As the United States scales down its operations in Afghanistan, it’s looking for creative ways to get rid of its surplus military equipment. One solution: give it Poland, free of charge. But the fact that the European nation is engaged in zero combat missions raises concerns about who will actually benefit from such a gift.
The Polish Army has received 45 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles, all donated by the US government. The vehicles are barely used. Each has driven less than 3,000 kilometers, and in total, the MRAP’s are estimated to be worth over $7.5 million.
“In the short term, the equipment will be used in exercises, military training, and when necessary, in combat,” General Lech Majewski, General Commander of the Armed Forces and Types of Special Forces, said at a press conference on Wednesday.
US Ambassador Stephen Mull said that the offering is just one of several benefits of partnering with the US.
“This is an example of a strong tradition of Polish-American partnership, and the example of a sustained commitment by the US to protect Poland,” Mull said, according to Polskie Radio.
But Poland is not currently defending itself, and is engaged in no military conflicts. Given that Poland is one of the only nations which has expressed willingness to provide arms to the Ukrainian military, many wonder if this equipment might find its way onto the battlefield.
Last week, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signed a law which established a joint military brigade between Ukraine, Lithuania, and Poland. On Tuesday, Ryszard Czarnecki, of the Polish Law and Justice Party, called on both Poland and the larger European Union to pursue measures to “push Russia away from our borders.”
If Poland follows through with these plans, this raises the possibility that the US may be indirectly arming the Ukrainian military.
In addition, the vehicles can hardly be considered “free,” since such complex machines require millions of dollars in maintenance. A single, supposedly free military helicopter given to the Newark police ended up costing the department $2 million in upkeep and refurbishment, according to NJ Advance Media. A fleet of 45 would cost considerably more.
If the Polish military wants to utilize the gift in a real way, it will cost them plenty. This fact could encourage the Polish to sell.
“We Americans are proud of our partnership with Poland,” Ambassador Mull said as the vehicles were handed over. “[We’re] determined to deliver on our commitment to provide Poland with lasting security and prosperity.”