POLAND is building the biggest military in Europe with some 300,000 soldiers in a direct challenge to Vladimir Putin.
It is hoped the troops will be backed by some 2,000 tanks, dozens of new fighter jets, new rocket launchers, and even three new warships.
The highly ambitious spending programme comes as the Eastern flank of Europe is at its most unstable since World War 2.
Putin's threats and his vicious invasion of Ukraine appear to have snapped the country into action.
This year alone the country will spend £25billion beefing up its military which equates to 4 per cent of GDP.
And this is double the UK's 2 per cent and the highest among NATO members.
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Between now and 2035, it intends to spend a staggering £100billion.
Mariusz Błaszczak, the country’s defence minister, has made it clear the build-up is intended as a warning to the Kremlin.
Russian propagandists have often bragged that Poland is next on Putin's hit list after Ukraine.
"They [Russia] attack if they see a weak spot," Błaszczak said last year as Poland began its spending spree.
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"There will not be a stronger country in Europe (than Poland) when it comes to artillery and armoured troops.
"We will have the strongest land forces of all the European NATO states."
Poland has a long history of war with Russia – stretching back hundreds of years to the time of Ivan the Terrible – and has often been on the frontline defending Europe against Moscow.
In 1920, the country was credited with stopping the spread of Communism into Europe when its armies turned back Trotsky in a battle known as "The Miracle on the Vistula".
Less than 20 years later, the joint invasion of Poland by Stalin’s Soviets and Hitler’s Nazis began the Second World War, with the country occupied by the USSR until 1989.
So when Putin invaded Ukraine last year saying he had come to reclaim historic Russian lands, power brokers in Warsaw were under no illusions that they were also in danger.
Within weeks, Warsaw had put pen to paper on a deal to buy 250 American Abrams tanks and later increased that to 336, with 116 to be delivered as soon as possible.
Diplomats then went halfway around the world to sign another deal for 1,000 K-2 tanks from Korea.
Once they arrive it will make Poland Europe’s largest tank force, with more armour at its disposal than every other European NATO member combined.
Poland then asked the US for 500 HIMARS systems, having watched just a handful of the long-range rocket artillery wreak havoc on Russian forces in Ukraine.
When American arms giant Lockheed Martin said it could only supply 200 of them, Warsaw again turned to Korea to fill the gap.
Army chiefs ended up buying 288 K239 Chunmoo rocket launchers from Seoul in addition to 18 HIMARS systems, including long-range ATACMS rockets that Ukraine has been pleading for but has not been given.
A further deal with Seoul will give Poland 48 of its FA-50 fighter jets, in addition to 32 next-generation F-35 stealth fighters it bought from America in 2020.
But the spending spree did not stop there.
In May, Poland sent a request to the US for six new Patriot anti-air batteries, and in September bought 96 Apache attack helicopters.
With a coastline on the Baltic Sea which is partly bordered by Russia, Warsaw also moved to bulk up its naval forces.
Just days after the war in Ukraine broke out, Poland sealed a £1.4bn deal with UK arms manufacturer Babcock for three new frigates.
The warships will be built in Poland and dubbed the Miecznik Class, but are effectively copycat versions of the Royal Navy’s Type 31 frigates.
Military recruitment will also ramp up, aiming to double the number of people in the army from 150,000 in 2022 to 300,000 by 2035.
Just last year, 16,000 new recruits signed up – the largest single-year increase in troop numbers since conscription ended in 2008.
Once complete, it will give Poland the largest army in Europe by manpower, an accolade currently held by France at 200,000 troops. Britain, by comparison, has just 72,500.
Finally, Warsaw struck deals with a domestic arms maker for 1,400 armoured vehicles to carry those soldiers into battle.
And that is only the beginning. More arms purchases are expected in the coming years, including a program to replace the country’s lone submarine.
Mateusz Morawiecki, Poland’s Prime Minister, summed up his plans by saying: "We must build an army so strong that it… deters the enemy by its sheer strength.
"Good armament of the smaller Ukrainian army allowed it to effectively defend against the larger, barbaric Russian army."
He added: "Good armament is like three slingshots in David's hand against Goliath. And we are building such an army."
When Russia invaded Ukraine in February last year, it was feared that the country could fold within days – bringing Putin’s forces to Poland’s doorstep and threatening NATO’s east flank.
The alliance rushed additional military gear across Europe to deter any Kremlin attack and bolstered the northern end of the line by announcing Finland and Sweden would join.
As well as additional troops deployed to Poland, President Joe Biden announced a new permanent American base on Polish soil – pacing the country on the forefront of the push-back against Putin.
Warsaw has been among Ukraine’s staunchest military backers and has taken on the lion’s share of refugees fleeing the conflict.
The country was almost sucked into the fighting late last year when a missile landed on its territory and killed two farmers, but it later turned out to be a Ukrainian anti-air rocket that went haywire.
Even so, Jan Emeryk Rościszewski – Poland’s ambassador to France – has suggested Poland could enter the war if Ukraine falls.
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Speaking to French TV earlier this year, he said: "Either Ukraine will defend its independence today, or we will have to enter this conflict.
"Because our main values, which were the basis of our civilisation and our culture will be threatened. Therefore, we will have no choice but to enter the conflict."
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