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Polish president pushes NATO allies toward higher defense spending

by Marko Florentino
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Poland’s president on Monday called on other members of the NATO alliance to raise their spending on defense to 3% of their gross domestic product as Russia puts its economy on a war footing and pushes forward with its invasion of Ukraine.

President Andrzej Duda made his call in remarks directed at home and abroad. His appeal came on the eve of a visit to the White House, where U.S. President Joe Biden will receive both Duda and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk on Tuesday.

“In the face of the war in Ukraine and Russia’s growing imperial aspirations, the countries making up NATO must act boldly and uncompromisingly,” Duda said in a Monday evening address to his nation.


His appeal comes at Poland marks the 25th anniversary of its accession to NATO, along with the Czech Republic and Hungary, on March 12, 1999.

“Poland is proud to have been a part of it for 25 years,” he said. “There has been and there is no better guarantor of security than the North Atlantic Alliance.”

“The war in Ukraine has clearly shown that the United States is and should remain the leader in security issues in Europe and the world,” Duda said in his speech to his nation. “However, other NATO countries must also take greater responsibility for the security of the entire alliance and intensively modernize and strengthen their troops.”

Andrzej Duda speaks

Polish President Andrzej Duda gives a statement to the media in Warsaw, Poland, Wednesday Jan. 10, 2024, after the arrest of two politicians convicted of abuse of power who had taken refuge for hours in the presidential palace. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

Duda’s remarks came on the same day that Sweden’s flag was raised at NATO headquarters in Brussels to cement its place as the 32nd member of the trans-Atlantic alliance. Finland joined NATO last year.

“Today, NATO is sending a clear and strong signal by welcoming Finland and Sweden into its ranks,” he said. “This is a historic event. Countries that have so far maintained a neutral status for years are joining the alliance. NATO is therefore significantly strengthened. However, further bold decisions are needed.”

NATO members agreed in 2014 to boost their defense spending to 2% of GDP after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014, but most members, including Germany, still fall short of that benchmark.

Poland, however, now spends 4% of its GDP on defense, making it the member to spend the most in percentage terms as it modernizes its military, while the U.S. is well above 3%.

“Russia’s imperialistic ambitions and aggressive revisionism are pushing Moscow toward a direct confrontation with NATO, with the West and, ultimately, with the whole free world,” Duda said in an op-ed published in The Washington Post.

Duda said that puts the United States and Poland in a position to “lead by example and provide an inspiration for others.”

“The Russian Federation has switched its economy to war mode. It is allocating close to 30 percent of its annual budget to arm itself,” Duda argued in the newspaper op-ed. “This figure and other data coming out of Russia are alarming. Vladimir Putin’s regime poses the biggest threat to global peace since the end of the Cold War.”

The Biden administration suggested Duda’s call to raise the defense spending target for NATO countries may be, at least for now, overly ambitious.

“I think the first step is to get every country meeting the 2% threshold, and we’ve seen improvement of that,” U.S. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said. “But I think that’s the first step before we start talking about an additional proposal.”


Duda will visit Brussels for a meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg after his visit to the U.S.

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