Early reports from a US intelligence official indicated that, on Nov. 15, a Russian missile hit an eastern Polish town roughly 15 miles from the border with Ukraine. Initially every indication was of an attack on the Polish village of Przewodów, with a population of 413, that killed two people. Evidence now reveals the explosion was a terrible accident. The Russian-made missile’s impact in Poland is now believed to be from the Ukrainian air defense as the beleaguered country fended off the largest and most widespread missile barrages yet endured by the Kyiv government. Ukraine armed forces still use Soviet era weapons.
Following the revelation of more detailed evidence, Poland’s President Andrzej Duda stated: “From the information that we and our allies have, it was an S-300 rocket made in the Soviet Union, an old rocket and there is no evidence that it was launched by the Russian side. It is highly probable that it was fired by Ukrainian anti-aircraft defense.”
Targets in Ukraine during the flood of Russian missiles have been infrastructure facilities, power plants, and electrical grids, causing blackouts as far away as Moldova. Coming to the conclusion it was a Russian attack is not farfetched. However, as Retired Lieutenant General Keith Kellogg explained in a telephone interview with Fox News, “[t]his is how wars start. They start through miscalculation.” Furthermore, because first reports are often false or incomplete, the Pentagon is being smart in not getting out in front of the available information, he continued.
Pentagon and President Affirm Commitment to NATO
During a Pentagon press briefing, the spokesperson cautioned: “We have seen these reports unfolding and are working with the Polish government and our NATO partners to gather more information. We can’t confirm the reports or any of the details at this time, but I can assure you we will determine what happened.” Press Secretary Brigadier General Patrick Ryder added: “When it comes to our Security commitments and Article 5, we’ve been crystal clear that we will defend every inch of NATO territory.” His comments echoed what the White House press room has declared numerous times. President Joe Biden, still in Bali, Indonesia, at the G20 conference, spoke with Poland’s president. The US chief executive offering condolences for those killed in what was believed to be a Russian missile strike and “reiterated the United States’ ‘Ironclad commitment’ to the NATO alliance,” Alex Gangitano reported in The Hill.
NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg tweeted: “Spoke with President Duda about the explosion in #Poland. I offered my condolences for the loss of life. #NATO is monitoring the situation, and Allies are closely consulting. Important that all facts are established.” The Baltic states having suffered under Soviet oppression, believing a Russian attack on Poland was consistent with Moscow’s behavior, were quick to condemn Russia for the missile strike. “Condolences to our Polish brothers in arms. Criminal Russian regime fired missiles which target not only Ukrainian civilians but also landed on NATO territory in Poland. Latvia fully stands with Polish friends and condemns this crime,” noted a tweet from Latvian Defense Minister Artis Pabriks, which was typical of the immediate responses to the early reports.
Russia Immediately Denied Attacking Poland
The Kremlin was not sitting on its hands as news of its reported attack on Poland was burning up the airwaves and twitterscape. “The Russian Defense Ministry denied being behind ‘any strikes on targets near the Ukrainian-Polish border’ and said in a statement that photos of purported damage ‘have nothing to do’ with Russian weapons,” the Associated Press stated. Though the Kremlin’s denials are deemed to be accurate, in the midst of the intensity of Russia’s missile and deadly drone onslaught on Ukraine, Moscow deserves blame for starting the devastating nightmare for Ukraine’s people.
It was just a matter of time before Putin’s approach to warfare – tossing missiles and artillery rounds indiscriminately across the landscape – might result in a piece of ordinance hitting a proximate NATO country. Combine the Kremlin’s armed forces’ little regard for civilian life with the inaccuracy and technological unreliability of Russian missiles, and the first reports of a Russian missile attack on Poland are entirely plausible. As Kellogg warned, the danger is that this event could lead to miscalculation. Without cool heads prevailing, the US and NATO could have been looking at an Archduke Franz Ferdinand moment.
The views expressed are those of the author and not of any other affiliation.
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