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Poland rolls out plans for fortifications along its border with Russia and Belarus

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Poland rolls out plans for fortifications along its border with Russia and Belarus
News

News

Poland rolls out plans for fortifications along its border with Russia and Belarus

2024-05-27 18:40 Last Updated At:18:50

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Defense officials in NATO member Poland on Monday presented a plan to strengthen anti-drone surveillance and on-ground military defense through a system of fortifications and barriers along about 700 kilometers (430 miles) of its eastern border with Russia and Russian ally Belarus.

The government says Poland, which supports neighboring Ukraine in its defense against Russia’s aggression, is being targeted by hostile actions from Russia and Belarus. They include cyberattacks, attempted arson and migrants being pushed illegally across the border, which officials describe as intended to destabilize the European Union, of which Poland is a member.

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Poland's Defense Minister Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz speaks about a program of strengthening the defense of NATO'S eastern flank in Warsaw, Poland, Monday, May, 27, 2024, during a presentation of a program to upgrade the security of Poland's border with Russia and Belarus, which is also European Union's eastern border. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Defense officials in NATO member Poland on Monday presented a plan to strengthen anti-drone surveillance and on-ground military defense through a system of fortifications and barriers along about 700 kilometers (430 miles) of its eastern border with Russia and Russian ally Belarus.

From left, Poland's Defense Minister Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz, Polish armed forces' Chief of Staff. Gen Wieslaw Kukula and Deputy Defense Minister Cezary Tomczyk speak about a program of strengthening the defense of NATO'S eastern flank in Warsaw, Poland, Monday, May, 27, 2024, during a presentation of a program to upgrade the security of Poland's border with Russia and Belarus, which is also European Union's eastern border. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

From left, Poland's Defense Minister Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz, Polish armed forces' Chief of Staff. Gen Wieslaw Kukula and Deputy Defense Minister Cezary Tomczyk speak about a program of strengthening the defense of NATO'S eastern flank in Warsaw, Poland, Monday, May, 27, 2024, during a presentation of a program to upgrade the security of Poland's border with Russia and Belarus, which is also European Union's eastern border. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

Poland's Defense Minister Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz speaks about a program of strengthening the defense of NATO'S eastern flank in Warsaw, Poland, Monday, May, 27, 2024, during a presentation of a program to upgrade the security of Poland's border with Russia and Belarus, which is also European Union's eastern border. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

Poland's Defense Minister Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz speaks about a program of strengthening the defense of NATO'S eastern flank in Warsaw, Poland, Monday, May, 27, 2024, during a presentation of a program to upgrade the security of Poland's border with Russia and Belarus, which is also European Union's eastern border. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

Polish armed forces' Chief of Staff. Gen Wieslaw Kukula, right , and Deputy Defense Minister Cezary Tomczyk, second right, speak about a program of strengthening the defense of NATO'S eastern flank in Warsaw, Poland, Monday, May, 27, 2024, during a presentation of a program to upgrade the security of Poland's border with Russia and Belarus, which is also European Union's eastern border. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

Polish armed forces' Chief of Staff. Gen Wieslaw Kukula, right , and Deputy Defense Minister Cezary Tomczyk, second right, speak about a program of strengthening the defense of NATO'S eastern flank in Warsaw, Poland, Monday, May, 27, 2024, during a presentation of a program to upgrade the security of Poland's border with Russia and Belarus, which is also European Union's eastern border. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

Polish armed forces' Chief of Staff. Gen Wieslaw Kukula, right , and Deputy Defense Minister Cezary Tomczyk, second right, speak about a program of strengthening the defense of NATO'S eastern flank in Warsaw, Poland, Monday, May, 27, 2024, during a presentation of a program to upgrade the security of Poland's border with Russia and Belarus, which is also European Union's eastern border. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

Polish armed forces' Chief of Staff. Gen Wieslaw Kukula, right , and Deputy Defense Minister Cezary Tomczyk, second right, speak about a program of strengthening the defense of NATO'S eastern flank in Warsaw, Poland, Monday, May, 27, 2024, during a presentation of a program to upgrade the security of Poland's border with Russia and Belarus, which is also European Union's eastern border. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

FILE - Members of a group of some 30 migrants seeking asylum look through the railings of a wall that Poland has built on its border with Belarus to stop massive migrant pressure, in Bialowieza, Poland, on May 28, 2023. Defense officials in NATO member Poland were presenting plans Monday, May 27, 2024, for fortifications and strengthening of its eastern border with Russia and Moscow ally Belarus. (AP Photo/Agnieszka Sadowska, File)

FILE - Members of a group of some 30 migrants seeking asylum look through the railings of a wall that Poland has built on its border with Belarus to stop massive migrant pressure, in Bialowieza, Poland, on May 28, 2023. Defense officials in NATO member Poland were presenting plans Monday, May 27, 2024, for fortifications and strengthening of its eastern border with Russia and Moscow ally Belarus. (AP Photo/Agnieszka Sadowska, File)

The government is also making preparations in the case of a military attack, while stressing the primary role of deterrence.

