Western leaders are on high alert after an explosion in Poland kills 2 people6 min read
Indonesia’s NUSA DUA and Ukraine’s KYIV — President Biden said it was “unlikely” that a missile fired from Russia caused an explosion in eastern Poland, but that the evidence was “preliminary” and that Poland’s partners would support a complete inquiry. Western leaders are on high alert after an explosion in Poland kills 2 people
President Joe Biden said Tuesday’s deadly missile assault on Polish soil was most likely not launched by Russia, as international leaders from three continents hurried to gather answers about an event that could prove pivotal in Russia’s nine-month war with Ukraine.
“We’re going to figure out exactly what happened,” Biden told reporters after an impromptu meeting on the margins of the G-20 conference in Bali, Indonesia, with other G-7 and NATO leaders. He said that “preliminary intelligence” indicates that the missile, which fell near Poland’s border with Ukraine, was shot from Russia. The strike, which killed at least two individuals, was blamed on Moscow, according to Ukrainian officials.
Given the enormous stakes, officials were careful in their pronouncements as details remained scarce. A Russian attack on NATO territory could elicit a military response from the United States and other NATO members. Following the initial reports, there was a flurry of phone calls between world leaders and emergency meetings to discuss how to respond.
According to a NATO spokesperson, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg will convene an emergency meeting of alliance ambassadors in Brussels on Wednesday to discuss the event.
According to a statement, Poland’s foreign ministry confirmed that the missile was Russian-made and summoned the Russian ambassador “with a demand for an immediate detailed explanation.”
During the battle, both Russian and Ukrainian forces employed Russian-made munitions, with Ukraine deploying Russian-made missiles as part of its air defence system.
Speaking to reporters following an emergency meeting with G7 and NATO leaders on the sidelines of the G20 conference, US President Joe Biden said preliminary intelligence suggested the missile was launched from within Russia, but he couldn’t say definitively until the inquiry was completed.
“We agreed to help Poland with its probe into the incident… And I’m going to make sure we determine out precisely what happened,” Biden added, adding that the leaders had expressed their condolences for the deaths of two people. “Then, as we investigate and proceed, we’ll decide on our next step as a group.” There was complete agreement.
Polish President Andrzej Duda, who spoke with Biden, was less certain, stating the missile was “probably” Russian-made but cautioning, “We do not have clear evidence of who launched the missile at this time.” Ukraine’s military also employs several Russian-made missiles.
Moscow and Kyiv both pointed fingers at one another.
In a video message, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said “Russian missiles hit Poland,” calling it a “attack on collective security” and a “major escalation.” The Russian Foreign Ministry refuted the allegation, tweeting, “Russian hardware has launched NO strikes in the area.”
Meanwhile, social media speculation — fed in part by pro-Russian bots — spread that the accident in Poland was caused by a Ukrainian air-defense missile sent to counter Russian weapons. However, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba railed against that charge, calling it a “conspiracy theory” in a tweet.
“What they’ve done has been completely unconscionable,” Biden said after the emergency summit in Bali. “And, at a time when the world is gathering at the G-20 to advocate de-escalation, Russia escalates in Ukraine.”
For more than a month, senior US officials have addressed the potential of the Ukraine crisis spilling over into neighbouring countries. According to a summary of a U.S. meeting with NATO officials in October obtained by POLITICO, those officials, in collaboration with European leaders, have conducted military planning exercises to simulate such a scenario. The Pentagon did not respond quickly to the readout.
After an emergency cabinet meeting in Poland, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki announced that the government has resolved to “increase the combat preparedness of selected branches of the Polish Armed Forces, with particular emphasis on airspace monitoring.”
Soon after the initial allegations on Tuesday, Senate Foreign Relations Chair Bob Menendez (D-NJ) stated that if Moscow purposefully targeted territory in Poland, it might trigger Article 5 of the NATO charter. If one NATO member is attacked, the provision requires other NATO members to contribute to the response, including the use of armed action.
“We’re looking into what happened and how it happened.” It’s obviously critical to determine if the trip was an accident, an overflight, or deliberate. “I hope it wasn’t on purpose,” Menendez remarked in an interview.
“I hope the Russians promptly apologise for the loss of life and clarify that it was not intended.” “Obviously, if it was purposeful, it has all kinds of ramifications,” he added. “It clearly broadens the conflict and, of course, calls into question Article 5.”
Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder, the Pentagon’s press secretary, was asked about the United States’ security responsibilities. “We have stated unequivocally that we will defend every inch of NATO territory,” he said.
Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del. ), a close supporter of Biden, claimed news of the explosion was announced at the end of Senate Democrats’ monthly lunch on Tuesday, calling it a “shocking” discovery.
“I believe it is vital that the Russians rapidly admit this was a horrible mistake, apologise for it, and pay compensation, otherwise this will quickly become a difficult issue,” Coons continued.
Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Thom Tillis (R-NC), co-chairs of the Senate NATO Observer Group, issued a statement late Tuesday expressing their support for Poland and NATO members.
European officials are likewise concerned, and they blame the Russians. “It is horrible to witness a desperate regime striking Ukraine’s essential infrastructure and hitting allied territory with victims,” said a senior European diplomat who requested anonymity to discuss a fluid situation. “If true, this is yet another escalation by Russia against NATO.” Poland is a valuable ally. NATO’s solidarity and support for Poland is unwavering.”
The strikes come only one day before the next virtual meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, a group of 50 countries that meets monthly to coordinate the next steps in arming and supporting Ukraine.
The Biden administration requested $37.7 billion in Ukraine funding from Congress on Tuesday as part of a supplemental package, with $21.7 billion going directly to weaponry for Kyiv and restocking US warehouses after eight months of supplying ammunition and equipment to Ukraine. Another $7 billion will be allocated to the White House to draw down current US weaponry and ammunition inventories in order to promptly deploy them to Ukraine.
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