moja polska zbrojna
Od 25 maja 2018 r. obowiązuje w Polsce Rozporządzenie Parlamentu Europejskiego i Rady (UE) 2016/679 z dnia 27 kwietnia 2016 r. w sprawie ochrony osób fizycznych w związku z przetwarzaniem danych osobowych i w sprawie swobodnego przepływu takich danych oraz uchylenia dyrektywy 95/46/WE (ogólne rozporządzenie o ochronie danych, zwane także RODO).

W związku z powyższym przygotowaliśmy dla Państwa informacje dotyczące przetwarzania przez Wojskowy Instytut Wydawniczy Państwa danych osobowych. Prosimy o zapoznanie się z nimi: Polityka przetwarzania danych.

Prosimy o zaakceptowanie warunków przetwarzania danych osobowych przez Wojskowych Instytut Wydawniczy – Akceptuję

We Are in the Top League

25 years ago, we expected NATO to “only” guarantee our security. Today, Poland is one of the pillars of this security in the region. This metamorphosis is not a coincidence, but a result of the hard work of military personnel who connected their professional lives with NATO institutions.

“In the summer of 1997, a cryptogram came to the 6th Airborne Brigade, where I was serving at the time as platoon commander. It said that I was to report in Warsaw as soon as possible. I took my ceremonial dress and I set off. There, I learned that as the first Polish graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, I was to write and later deliver a speech at the Castle Square in Warsaw during President Bill Clinton’s visit in Poland,” recalls LtGen Piotr Błazeusz, today the First Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Polish Armed Forces.

We Have an Established Position


The American leader, in his speech delivered in Warsaw on June 10, 1997, addressed the people of Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary as “the future members of NATO and US allies.” “I think this was my first contact with »great« NATO. The next one happened two years later, when I was referred by the 6th Airborne Brigade for an internship in the office of the Secretary of State at the Ministry of National Defense. I walked into a room full of files and I heard: »These are documents that have come from NATO. Please organize them and send them promptly to the relevant institutions«. That was the time when I learned a lot about the structures of the Alliance,” recalls General Błazeusz with a smile.

Poland’s start in NATO was not easy, as the membership required us to introduce profound changes in virtually every area. Modifications were implemented in the doctrines, the army control and command structure, as well as the shape of the armed forces on the operational and tactical level. NATO also influenced the military infrastructure and the way of educating and training soldiers. Along with all these modifications, the army commenced the slow implementation of the Western leadership model. “We had to learn about the Alliance, get to know its mechanisms, the laws it follows, but also learn what a consensus is. We had our old habits from the time of the Warsaw Pact, where everything was ordered from the top. The Alliance didn’t work like that. NATO provides the necessary guidance and direction. For us, raised in a very different system, the change was colossal. It suddenly turned out that »our voice mattered«,” says General Błazeusz.

These words are confirmed by LtGen Janusz Adamczak, Director General of International Military Staff at NATO HQ. “When we joined the Alliance, we were a bit like Cinderella: a young ally, not entirely sure of what it’s worth. We were interested in security guarantees, not in building the Alliance or talking about the directions of its development. With time, everything started to change,” admits Adamczak. The officer also points to the transformation of the Alliance itself. “25 years ago NATO focused mainly on crisis missions outside the borders of its responsibility, but after the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014, the goals of the organization started to change. Today, we understand that every ally is responsible not only for itself but also for the others. In this aspect, it is also equally important to understand Article 3 of the Washington Treaty, talking about the necessity to develop own defense capabilities,” he assesses. He is echoed by LtGen Sławomir Wojciechowski, a Polish military representative to NATO and EU Military Committees, who adds: “During these 25 years, we have become a mature, full-fledged and conscious member of the Alliance. Our infancy period is over. We no longer have to prove anything to anyone, compete or race with anyone. We have our place in NATO, a well-established position, and our voice matters. Today, we are building the security of the entire Alliance.”

Our People in the Structures

The fact that our country and the Polish army appears today as a trustworthy, reliable ally, is the merit of thousands of Poles who served in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Baltic States and the Balkans, in NATO or allied land, air and naval operations. It is also the merit of those who have occupied key positions in international structures and commands. It is impossible to name everyone here, as the list of Polish officers and non-commissioned officers who have contributed to the North Atlantic Alliance, is very long. It will suffice to mention General (Ret) Mieczysław Bieniek, who was NATO’s Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Transformation in Norfolk, USA, the already quoted LtGen Piotr Błazeusz, who held the office of Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Development and Preparation at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), the mentioned LtGen Janusz Adamczak or LtGen Sławomir Wojciechowski. Also noteworthy are MajGen Zenon Brzuszko, until recently Polish military representative to SHAPE, LtGen Adam Joks, who was Deputy Commander of the US Army 5th Corps, and earlier Commander of the NATO Joint Force Training Center (JFTC) in Bydgoszcz, MajGen (Res) Andrzej Reudowicz, former Commander of NATO Joint Warfare Center in Stavanger, Norway, and BrigGen Stanisław Kaczyński, who until 2022 served at the NATO Allied Land Command in Izmir.

