Poland's Armed Forces Day is a national holiday that is observed annually on August 15. It celebrates the nation's 1920 victory over the Soviet Union in the Battle of Warsaw during the Polish-Soviet War. The holiday features military reviews, showcases and ceremonies across the country, but especially in Warsaw. Although Armed Forces Day was banned under Soviet rule from 1947 to 1992, the holiday was revived. In 2023, Poland celebrated with its largest Armed Forces Day Parade since the Cold War.
Since the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Poland has been one of Ukraine's most prominent and outspoken supporters. Constantly calling for increased military aid to Kyiv and a more aggressive response to Russia, Poland has made it clear that it is no friend of Russia. Additionally, the posturing of Wagner mercenary fighters in neighboring Belarus heightened military alertness in Warsaw. After all, Poland is the only NATO country that borders Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. In response to Russian aggression in Ukraine and Wagner activity in Belarus, Poland put on a display of military might for its 2023 Armed Forces Day Parade.
Thousands of Polish and NATO troops participated in the Warsaw parade through the city center. Two hundred defense vehicles, including tanks and armored vehicles rolled through the streets while helicopters and fighter jets, including F-16 Fighting Falcons which Poland is eager to supply to Ukraine, soared overhead. On the ground, American military hardware already in use in Ukraine like M1 Abrams main battle tanks, HIMARS self-propelled rocket artillery and Patriot missile air defense systems were on full display.
Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, European countries increased their defense spending and military modernizations; arguably none as aggressively as Poland. The country's government, led by the Law and Justice party, spent over $16 billion on tanks, fighter jets and missile systems in the past two years. In 2023, the government vowed to double the size of the nation's military, with 4% of Poland's economic output spent on defense. The Armed Forces Day Parade was a demonstration of the country's capabilities and a promise of what is to come.