Poland

Cluster Munition Ban Policy

Last updated: 05 September 2023

Summary: Non-signatory Poland shares the humanitarian concerns raised by cluster munitions, but has not taken any steps to join the Convention on Cluster Munitions. It last participated in a meeting of the convention in 2014. Poland abstained from voting on an important United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution promoting the convention in December 2022.

Poland sees military utility in cluster munitions, but has never used them beyond training. It has produced cluster munitions, but has never exported them. Poland has detailed the types of cluster munitions that it stockpiles, but not the quantities.

Policy

The Republic of Poland has not acceded to the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

Poland has not taken any steps to accede to the convention because it sees military utility in cluster munitions. Previously, in April 2020, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs acknowledged the “humanitarian problems which result from the use of cluster munitions,” but said that Poland is “currently unable” to join the convention.[1] It stated that Poland’s accession “would imply the immediate need to forgo important capability of the Polish Armed Forces, thereby weakening our country’s defense capacity, which is not acceptable in light of the current security environment.”

Poland participated in the Oslo Process that created the Convention on Cluster Munitions, but made clear from the outset that it could not support a comprehensive ban on cluster munitions.[2] Poland participated as an observer at the convention’s negotiations in Dublin in May 2008 and at the Oslo Signing Conference in December 2008.[3]

Poland participated as an observer at the convention’s initial Meetings of States Parties and last attended a meeting of the convention in 2014.[4] Poland was invited to, but did not attend, the convention’s Tenth Meeting of States Parties in Geneva in August–September 2022.

Poland abstained from voting on an important UNGA resolution urging states outside the Convention on Cluster Munitions to “join as soon as possible” in December 2022.[5] Poland has abstained from the vote on the annual UNGA resolution promoting the convention since it was first introduced in 2015.

In 2015–2018, Poland provided a joint UNGA statement on cluster munitions on behalf of itself and other European Union (EU) member states that are not party to the convention—Estonia, Finland, Greece, and Romania—that reiterated their need to meet their own “legitimate security concerns and military and defence needs.”[6] However, Poland has not given a UNGA statement on behalf of the same group of states since 2018.

In March 2022, Poland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement condemning Russia’s use of “banned cluster munitions” in an attack on the Cemetery of Victims of Totalitarianism in Kharkiv, Ukraine, which contains the graves of Polish soldiers and civilians.[7] It also endorsed a statement by the EU delegation to the United Nations (UN) that condemned Russia’s use of cluster munitions in Ukraine.[8] Civilian harm from the use of cluster munitions in Ukraine in 2022 has attracted media coverage in Poland and has sparked interest in Poland’s position on joining the convention.[9]

Poland has also voted in favor of UNGA resolutions condemning the use of cluster munitions in Syria.[10] It voted in favor of a similar Human Rights Council resolution on Syria in June 2020.[11]

Poland is a State Party to the Mine Ban Treaty. It is also party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW).

Use

Poland has consistently stated that the Polish Armed Forces have never used cluster munitions in combat situations.[12] In 2019, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that “As in previous years, [the] Polish Armed Forces did not use cluster munitions in either combat situations or training.”[13]

Poland regards its air-delivered cluster munitions, which entered into service in the 1980s during the Warsaw Pact-era, as “obsolete.” In 2009, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that “current military Air Force doctrine does not anticipate any use of air-delivered cluster munitions in military operations.”[14]

Production

Poland has produced cluster munitions, although the last time the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed to the Monitor that the weapons were “still produced” was in 2010.[15]

At least four Polish companies produced cluster munitions in the past:

  • Zakłady Metalowe “DEZAMET” S.A. produced the ZK-300 Kisajno cluster bomb and the LBKas-250 cluster bomb, containing 120 LBok-1 bomblets.[16] It also produced a 98mm mortar projectile, and a 122mm projectile designed for the 2S1 “GOŹDZIK” howitzer.[17]
  • The Kraśnik defense plant produced cluster munitions for 98mm mortars, 122mm artillery, and 152mm artillery.[18]
  • Tłocznia Metali Pressta Spółka Akcynjna manufactured 122mm rockets.[19]
  • Fabryka Produkcji Specjalnej Spółka z o.o. produced 122mm M-21FK “FENIKS-Z” and 122mm “HESYT” rockets, as well as GKO submunitions, a type of dual-purpose improved conventional munition (DPICM).[20]