There are also many examples among non-commissioned officers: JWO (Res) Łukasz Sikora, a former soldier of JWK, who co-created the medical training program at the NATO International Special Forces Training Center in Germany, where he also worked as a lecturer, Master Corporal Maciej Biardzki, who created a program for planning reconnaissance missions of Global Hawk RQ-4D UAS, or Master Corporal Paweł Galek, who was recognized by NATO’s highest authorities for, among other things, creating instructions and programs for recovering lost drones.

MajGen Maciej Klisz, today Operational Commander of the Armed Forces, and in 2015 Chief of Staff at NATO Special Operations Component Command in Afghanistan (NSOCC-A) – the third representative of our country holding that position, emphasizes that for Polish people, cooperating in an international environment was initially not only a matter of prestige, but above all an opportunity to learn new skills and abilities. “At the time, I was responsible for 19 states, which together formed a special forces component in Afghanistan. I still make use of the knowledge I gained then,” says MajGen Klisz and points to a certain correlation: “For years, we have been building interoperability with our allies. The result of the efforts of many Polish officers and NCOs is that today many international or strictly NATO commands and institutions are based in Poland. Units recognized by NATO, located in Kraków or Elbląg, are commanded by Polish officers. In the fall, a Pole will once again become the head of Multinational Corps Northeast in Szczecin, another one is the commander of Eurocorps in Strasbourg. It is not a coincidence. All of that would not be possible if it wasn’t for our hitherto engagement in NATO.”

Wide Perspective

General Mieczysław Bieniek’s professional career has almost entirely been connected with NATO. A year before Poland joined the Alliance, he became the commander of the Polish-Nordic Brigade, stationing in Bosnia and Herzegovina. “My superior at the time was an American, and my subordinates were commanders from Denmark, Norway, Sweden, the USA and Finland. Let me remind you that then Poland was not in NATO and we had almost zero experience in cooperating with NATO armies. Everything we did in the late 1990s was hard, pioneer work,” recalls General Bieniek.

Several months after Poland’s accession to NATO, in September 1999, General Mieczysław Bieniek was appointed by his superiors the Head of the Training and Exercise Division at SHAPE. “I was the first Polish general to serve at a strategic command on a NATO position. I considered the appointment both a challenge and a huge responsibility. We had been in NATO for a short time, we had almost no experience, and I was to supervise five departments, responsible for courses, trainings and exercises, also those that involved procedures of using conventional and nuclear weapons. I commanded Americans, Brits, Germans. The scope of my responsibilities was quite extensive,” says Bieniek. The officer was also Deputy Commander of NATO Rapid Deployable Corps Turkey, and later proved himself as commander of a multinational division in Iraq. Having returned from the mission, he commanded the 2nd Mechanized Corps, which was assigned to cooperate with NATO, and later, on behalf of the NATO commander, he became an advisor to the Minister of Defense in Afghanistan. The general considers his service as Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Transformation in Norfolk, USA, as one of the most important professional challenges. He was the first and so far the only Pole to occupy such a high position in NATO command. “NATO has been developing a system of defense plans, now regional, which direct forces and resources to areas at risk. They are incredibly complicated systems that have to combine and align elements from then 28 and now 32 member states. My task was, among other things, to coordinate these plans with people responsible for security in a given NATO state. I also coordinated cooperation with partner countries,” says the general.

