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    A Polish soldier stands near US and Poland's national flags and a NATO flag in Swidwin, northern west Poland, April 23, 2014

    How I Learned to Stop Worrying: Poland to Teach Children How to Love NATO

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    Poland's long-harbored affection for the North Atlantic Alliance seems to have become even stronger ahead of the bloc's upcoming summit in Warsaw as local authorities offered schoolchildren a two-month special course on all things NATO, including Poland's controversial request to permanently station the alliance troops in the country.

    The NATO classes are meant to show the Polish youth how important closer ties with the bloc are. But they are also undoubtedly designed to send a message to both Poland's allies and opponents on what Warsaw's strategic goals are.

    The classes, scheduled to last up to four hours a week, will cover a variety of topics, including Poland's participation in NATO war-games and the bloc's potential permanent base in the country (something Germany has opposed).

    Polish schools have already received all the necessary material for the classes, the Foreign Affairs ministry said.

    Michal Korkosz, an 18-year-old high school pupil, told the Financial Times that the course risked "a kind of glorification of one organization," but added that he was happy that Poland is a NATO member.

    Poland's ruling Law and Justice Party has long advocated for NATO's greater presence in the country using the unsubstantiated claims of Russia's supposedly aggressive behavior as an excuse. High-ranking officials, including President Andrzej Duda and Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski urged the alliance to station allied forces and create permanent military bases in the country.

    Polish President Andrzej Duda addresses the media at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Monday, Jan. 18, 2016
    Polish President Andrzej Duda addresses the media at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Monday, Jan. 18, 2016

    Last year, for the first time Poland became one of those countries, whose defense spending reached the 2 percent threshold – a level set by NATO. In 2015, only five nations met this requirement.

    The North Atlantic Alliance enjoys significant support among the country's population. In 2015, more than 70 percent of Poles viewed NATO favorably – up from 64 two years earlier, a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center found.

    Poland's anti-Russian stance is not grounded in reality.

    "Of course, the 'Russian threat' is not so great as the Poles would have others believe. For all of Warsaw's concern for 'central and eastern Europe,' there have been no real Russian threats against those states," former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan Doug Bandow wrote for the National Interest.

    "Nothing suggests that [Vladimir Putin] wants Russia to try to digest millions or tens of millions of Georgians and Ukrainians, let alone Poles living in historically Polish territory," he added.

    Polish tank commander smiles after a NATO Response Force (NRF) exercise in Zagan, southwest Poland on June 18, 2015.
    © AFP 2017/ Janek Skarzynski
    Polish tank commander smiles after a NATO Response Force (NRF) exercise in Zagan, southwest Poland on June 18, 2015.

    Meanwhile, Polish troops are taking part in the Brilliant Jump 2016 exercise to train the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF), which was created following the 2014 summit in Wales in response to Russia's supposed meddling in the Ukrainian crisis. Moscow has always maintained that it is not a party to the conflict and has made every effort to resolve it through the Minsk peace process.

    NATO's summit in Warsaw will be held on July 8-9.

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    Tags:
    courses, lesson, education, NATO Warsaw Summit 2016, NATO, Witold Waszczykowski, Andrzej Duda, Poland, Russia
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