The government of Prime Minister Donald Tusk has planned a range of security measures including in cyberspace, as well as a more than $2.5 billion investment in strengthening surveillance, deterrence and defense along the eastern border, a system known as Shield-East that is to be completed in 2028. Work on it has started, officials said.

“The goal of the shield is to protect the territory of Poland, hamper the mobility of our adversary's troops while making such mobility easier for our own troops and to protect civilians,” Defense Minister Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz said at a news conference, adding that local communities understand the need for such steps.

The shield will include “all kinds of fortifications, barriers, monitoring of the air space on every level and upgrading the existing systems,” and will be integrated with the defense system across the country, Kosiniak-Kamysz said.

He stressed it was the biggest program to strengthen NATO's eastern flank since 1945, when World War II ended.

Chief of Staff Gen. Wiesław Kukuła said it will include a network of state-of-the-art anti-drone monitoring and defense towers, anti-tank barriers and ditches, bunkers and shelters, as well as space for potential mine fields. He stressed their primary role is to deter any potential aggressor.

The officials said the system will be part of a regional defense infrastructure built jointly with the Baltic states — Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia — that are also on NATO's eastern flank. The funding will come from the government, as Poland spends over 4% of its GDP on defense, but help will also be sought from the EU because the system will also strengthen the eastern border of the 27-member bloc, they said.

Some observers noted that the much-publicized presentation came two weeks ahead of elections to the European Parliament, where Poland, a nation of some 38 million, holds 52 seats, and could be partly seen as a campaign element for the government that took office in December. The opposition also supports strengthening Poland’s defense.

Poland’s previous right-wing government built a $400 million wall on the border with Belarus to halt a massive inflow of migrants that began to be pushed from that direction in 2021. The current pro-EU government says that needs to be strengthened, but will be a separate project from Shield-East.

The three Baltic states were once part of the Soviet Union, while Poland was a satellite state before the 1990s. Moscow still regards the area as within its sphere of interest. To its east, Poland borders Russia's exclave of Kaliningrad, as well as NATO ally Lithiania, Moscow's ally Belarus, and Ukraine.

Poland's Defense Minister Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz speaks about a program of strengthening the defense of NATO'S eastern flank in Warsaw, Poland, Monday, May, 27, 2024, during a presentation of a program to upgrade the security of Poland's border with Russia and Belarus, which is also European Union's eastern border. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

Poland's Defense Minister Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz speaks about a program of strengthening the defense of NATO'S eastern flank in Warsaw, Poland, Monday, May, 27, 2024, during a presentation of a program to upgrade the security of Poland's border with Russia and Belarus, which is also European Union's eastern border. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

From left, Poland's Defense Minister Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz, Polish armed forces' Chief of Staff. Gen Wieslaw Kukula and Deputy Defense Minister Cezary Tomczyk speak about a program of strengthening the defense of NATO'S eastern flank in Warsaw, Poland, Monday, May, 27, 2024, during a presentation of a program to upgrade the security of Poland's border with Russia and Belarus, which is also European Union's eastern border. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

From left, Poland's Defense Minister Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz, Polish armed forces' Chief of Staff. Gen Wieslaw Kukula and Deputy Defense Minister Cezary Tomczyk speak about a program of strengthening the defense of NATO'S eastern flank in Warsaw, Poland, Monday, May, 27, 2024, during a presentation of a program to upgrade the security of Poland's border with Russia and Belarus, which is also European Union's eastern border. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

Poland's Defense Minister Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz speaks about a program of strengthening the defense of NATO'S eastern flank in Warsaw, Poland, Monday, May, 27, 2024, during a presentation of a program to upgrade the security of Poland's border with Russia and Belarus, which is also European Union's eastern border. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

Poland's Defense Minister Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz speaks about a program of strengthening the defense of NATO'S eastern flank in Warsaw, Poland, Monday, May, 27, 2024, during a presentation of a program to upgrade the security of Poland's border with Russia and Belarus, which is also European Union's eastern border. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

Polish armed forces' Chief of Staff. Gen Wieslaw Kukula, right , and Deputy Defense Minister Cezary Tomczyk, second right, speak about a program of strengthening the defense of NATO'S eastern flank in Warsaw, Poland, Monday, May, 27, 2024, during a presentation of a program to upgrade the security of Poland's border with Russia and Belarus, which is also European Union's eastern border. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

Polish armed forces' Chief of Staff. Gen Wieslaw Kukula, right , and Deputy Defense Minister Cezary Tomczyk, second right, speak about a program of strengthening the defense of NATO'S eastern flank in Warsaw, Poland, Monday, May, 27, 2024, during a presentation of a program to upgrade the security of Poland's border with Russia and Belarus, which is also European Union's eastern border. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

