Poland’s prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, has confirmed longstanding rumours that his country is transferring tanks to Ukraine. He was prompted to do so after his British counterpart Boris Johnson recently revealed that the UK would provide Poland with tanks to replace those it was sending.
Two weeks ago, reports emerged in Polish media that Poland had sent a first batch of 100 Soviet-designed T-72 tanks to Ukraine. That had followed earlier claims in the New York Times that the Biden administration was working with its allies to transfer T-72s.
Breaking: US is expected to help facilitate transfer of tanks from NATO allies to Ukraine, according to senior US officials. The tanks will be Soviet-era T-72 tanks, which Ukrainian military has experience operating and will be delivered “within days, not weeks,” I’m told.
— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) April 2, 2022
Since then, the Polish government has not confirmed the reports. However, three days ago, during a visit to India, Johnson revealed that the UK was “looking at sending tanks to Poland to help them as they send some of their T-72s to Ukraine”, reports the Daily Telegraph.
During his remarks, Johnson also revealed that “we’re currently training Ukrainians in Poland in the use of the anti-aircraft defences”, something that had not been announced by the Polish authorities.
🇬🇧Britain is planning to send tanks to Poland so more can be provided to Ukraine, Boris Johnson has announced as he warned Russia could still win the war https://t.co/bnFTpgI1DZ
— The Telegraph (@Telegraph) April 22, 2022
This evening, during an interview with Polsat News, Morawiecki was asked, in response to Johnson’s remarks, whether Poland “will hand over or already has handed over” tanks to Ukraine. “Yes,” responded the prime minister.
However, when asked about how many tanks this involved, Morawiecki said that he would “not talk about that today…for the sake of the safety of our Ukrainian friends”.
“We are helping our neighbours from Ukraine, but they are also helping us by…fighting for our security and peace,” he added.
Poland has been the second largest donor to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion, both in the total amount given and as a percent of GDP, according to @kielinstitute‘s Ukraine Support Tracker.
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) April 19, 2022
Since Russia’s invasion, Poland has been one of Ukraine’s most vocal advocates on the international stage. It has pushed for tougher sanctions to be introduced against Moscow as well as greater humanitarian and military support to be provided to Kyiv.
Meanwhile, in response to the war Poland has itself been looking to enhance its own defence capabilities. A new Homeland Defence Act introduced with cross-party support last month boosted the defence budget to 3% of GDP, one of the highest levels in NATO.
Before and since, the government has been on a military spending spree, including concluding an agreement for the purchase of 250 of the latest Abrams tanks from the US, as well as Patriot air defence systems, HIMARS rocket launchers and F-35 combat aircraft.
Daniel Tilles is editor-in-chief of Notes from Poland. He has written on Polish affairs for a wide range of publications, including Foreign Policy, POLITICO Europe, EUobserver and Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.