Poland are to deploy an additional 35,000 troops to its borders in order to prepare for a potential fight with Russia.
Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz confirmed that a 35,000-member paramilitary force will be enrolled, aimed at countering a perceived threat from Russia.
“Enrolment of the first members of the territorial defence force will start in September,” Macierewicz said at a conference of paramilitary organisations in Ostroda.
The force’s command structure and senior appointments were decided in April, the minister said, according to a report by PAP news agency.
Comprising civilians who have had military training, the force is intended to deter Russia from seizing Polish territory by infiltration, as it is perceived to have done in eastern Ukraine.
“The territorial defence force is our response to the threat associated with hybrid warfare,” said Grzegorz Kwasniak, in charge with setting up the force, referring to the stealth tactic.
Each of Poland’s 16 provinces are expected to have a brigade-level force, and Mazovia – the biggest and most populous region in the centre of the country – will have two.
Priority in deployment will be given to eastern provinces – Podlachia, Lublin and Podkarpachie – deemed to be the most exposed to Russian pressure.
The Polish move has been mirrored in the ex-Soviet Baltic states, which have a long history of tension with Moscow. Paramilitary groups from these countries also attended the conference in Ostroda.
Poland already has a paramilitary group, a “riflemen’s association” called the Strzelec, set up in the early 20th century by the architect of Polish independence, Jozef Pilsudski.
It has around 12,000 volunteers, many of them youngsters, who get training in military skills.
Strzelec units are to take part for the first time in a major military exercise, Anakonda, gathering Poland and several Nato allies, Strzelec commander Marcin Waszczuk told AFP. The exercise is due to take place in Poland from June 7 to 17.