Polish armed forces' Chief of Staff. Gen Wieslaw Kukula, right , and Deputy Defense Minister Cezary Tomczyk, second right, speak about a program of strengthening the defense of NATO'S eastern flank in Warsaw, Poland, Monday, May, 27, 2024, during a presentation of a program to upgrade the security of Poland's border with Russia and Belarus, which is also European Union's eastern border. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

Polish armed forces' Chief of Staff. Gen Wieslaw Kukula, right , and Deputy Defense Minister Cezary Tomczyk, second right, speak about a program of strengthening the defense of NATO'S eastern flank in Warsaw, Poland, Monday, May, 27, 2024, during a presentation of a program to upgrade the security of Poland's border with Russia and Belarus, which is also European Union's eastern border. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

FILE - Members of a group of some 30 migrants seeking asylum look through the railings of a wall that Poland has built on its border with Belarus to stop massive migrant pressure, in Bialowieza, Poland, on May 28, 2023. Defense officials in NATO member Poland were presenting plans Monday, May 27, 2024, for fortifications and strengthening of its eastern border with Russia and Moscow ally Belarus. (AP Photo/Agnieszka Sadowska, File)

FILE - Members of a group of some 30 migrants seeking asylum look through the railings of a wall that Poland has built on its border with Belarus to stop massive migrant pressure, in Bialowieza, Poland, on May 28, 2023. Defense officials in NATO member Poland were presenting plans Monday, May 27, 2024, for fortifications and strengthening of its eastern border with Russia and Moscow ally Belarus. (AP Photo/Agnieszka Sadowska, File)

Amazon is shifting from the plastic air pillows used for packaging in North America to recycled paper because it's more environmentally sound, and it says paper just works better.

The company said Thursday that it's already replaced 95% of the plastic air pillows with paper filler in North America and is working toward complete removal by year's end.

“We want to ensure that customers receive their items undamaged, while using as little packaging as possible to avoid waste, and prioritizing recyclable materials,” Amazon said.

It is the company's largest plastic packaging reduction effort in North America to date and will remove almost 15 billion plastic air pillows from use annually.

Almost all customer deliveries for Prime Day this year, which happens next month, will contain plastic no air pillows, according to Amazon.

The e-commerce giant has faced years of criticism about its use of plastic from environmental groups, including a nonprofit called Oceana, which has been releasing its own reports on Amazon’s use of plastic packaging.

Matt Littlejohn, senior vice president of strategic initiatives at Oceana, said that Amazon's efforts to reduce plastic packaging is welcome news, but that there's still more that the company can do.

“While this is a significant step forward for the company, Amazon needs to build on this momentum and fulfill its multiyear commitment to transition its North America fulfillment centers away from plastic,” Littlejohn said in a prepared statement. "Then, the company should expand these efforts and also push innovations like reusable packaging to move away from single-use packaging everywhere it sells and ships.”

There has also been broad support among Amazon investors who have urged the company to outline how will will reduce waste.

The company disclosed the total of single-use plastic across global operations for the first time in 2022 after investors sought more details on plans to reduce waste. The company said that it used 85,916 metric tons of single-use plastic that year, an 11.6% decrease from 2021.

Amazon began transition away from plastic air pillows in October at an automated fulfillment center in Ohio. The company said that it was able to test and learn at the center there, which helped it move quickly on transitioning to recycled paper filling.

The transition process included changing out machinery and training employees on new systems and machines.

Amazon discovered through testing that the paper filler, which is made from 100% recyclable content and is curbside recyclable, offers the same, if not better protection during shipping compared with plastic air pillows, the company said.

Christian Garcia, who works at Amazon's fulfillment center in Bakersfield, California, said in a release that the paper filler is easier to work with and that the machinery gives staff more space so that it's easier to pack orders.

Ongoing efforts to reduce waste include a campaign to ship items without any additional packaging, the company said. In 2022, 11% of all of Amazon's packages shipped worldwide were without added delivery packaging.

Other efforts include piloting new technology with artificial intelligence and robotics company Glacier to use AI-powered robots to automate the sorting of recyclables and collect real-time data on recycling streams for companies. It's also partnering with the U.S. Department of Energy on new materials and recycling programs.

FILE - The Amazon logo is seen, June 15, 2023, at the Vivatech show in Paris. Amazon is moving from putting plastic air pillows in its packages to using recycled paper filling instead, a move that's more environmentally friendly and secures items in boxes better. The company said Thursday, June 20, 2024 that it's already replaced 95% of the plastic air fillers with paper filler in North America and is working toward complete removal by year's end. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, File)

FILE - The Amazon logo is seen, June 15, 2023, at the Vivatech show in Paris. Amazon is moving from putting plastic air pillows in its packages to using recycled paper filling instead, a move that's more environmentally friendly and secures items in boxes better. The company said Thursday, June 20, 2024 that it's already replaced 95% of the plastic air fillers with paper filler in North America and is working toward complete removal by year's end. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, File)

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