Given the current overriding concern stemming from the conflict in Ukraine the CSDP seems to be a remote concept in the internal security debate in Poland. This is aggravated by the clearly geopolitical deviation of security interests among the EU members along various lines: southern members vs. eastern members, Russian threat perception and the role of US involvement in European matters. The main and palpable concern in Poland is the German approach towards Russian policy and the relatively soft handling of the crisis by NATO.
Therefore the CSDP itself seems to be of far lesser relevance as there is a common perception here that the EU is lacking any cohesive international and security agenda at all and that – with some minor exceptions – German national and economic interests have become its main driving force. In addition, there is a deepening mistrust as to the respective roles of the countries in the CSDP decision making process and force structure. Simply put, Poland does not want to deprive itself of its own all-utility armed forces destined to counter a conventional, symmetrical aggression from Russia. As a contrast – a few years ago even the conservative politicians were making public statements about the need to fund and field a strong European army and that Poland should constitute a major contributor to that army given Poland’s size, population, military capabilities and geographical location. Now those days are gone and the modernisation programme for the Polish Armed Forces is all about being more independent and capable of defending the country on Poland’s own. So is the new security doctrine announced recently.
Polish experts have initiated debate on the military shortcomings of the European allies translating into mistrust as to whether the European allies will have resolve, political will, and sufficient capabilities to come to Poland’s aid under the framework of Article 5 of the Washington Treaty should such need arise. As regards the United States, the security experts realize that the US is to face huge defence cuts in the coming years and is more absent militarily in Europe than ever since 1948. It is also broadly accepted that the US is rebalancing towards Asia-Pacific for good and that this trend can only be accelerated as this is a requirement of strategic proportion in order to sustain the US global supremacy. Finally, the debate focuses more on the capabilities of particular countries to contribute to the security challenges than the CSDP as the combined effort of the members.
For Poland the CSDP matters only inasmuch as it helps this way or another prevent or mitigate the Russian resurgence and provide political or military assistance in the event of any hostilities or Russian actions against Poland or Baltic countries. If the EU were to become an organisation with a real international agenda and, most importantly, one decision making centre that serves Polish security interests then Poland would be more than happy to welcome the real CSDP of an even more ambitious scale and real military capabilities. But this is pure theory given the current obvious rift within the EU between particular members on Russia, the US role in Europe and even on the future of EU, compounded by the general relative decline of the EU as a strong international actor on security matters. The main obstacle barring the CSDP to materialise is the tangled net of often mutually conflicting national security interests of the main EU players that make others doubt whether the whole CSDP idea is worth attention and resources.