Some of these firms are subsidiaries of Polish Defense Holding, which is a majority government-owned industry consortium of defense sector companies, formerly known as the Bumar Group.[21]

According to a January 2023 media report, Poland reportedly discontinued the production of its 122mm FENIKS-Z cluster munition rockets after France—a State Party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions—declined to continue supplying the rocket motors.[22]

Transfer

In April 2020, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Poland’s stockpiled cluster munitions “are kept under strict control and are not subject to any international transfers.”[23]

Poland is not known to have transferred cluster munitions in the past. In 2009, Poland stated that cluster munitions manufactured by Poland were “exclusively for the needs of the Polish Armed Forces.”[24] In 2010, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told the Monitor that Poland and/or Polish companies had not exported any cluster munitions in previous years.[25]

Stockpiling

Poland possesses a stockpile of ground-launched and air-dropped cluster munitions, mostly of Polish origin, although some originate from the former Soviet Union.[26]

Polish land forces are equipped with the following types of cluster munitions:

  • 122mm M-21FK “FENIKS-Z” rockets, containing 42 GKO submunitions, used by BM-21/21M or RM-70/85 multi-barrel rocket launchers;
  • 122mm “HESYT-1” artillery projectiles, containing 20 GKO submunitions, used by 2S1 “GOŹDZIK” self-propelled howitzers; and
  • 98mm “RAD-2” mortar projectiles, containing 12 GKO submunitions, used by M-98 mortars.

The Polish Air Force possesses the following types of cluster munitions:

  • ZK-300 cluster bombs containing 315 LBOk fragmentation bomblets—both the carrier and bomblets were designed and produced in Poland; and
  • BKF cartridges with antivehicle, incendiary, and fragmentation bomblets, imported from the former Soviet Union, for use in KMG-U dispensers on Su-22 aircraft.

In 2010, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that the Polish Armed Forces no longer possessed RBK-250, RBK-250-275, and RBK-500 type cluster bombs as they were withdrawn from service during the 1990s and destroyed.[27]

In April 2020, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that the “Polish Armed Forces are equipped with modern type[s] of cluster munitions which possess self-deactivation mechanisms, thus guaranteeing a very high level of reliability.”[28]



[1] Letter from Marcin Wróblewski, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to Hector Guerra, Director, ICBL-CMC, 21 April 2020. Poland has provided similar responses to the Monitor in the past. See, for example, letter from Marcin Wróblewski, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to Mary Wareham, Advocacy Director, Arms Division, Human Rights Watch (HRW), 28 April 2017.

[2] Poland was one of three states attending the February 2007 conference (which launched the convention process) that did not endorse the Oslo Declaration, in which states pledged to negotiate a legally-binding instrument by the end of 2008 prohibiting cluster munitions that cause unacceptable humanitarian harm.

[3] For details on Poland’s cluster munition policy and practice through early 2009, see HRW and Landmine Action, Banning Cluster Munitions: Government Policy and Practice (Ottawa: Mines Action Canada, May 2009), pp. 226–227.

[4] Poland participated as an observer at the first three Meetings of States Parties of the convention in 2010–2012, as well as at intersessional meetings in 2013–2014. It did not attend the First Review Conference in Dubrovnik, Croatia in 2015, or the Second Review Conference held in two parts in November 2020 and September 2021.

[5]Implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions,” UNGA Resolution 77/79, 7 December 2022.

[6] Statement of Poland (on behalf of Estonia, Finland, Greece, and Romania), UNGA First Committee on Disarmament and International Security, New York, 8 November 2018; statement of Poland (on behalf of Estonia, Finland, Greece, and Romania), UNGA First Committee on Disarmament and International Security, New York, 31 October 2017; statement of Poland (on behalf of Estonia, Finland, Greece, and Romania), UNGA First Committee on Disarmament and International Security, New York, 31 October 2016; and statement of Poland (on behalf of Estonia, Finland, Greece, and Romania), UNGA First Committee on Disarmament and International Security, New York, 4 November 2015.

