VICE Looks Into Poland's Paramilitary Weekend Warriors
19 Aug 2015
Since 2014, what usually is a weekend of fun for Polish airsoft players has taken an even bigger purpose --- to train for the possibility of another major conflict that will erupt in their homeland. There is a sense of urgency to be prepared for war given the geopolitical situation over the border where Ukraine is preventing further erosion of its territorial integrity from Russian-backed separatist rebels.
For centuries, the Polish people have a high distrust of the Russians given that they have been at war for many times that dates back to the Middle Ages and are very much wary of Russia's foreign policy actions with 49% of Poles having a negative view of Russia in 2013 according to the BBC. With the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, this distrust is higher than ever.
Poland has a professional army that has seen combat as part of ISAF in Afghanistan and the Coalition Forces in Iraq. Amongst EU countries, it is the only one bucking the trend of defence spending, spending more to face the growing Russian threat whilst most have been decreasing their expenditures. It also abolished conscription in 2009 and thus relies on a total strength of 120,000 military personnel with around 20,000 part time civilian volunteers.
Since there is no conscription, civilians have been taking up some semblance of military training themselves, and around 80,000 civilians are actively going to weekend tactical trainings provided by independent groups or airsoft events. VICE's Germany's office went to Poland to learn more about these weekend warriors:
The documentary shows that airsoft plays a big role in such training of civilians to become able-bodied patriots willing to take up arms for the defence of their countries (airsoft was mentioned briefly but airsoft is all over the video, especially in the latter part). This situation in Poland of increasing civilian paramilitary groups (though we would rather call them as airsoft communities) is a reaction to the geopolitical situation and that many civilians in other European countries that are close to the Russian border are actively seeking training to prepare themselves in case the situation gets worse.
With no détente happening in the near future between NATO and Russia over Ukraine, this means that Poland will have to steel itself for the possibility of being one of the frontline nations apart from the Baltic states in case Putin decides to make a move against the whole of Ukraine. That also means more training and preparations for the weekend warriors. Rather than just do some run and gun skirmish games, they will be doing more field training exercises that will be go beyond the milsim scenarios that we are familiar with in airsoft. This will mean join exercises with regular troops for coordination and even familiarization with equipment.
Getting involved in Polish airsoft events will be more of a patriotic duty rather than a hobby or sport for civilians not in the regular forces. Polish airsoft now has its own mission.