Poland to ramp up defence spending, army as Ukraine war rages

WARSAW, March 3 (Reuters) - Poland will raise spending on its armed forces more than planned, the government said on Thursday, as a Russian invasion of neighbouring Ukraine focuses attention on Warsaw's defence capabilities.

Moscow's assault on Ukraine has shaken NATO-member Poland, where memories of Soviet domination after World War Two run deep.

"There will be an amendment (to the defence plan): 3% of GDP on defence next year, then we will increase it," Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of ruling nationalist Law and Justice party (PiS), told the lower house of parliament.

Poland has kept its annual defence spending to 2% of GDP in recent years, in line with its commitment to NATO.

The 'Defence of the Fatherland Act', a bill first announced in October which parliament was debating on Thursday, had initially planned for an increase in spending to 2.5% from 2024.

Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said the bill would raise the number of soldiers in the Polish army to 300,000 as part of a five-year plan. Poland currently has around 143,500 soldiers.

"There will be a framework for having one of the strongest armies in NATO," Blaszczak said. "Our Fatherland needs such a Polish Army, especially now, when the evil empire is trying to be reborn across our eastern border."

The government has said it planned to lessen the impact on the budget by funding the expansion partly through government-secured bonds issued by state development bank BGK, in addition to treasury bonds, the state budget and profits from the central bank. read more

"We are aware of the limitations that result from EU regulations on the 3% budget deficit," Kaczynski said. "We are holding talks and there is a chance that military expenditure will not be included in the budget deficit, it is very important."

Reporting by Alan Charlish, Pawel Florkiewicz, Marek Strzelecki; Editing by Andrew Heavens Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Andrew Heavens

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.