Former NATO Chief Warns Poland and Baltic States Could Soon Move Troops Into Ukraine

Former NATO Secretary General Anders Rasmussen warned in June 7 that Eastern European members of the alliance could actively deploy forces in Ukraine. Speaking at the NATO summit in Vilnius, he stated regarding the dangers of failing to reach a clear plan for providing further support to the Ukrainian war effort: “If NATO cannot agree on a clear path forward for Ukraine, there is a clear possibility that some countries individually might take action. We know that Poland is very engaged in providing concrete assistance to Ukraine. And I wouldn’t exclude the possibility that Poland would engage even stronger in this context on a national basis and be followed by the Baltic states, maybe including the possibility of troops on the ground … I think the Poles would seriously consider going in and assemble a coalition of the willing if Ukraine doesn’t get anything in Vilnius.” Poland has notably donated tremendous quantities of armaments to Ukraine, and seriously depleted its frontline armour and its artillery stocks in particular in the process. Its Western and Soviet equipment is quickly being replaced, however, by qualitatively far superior equipment from South Korea including Korean tanks, artillery, rocket artillery and fighter planes among other assets.  

Rasmussen’s comments come amid unconfirmed reports that Ukraine’s long awaited counteroffensive is seriously faltering, with its forces taking heavy losses across the frontlines. It also follows multiple incursions into Russian territory by small groups of combatants not only from Ukraine, but also from Poland, with the Polish Volunteer Corps having published announcements and video evidence of their operations. Alongside the Baltic States and Britain, Poland has taken the hardest line within the Western world over the Ukrainian conflict, with senior politicians calling for Russia’s balkanisation into separate states. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has himself criticised any moves towards dialogue with Russia, equating it with “negotiating with Hitler, Stalin or Pol Pot” to stress that “you do not negotiate with criminals.” Polish military contractors have according to multiple reports already played a central role in the war effort, with the country being the leading source of foreign manpower fighting for Ukraine. 

Former senior advisor to the U.S. Secretary of Defence U.S. Army Colonel (ret.) Douglas McGregor reported the presence of an estimated 20,000 contractors from Poland playing key roles in the war effort including in frontline positions such as Bakhmut. Head of the Russian Wagner Group paramilitary force Yevgeny Prigozhin reported in late April regarding the deployments of large numbers of Polish forces to Bakhmut: “Well-trained enemy units are now being tossed into Bakhmut. Polish speech all day long. While I used to say there were few mercenaries, now there’s a large number of them.” With much of Western Ukraine having historically been Polish territory, multiple sources have indicated for over a year that Warsaw may be intending to reintegrate the territory particularly if Ukraine’s partitioning is made more permanent or should a total Russian victory appear plausible. Poland has been a leading supplier of armaments for the war effort, and for provision of Western built weapons such as German Leopard 2 tanks, and has even threatened to provide them to Ukraine illegally should it fail to gain necessary permission from their suppliers for transfers to a third party. The first Western built tanks to reach Ukraine were Leopard 2s from Poland which arrived in February 2023.