A 1,300-mile (2,100-km) long separation barrier is planned by Poland to symbolize its intention of parting company geopolitically with East Europe and re-orienting itself solidly on the West. This wall – the longest modern-day barrier ever built – will constitute Europe’s most significant military and strategic project since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet empire. The wall will split the continent between West Europe plus Poland and its eastern sector comprising Russia and most former Soviet Bloc countries.
(See attached strategic map)
But that is not all. Washington regards the wall as a key constituent of its global defenses against terrorist traffic from East to West and a shield for the chain of military bases going up for US troops evacuated from Germany. Those soldiers will combine with Polish units to guard the wall as a barrier to the free passage through Poland exploited by al Qaeda terrorists and their weapons and money to access central and Western Europe from their bases in Central Asia, Chechnya and their East European strongholds in Bulgaria, Bosnia and Kosovo.
Warsaw is pointedly omitting its Oder Neisse border with Germany from the new wall system.
Polish officers in consultation with the Pentagon and US intelligence agencies have been working on the plans for months, DEBKA-Net-Weekly's Washington sources report, to determine the type of barrier and early warning systems that will best suit each of their frontiers. Its total cost of an estimated $15 billion is expected to be covered by American loan guarantees.
The Poles took Washington’s advice to set up a special defense ministry department to execute the project and to draw on the expertise of two nations in state of the art barrier-building – Israel and India. Both have built sophisticated defense walls and acquired invaluable experience in fast construction methods and electronic warning systems.
In 2001 and 2002, India with Israel's help built a barrier in Kashmir to block the passage of extremist Muslim fighters. The wall was studded with electronic early warning stations capable of tracking missiles and aircraft along the frontier with Pakistan
(See DNW 28, September 7, 2001, “The Great Wall of Kashmir“)
For two years, Israel has been putting in place a defensive wall along its West Bank frontier to hold back Palestinian suicide bombers from reaching its cities. Thirty years ago, Israel built its first sophisticated electronic fence along its Jordanian border. Since then, barriers were thrown up to enclose the Gaza Strip and seal Israel’s borders with Syria and Lebanon against hostile infiltrators.
Down to brass tacks
Both the Israeli and the Indian fence projects have had their share of political, military, financial and legal pitfalls to overcome. The Polish government is drawing on their experience before making final decisions.
In early November, with very little advance warning, Indian defense minister Pamab Mukhejee arrived in Warsaw for a three-day visit, purportedly to look into Polish weapons procurement for the Indian army. Our military sources report this was the cover for initial business discussions with Polish prime minister Marek Belka and Polish defense minister Jerrzy Szmajdzinski on the role of the Indian army and high-tech firms in setting up the Polish defense wall.
Then, last week, Israeli defense minister Shaul Mofaz arrived for three days of talks in Warsaw. Polish interior minister Ryszard Kilisz, who took part in the discussions, presented the project for public consumption as an important European tool for fighting crime and preventing the smuggling of drugs, weapons and people between eastern and western Europe via Poland. Polish defense officials proposed that Indian and Israeli experts get together on the Polish barrier.
Polish military delegations scheduled early December trips to India and Israel to examine close up the security barriers in Kashmir and the West Bank, respectively, focusing on the construction process, maintenance methods and the functioning of the electronic warning systems.
Our military and intelligence sources report the impression gained by the Israelis and Indians that the Poles were looking at different types of wall for different sectors.
For its starting point in the Gulf of Gdansk, they want a new kind of marine barrier to separate the Polish coast and its offshore waters from Kaliningrad province. This important Russian Baltic enclave is home to several large naval bases and installations, including submarine pens, bases for spy planes and naval reconnaissance aircraft, and headquarters of Russian special forces, Speznaz, units.
From the Gulf of Gdansk and the northern rim of the Kaliningrad enclave, the wall’s charted route will head inland and run the full 180 mile- (290 km) length of Poland's eastern border with Russia. Made of concrete, this structure will be 8 to 12 meters (25 to 82 feet) tall, its course interrupted by gated checkpoints, watchtowers and operations “rooms” for the use of the Polish units guarding it.
The Polish frontier with Lithuania, Belarus and most sectors of its border with Ukraine will be made of cement. The section facing the Ukrainian town of Lvov will make special allowances to facilitate movement between the two countries in consideration of the town’s past history as part of Poland and its Catholic population’s cross-frontier kinship ties. (See separate article in this issue on Ukraine‘s election crisis.)
Poland‘s barriers promise angry neighbors
Poland has not yet decided if wants a solid wall along its southern borders with Slovenia and the Czech Republic. These frontiers wind through high, rugged mountainous terrain across more than 550 miles (880 km). In turning over the problem with their Israeli and Indian advisers, the Polish planners mentioned the possibility of a lighter fence or even at some points land obstacles and electronic sensors to monitor movements through mountain passes.
The Poles are intent on work starting with the first snow thaws next April. Each segment has a scheduled time frame of between a year and 18 months to build.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military sources report that Poland’s neighbors have not been co-opted to decisions on the wall slated to spring up on their borders. When they realize its scale, they will no doubt lodge strong protests in Warsaw, the charge led by Russian president Vladimir Putin, its top brass and its business leaders. Moscow will most certainly view the Polish wall as a major obstacle to Russia’s political and economic ties with West Europe, especially France and Germany. The sea and land walls enclosing Kaliningrad and its bases will undoubtedly be seen by the Kremlin as a hostile military step.
However, Warsaw does not feel it owes anything much to its neighbors. After all, very few countries have been carved up more than Poland. In fact it was partitioned in 1772, 1793 and 1795, in turn by Russia, Prussia and Austria, disappearing as a sovereign state until after World War I. But then, it was overrun by Nazi Germany. At the end of World War II, Poland’s western border with Germany was fixed on the Oder-Neisse line. But from the east, north and south, the country was sucked into the Soviet empire. Although that empire is no more, Poland remains uncomfortably wedged between eastern and western Europe.Hypersensitive on its borders and sovereignty, Poland is busy integrating in the new world order, orienting itself to the west as a new member of NATO and standing solidly with the Bush administration as a member of the US-led coalition army in Iraq.