The deal represents the birth of a binational industry – using South Korean tech and Polish manufacturing capability to build the biggest arms hub in Europe
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has prompted a skyrocketing European demand for military equipment, but the continent’s two biggest suppliers—France and Germany—have been unable to keep up with the demand, leaving the market open to others. Enter South Korea.
In the Asian country’s biggest deal ever, Seoul signed a $13.7 billion deal with Poland to supply military equipment.
“Obviously, [after] the outbreak of the Russian war, we get lots of requests from the Polish government for tanks and howitzers, and fighter aircraft,” noted Kim Hyoung Cheol, deputy director of South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program administration.
But it’s not simply an arms deal. It represents the birth of a binational industry: using South Korean technology and Polish manufacturing capabilities to build the biggest arms hub in Europe.
“We decided to provide the technology to Poland by using the Polish defense industry’s capability. We can jointly manufacture the weapon system and then export those weapon systems to nearby countries, ” Kim said.
For Oskar Pietrewicz, a senior analyst at the Polish Institute of International Affairs, South Korea is filling a gap in the market.
“Countries’ interest in South Korea’s offer may only grow, considering the limited production capacity of Germany’s defense industry, which is a major arms supplier in the region,” he said.
He gave Hungary as an example, which in 2018 ordered 44 Leopard tanks from Germany and has yet to receive any.
For Poland, it’s not just about creating a joint arms industry. The country has grander ambitions – to become the strongest military in Europe and the continent’s primary shield against Russia.
“I think the assertive stance of the Polish industry also stems from failed projects over the past 25 or 30 years involving American or European partners, which yielded limited benefits for the Polish defense sector,” Pietrewicz continued.
Poland’s stated intentions are to spend $115 billion by 2035, amassing 300,000 active soldiers and over 1,500 armored vehicles.
The end result? After the Ukraine war, Poland may set a new defense standard for Europe and become a regional power in its own right.