[7] Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland, “A Russian cluster bomb fell on the Cemetery of victims of Totalitarianism in Kharkiv,” 23 March 2022.

[8]Statement of EU Delegation to the UN, UNGA, New York, 23 March 2022. The statement was made on behalf of EU member states and Albania, Andorra, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Greece, Iceland, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Republic of Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Romania, San Marino, and Ukraine.

[9] See, for example, Marcin Łuniewski, “Thermobaric bombs, cluster munitions, white phosphorus. Russia breaks all the rules,” Rzeczpospolita, 10 February 2023.

[10]Situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic,” UNGA Resolution 75/193, 16 December 2020. Poland voted in favor of similar UNGA resolutions on Syria in 2013–2019.

[11]Situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic,” Human Rights Council Resolution 43/28, 22 June 2020.

[12] In 2010, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that the Polish Military Contingent in Afghanistan had been equipped with cluster munitions for 98mm mortars, but also said that the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) policy of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to not use cluster munitions in Afghanistan “has been put into effect through the order of the Chief of General Staff” of the Polish Armed Forces. Letter from Marek Sczygieł, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 16 July 2010; and ICBL, Cluster Munition Monitor 2010 (Ottawa: Mines Action Canada, October 2010), pp. 235–236.

[13] Letter from Marcin Wroblewski, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to Mary Wareham, HRW, 28 April 2017. Previously, in 2011, Poland acknowledged that its army and air force used cluster munitions for training purposes in 2009–2011 at training grounds. Letter from Tomasz Łękarski, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 10 June 2011.

[14] Letter from Adam Kobieracki, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 10 March 2009.

[15] Letter from Marek Sczygieł, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 16 July 2010.

[16] Robert Hewson, ed., Jane’s Air-Launched Weapons, Issue 44 (Surrey: Jane’s Information Group, 2004), p. 391; and Zakłady Metalowe, DEZAMET S.A., “Air Armament,” undated. As of June 2017, the submunition variant was no longer listed as available for sale.

[17] Zakłady Metalowe, DEZAMET S.A. website, undated.

[18] Zakłady Metalowe, DEZAMET S.A., “Cargo Ammunition,” undated; and Marcin Górka, “Poland Sees Nothing Wrong in Cluster Bombs,” Gazeta Wyborcza, 9 September 2008.

[19] Terry J. Gander and Charles Q. Cutshaw, eds., Jane’s Ammunition Handbook 2001–2002 (Surrey: Jane’s Information Group, 2001), p. 626.

[20] In 2009, Poland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said GKO submunitions had been produced since 2001 and feature a self-destruct mechanism that ensures “negligible failure rates of the submunitions in all environmental conditions.” Letter from Adam Kobieracki, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 10 March 2009.

[21] Polish Defense Holding, “Who We Are,” undated.

[22] The media report cites Brig.-Gen. Jarosław Wierzcholski. See, Jakub Palowski, “Breaking the taboo: Cluster munitions needed in Ukraine, Poland and NATO [OPINION],” Defence 24 Poland, 7 January 2023.

[23] Letter from Marcin Wróblewski, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to Hector Guerra, Director, ICBL-CMC, 21 April 2020.

[24] Letter from Adam Kobieracki, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 10 March 2009.

[25] Letters from Tomasz Łękarski, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 10 June 2011; from Marek Sczygieł, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 16 July 2010; and from Adam Kobieracki, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 10 March 2009.

[26] Unless otherwise noted, all information on stockpiles was provided in a letter from Adam Kobieracki, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 10 March 2009.

[27] Letter from Marek Sczygieł, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 16 July 2010.

[28] Letter from Marcin Wróblewski, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to Hector Guerra, Director, ICBL-CMC, 21 April 2020.