WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland's ruling party leader presented plans Tuesday for a bill to “defend the fatherland,” legislation he said is aimed at “radically” strengthening the military as the country faces migration pressure from its eastern neighbor Belarus.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who holds the position of deputy prime minister but is undisputedly the most powerful politician in Poland, said a deteriorating international situation was the reason for the bill. Examples he gave included “Russia's imperial ambitions” and the hybrid warfare being waged by Belarus against Poland and other European Union nations using migrants.

"If we want to avoid the worst, that is war, we have to act according to the old rule: ‘If you want peace, prepare for war,’” Kaczynski said at a news conference in Warsaw.

He argued that as a country that lies on the eastern flank of the European Union and NATO, Poland must have a serious deterrent force and the “ability to effectively defend itself for a long time on its own.”

“We want Poland to belong to the countries that have a strong army,” Kaczynski said, speaking alongside Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak.

The bill is aimed at replacing an existing one from 1967, Kaczynski said. It will back increasing the defense budget and the size of the army and introducing simpler recruitment rules but does not involve reinstating compulsory military service.

Kaczynski also said Poland hopes to strengthen its forces by buying U.S.-produced military equipment but would also look at European-made weapons.

The announcement comes as Poland faces heavy migration pressure from Belarus. Warsaw accuses the Belarusian regime of President Alexander Lukashenko of encouraging migrants from the Mideast, Africa and elsewhere of seeking to enter the EU through Poland.

Poland has reacted by declaring a state of emergency along the border with Belarus. It has also been fortifying the border with razor wire and has deployed large numbers of soldiers to help border guards. The government also plans to construct a high permanent barrier with motion sensors.

Polish border guards have also been pushing some migrants back across the border, including some families with children.

Human rights officials have criticized the state of emergency and the migrant pushbacks.


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