Poland Ousts Head of NATO Training Center in Nighttime Raid

  • NATO says it's up to local authorities to decide appointment
  • New government has been exerting influence over institutions

Poland’s government replaced the head of a future NATO training facility, with defense ministry officials and military police entering the provisional offices in the early hours of Friday, the latest example of the new government asserting its influence over state institutions.

The Counter Intelligence Center of Excellence was staffed with officials who weren’t supported by the government, Deputy Defense Minister Bartosz Kownacki told RMF radio. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization said it was up to local authorities to decide on the appointment as the facility hasn’t yet been accredited by the alliance.

“Polish employees lost access to classified materials and we had to change them,” Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski told Trojka public radio. “We’re dealing with the military so we have to act quickly.”

Poland’s political landscape has been in turmoil this year, with the Law & Justice party sweeping presidential and parliamentary elections to end eight years in opposition. Since taking power in mid-November, the new government has pushed to overhaul the constitutional court, the anti-corruption agency and public media, named a ruling-party lawmaker to lead the nation’s largest refiner and is in the process of nominating new central bank policy makers. The party’s zeal in consolidating power brought people onto the streets last weekend and more protests are planned for Saturday.

NATO Summit

Defense ministry officials and military police entered the center at 1:30 a.m. in Warsaw, using a copy of the original key, the Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper reported, without saying where it got the information. The entry was “peaceful,” Bartlomiej Misiewicz, a ministry official, told reporters in Warsaw. Colonel Robert Bala was appointed as the acting director of the center.

Poland will host a NATO summit next July and has pushed for the alliance to station its troops in the country due to the conflict in the neighboring Ukraine.

"This is an issue for the Polish authorities,” a NATO official said. “In general terms, Centers of Excellence are international research centers, which are nationally or multi-nationally funded and staffed, and work alongside the Alliance, but they are not NATO bodies.”

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