Poland Boosts Eastern Border Amid Growing Security Concerns

Poland Boosts Eastern Border Amid Growing Security Concerns

Poland is taking significant steps to improve security along its eastern border with Russia and Belarus.

The Polish government has announced a plan to spend billions of euros on fortifications, barriers, and anti-drone surveillance through a program called Shield East.

Shield East to bolster defenses

This decision comes as Poland, a NATO member and strong supporter of Ukraine, faces growing threats from its eastern neighbors.

Officials say Russia and Belarus have been involved in cyberattacks, arson attempts, and sending migrants illegally across the border to create instability in Poland and the European Union (EU).

€2 billion for border security

Prime Minister Donald Tusk announced that over €2.3 billion will be invested in the Shield East program.

This project aims to protect Polish territory, hinder enemy troop mobility, and facilitate movement for Polish forces, while also protecting civilians.

The work has already started and will be finished by 2028.

Defense Minister Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz stressed the size and importance of this project at a news conference.

He also mentioned that it is the biggest effort to strengthen NATO’s eastern side since World War II ended in 1945.

Fortifications, barriers, and surveillance system

The Shield East program will include various defense measures along about 700 kilometers (430 miles) of Poland’s border with Russia and Belarus.

This will involve building fortifications, barriers, anti-tank ditches, bunkers, and shelters. There will also be space for possible minefields if needed.

Advanced anti-drone monitoring and defense towers will be installed to improve surveillance. The whole system will be connected with Poland’s national defense infrastructure.

Officials emphasized that while these measures are mainly meant to deter aggressors, they are also preparing for a possible military attack.

Baltic collaboration seeks EU funding

Poland is working with NATO members Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia to build a regional defense system along the alliance’s eastern border.

These three Baltic states used to be part of the Soviet Union and, like Poland, are considered by Moscow to be within its sphere of influence.

Funding for the Shield East program will come from the Polish government, which currently spends over 4% of its GDP on defense.

However, officials said they will also seek financial support from the EU, as the improved border security will benefit all 27 member countries.

Strengthen border wall, reopen crossings

In 2021, Poland’s previous right-wing government built a €368 million wall along the Belarus border to stop a rise in illegal migrant crossings.

The current pro-EU government agrees that this barrier needs to be strengthened as part of a broader border security plan.

Between January and mid-September 2023, Polish border guards recorded 17,868 attempts at illegal border crossings, more than double the 8,299 attempts during the same period the previous year.

To help local businesses affected by border closures, Prime Minister Tusk said Poland might reopen the Bobrowniki border crossing with Belarus

 However, he stressed that a careful review of the situation is needed before making a final decision.

Four of the six Polish-Belarusian border crossings are currently closed due to security concerns.

ETIAS launch and border security

Poland’s border fortification plans might affect travelers visiting the country and the wider Schengen Area.

In mid-2025, the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) will start, requiring visitors from visa-exempt countries to get authorization before entering the Schengen zone.

ETIAS aims to improve security by screening travelers before they arrive. Poland’s Shield East program supports this goal and may change border crossing procedures for tourists and business travelers.

Visitors should stay updated on changing entry requirements and allow extra time for border checks.

Poland prioritizes border security

As geopolitical tensions continue, Poland is taking steps to strengthen its eastern border and protect against possible threats from Russia and Belarus.

The ambitious Shield East program, with significant financial investment and cooperation with regional allies, shows Poland’s dedication to national security and its role in supporting NATO’s eastern border.

While there are still challenges, these efforts aim to prevent aggression, protect Polish citizens, and contribute to stability in the region.