LtGen Janusz Adamczak also talks about his experience of serving in NATO structures. In 2014, the officer became Chief of Staff at Allied Joint Force Command in Brunssum (JFCBS). “It was certainly a great honor for me. I assumed a typically operational position, where I could utilize my experience from commanding the 2nd Mechanized Corps and earlier the 11th Armored Cavalry Division and the 12th Mechanized Brigade,” recalls the general. Four years later, the officer began serving as the Polish representative to NATO and EU Military Committees. “This service touched more upon military diplomacy,” admits General Adamczak. In Brussels, he represented the Chief of General Staff of the Polish Armed Forces before NATO and the European Union. His next challenge came along very quickly. The general was appointed to both mentioned positions by the Polish Minister of National Defense, but in 2022, his career was determined by all NATO Chiefs of Defense – he was appointed Director General of the NATO International Military Staff (DGIMS). “Almost 500 people, mostly military, serve in the institution I manage today. Our job is to support the NATO Military Committee, which is a two-way activity. We translate decisions made by the politicians of the North Atlantic Council into military action. We are also involved in developing strategic documents for the North Atlantic Council. This way, all decisions made by NATO go through the International Military Staff at NATO HQ before they are processed at the political level,” explains the general. “The task can sometimes be difficult, because we have to translate political decisions in a way that they can be implemented by the military. What certainly helps me now is that previously I served essentially as a military diplomat, so I understand the dynamics of political events,” the general adds, and jokes that the military education system would benefit from a school that prepares officers to serve at such positions in NATO structures. “Obviously, military experience is essential here, but sometimes it’s not enough. It’s necessary to understand the dynamics of political-military processes at the strategic level, as well as the fact that each country is entitled to its own opinions. We must work out decisions that are consistent, even with the divergent positions of NATO members. We have a saying here, which we often repeat as a joke: since we can’t please everyone, let’s at least make everyone equally dissatisfied, determining some common point of view,” says General Adamczak with a smile.
Hello NATO, Can you Hear us Clearly?

When asked about his NATO service, LtGen Piotr Błazeusz mentions his operational experience, such as the service in the ISAF mission. He commanded the 10th rotation of the Polish Military Contingent (PKW) in Afghanistan and the Polish Task Force White Eagle. “I had an opportunity to put my knowledge and experience to test in an international environment. In Afghanistan, we cooperated with our allies – we operated together, supported one another and used NATO armament,” recalls the officer. Having returned from the mission, General Błazeusz was appointed by the Minister of National Defense to a position in international structures: he became the Head of the Operational Department for NATO affairs – Deputy Military Representative at the Polish Military Representation to the NATO and EU Military Committees. “It was quite an interesting experience, as I took part in preparing and negotiating provisions of important documents. Keeping Polish interests in mind, I often engaged in disputes with our allies. I participated in the decision-making process at the highest levels, which helped me to learn all the details of how NATO works and operates,” recalls the general. Operational experience proved incredibly beneficial then. “The power of an argument is much greater when it is supported by your own experience,” he admits.

Several years later, in 2019, he was appointed Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Development and Preparation at NATO SHAPE. “I was in charge of several boards, including operational planning, training and exercise, strategic development. We co-created new or updated existing NATO operational plans regarding missions or implementation of the principles of deterrence and defense policy in the Euro-Atlantic area. I also supervised matters connected with combat readiness, certification of forces, development of decisions recognizing space as the new NATO operational domain,” says the general.

Polish officers divide our presence in the Alliance into three stages: first, when we learned about its structures, second, when we already felt confident in those structures, and third, which has been ongoing for several years now, in which Poland has become the leader of NATO’s eastern flank. “We are in the top league. Today, we are the ones to indicate the directions of NATO development. Our voice is heard and treated with utmost seriousness. Poland and the Polish Armed Forces have proved to be a trustworthy and strong ally that NATO can always rely on,” emphasizes General Błazeusz.

LtGen Sławomir Wojciechowski, former Operational Commander of the Polish Armed Forces and commander of the Multinational Corps Northeast in Szczecin, agrees with this assessment. The officer represents the Head of the General Staff of the Polish Armed Forces in the EU and NATO, working on a daily basis with the Polish ambassador to NATO and dealing with matters related to defense planning, short- and long-term directions of NATO development, NATO summits, meetings of member states defense ministers or support for Ukraine. “We focus on collective issues concerning logistics, integrated air defense or Host Nation Support,” enumerates General Wojciechowski. He also emphasizes Poland’s high position in the Alliance. “After 25 years, we are a conscious ally that understands NATO’s policy not only through the prism of Polish interests, but also global security. We can influence the reality around us. As far as security is concerned, we are not just a consumer, but a conscious creator,” points out the general. “Several years ago, only a few countries understood why we see Russia as a threat. This changed when Russians attacked Ukraine. And while it is unfortunate and tragic, it nevertheless adds to our credibility in every dimension.”
We Are not Stowaways

The presence of Polish officers and NCOs in NATO structures is not only a product of the Polish Army’s ambitions – it is also a matter of responsibility for security, and full participation in the Community. “We allocate part of our budget to the Alliance, we participate in NATO operations, we deploy soldiers outside the country. We truly contribute to the Alliance, we are not a stowaway, an onlooker who wants to get into an elite club free of charge,” says General Wojciechowski.

General Adamczak adds that he wants all Polish soldiers to also identify as NATO soldiers. “Unfortunately, not everyone has that awareness, and I constantly get the impression that the Alliance is perceived as something distant. Meanwhile, it is incredibly important for us to understand that we are NATO.”

Magdalena Kowalska-Sendek, Ewa Korsak

autor zdjęć: Hans Lucas Agency / Forum

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