, bolstering a growing stockpile of weapons that could help Ukraine drive out Russian invaders.
But with the growing sophistication of weapons, including drones and anti-ship missiles, Russia may consider targeting supply chains, especially if it suffers battlefield defeats.
“In a way, Poland is the Ukrainian full-back,” said Orysia Lutsevych, a British think tank analyst currently in Poland. “This comes with all the risks in wartime: conflict spillover, cyber attacks in Poland, information warfare and possible sabotage activities.”
Military expert Sam Cranny-Evans agreed that secret agents from Moscow could be used.
“Russia could try to do something clandestine like they have been doing for some time in Ukraine, but it comes with a huge risk for them,” the Royal United Services Institute analyst said.
“It would be in Russia’s interest to limit this war to what it calls a local conflict. Expanding it horizontally to include Poland and others in a regional conflict would be very bad for Russia.
Analysts say Poland’s importance should not be underestimated, both as a supply route for weapons and as a stronghold against further incursions.
“Poland is key,” said Ms Lutsevych, of the London-based Chatham House think tank, who is currently with her family in Poland who fled Ukraine. “The state and citizens understand the urgency of the situation and that Ukraine is a shield for NATO’s eastern flank. Moreover, land supply routes for military support allow Ukraine to resist and provide an exit route for Ukrainian women and children to a safe haven. Many of them continue to work from Poland to help the effort in Ukraine.
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Weapons from around the world have arrived in the NATO country – Poland borders Ukraine and Belarus – with vehicles and ammunition arriving from America, Australia, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
It was claimed on Monday that an S-300 air defense system in eastern Ukraine that had been donated by European allies had been destroyed by a Russian Kalibur missile strike.
“Poland has been very important so far as a bridge for Ukraine,” Cranny-Evans said. “Warsaw has made it clear that they want Russia defeated, so Moscow will be a bit cautious about doing anything too risky near the border that might give Poland a pretext for greater involvement.”
The country also has a large armor manufacturing industry that could be used to repair damaged Ukrainian vehicles or supply new stocks of T-72 tanks.
The Russian secret service was heavily implicated in an arson attack on a Czech arms factory and fears of sabotage remain.
“Poland has one of the largest stocks of T-72s in Europe and has developed quite capable upgrades for them in partnership with Ukraine in the past,” Cranny-Evans said.
While Moscow has pledged to hit supply columns supporting Ukraine’s war effort, it has yet to cross the border into Ukraine, although reports suggest fuel depots could be targeted .
“Russia has certainly threatened to attack arms convoys and now that weaponry is becoming more sophisticated and more material, that remains a possibility,” said Brigadier Ben Barry of the International Institute for Strategic Studies. “But that would certainly mean that Russia runs the risk of an escalation in return from Poland.”
The threat of a Russian attack has led Britain to send its advanced Sky Saber air defense system to Poland, joining US Patriot anti-ballistic batteries defending major airports.
Brigadier Barry suggested that Russian agents, possibly from the GRU’s foreign intelligence service, would carry out reconnaissance operations on the arrivals of foreign weapons.
“They will definitely spy on the kit that goes to Poland and Ukraine so they have an idea of what they are up against,” he said. “If the new offensive goes badly for them in eastern Ukraine, it could lead Russia to consider a strike beyond Ukraine, whether covert or not.”
Updated: April 11, 2022, 3:37 p.m.