In modern history, Poland has fought numerous intense wars against its neighbors. If you go even back further in history, Poland has always been fighting for survival against its adversaries. Many historians feel that Poland had suffered the most during the Second World War. Not just in regards to the Holocaust, but the actual military conflict itself.
During World War II, Poland found itself sandwiched between two powerful nations, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Both nations amassed gargantuan armies which didn't just fight each other, but fought against Poland.
After World War II, Poland found itself being forced to join the Warsaw Pact. Essentially, this pact aligned Poland with other communist states and the Soviet Union. Most of the military technology and training came directly from the Soviets. During this period of time, Poland was completely isolated from the western world. As new military technologies emerged in the U.S., Britain, and France; the Poles completely missed out.
Once the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the Warsaw Pact was officially dissolved. Poland then became a non-aligned nation, although it looked to the west for help and opportunity. In 1999, Poland joined NATO (The North Atlantic Treaty Organization). NATO allowed the Poles to finally join a modern, western alliance system, which gave them new technology and state of the art military training.
Today Poland's military is comparable to many other European nations. The air force consists of some older aircraft, including MiGs and Sukhois. On the other hand, it has American-made F-16s as well. The army consists of modern American-made Humvees and various different European-made tanks. Poland's Navy is also rapidly expanding to tackle potential issues in the Baltic Sea.
The biggest technological advancement in Poland will be the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System located in Redzikowo. This will protect all of Europe from the potential launch of Russian missiles. Obviously, Russian leadership is infuriated over this project. NATO claims that it is designed to deter Iran from possibly launching a nuclear weapon towards Europe. Russian leaders completely disagree. The missile defense system is planned to be in full operation by 2018.
At the same time, the U.S. will establish permanent military bases inside of Poland. This will put more pressure on Russia and show all of Europe that NATO has the capability to keep expanding. Moreover, other NATO allies (mainly Britain, Germany and Italy) have already agreed to send additional troops and aircraft to Poland.
So, is Poland the next European power? It is definitely expanding it's military in an unprecedented matter. Many believe that Poland has lived too long under foreign hostile occupation and will take matters into its own hands. Clearly, Poland's alliance with NATO has already drastically benefited its military, economy, and people. There is no doubt that the leader of the free world will never allow the progress that Poland has made over the past two decades to be countered by Russia.