Rocket hits Polish city: ‘Someone will know where it came from’

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    The world was on edge today as NATO leaders discussed what to do after a missile of unconfirmed origin landed in a Polish border town, killing two people.

    Initial media reports referring to an unnamed senior US intelligence official and the Ukrainian government pointed the finger at Russia. But later US President Joe Biden said the blast may not have been caused by a missile from Russia.

    Biden said after a meeting of leaders of NATO states at the G20 summit in Bali today that there was “enough evidence to challenge the idea” that the missile had been fired from Russia, given its trajectory. He said it was too early to make a definitive statement.

    According to US officials, initial findings suggested the missile had been fired by Ukrainian forces at an incoming Russian missile, the The US Express News reported.

    Poland, a NATO member, has launched an investigation and is considering whether it will invoke elements of NATO’s collective defense treaty, in which an attack on one of its members is considered an attack on all.

    So what could happen next?

    University of Waikato international law Professor Al Gillespie told Checkpoint presented the incident as “the nightmare scenario”, but that it was reassuring that all 30 NATO countries had to agree unanimously on their response.

    “Because some NATO countries may be more provocative than others, but it’s going to be hard to get all 30 of them to think of it as a collective defense, especially when there’s uncertainty about where this missile came from.”

    At worst, the conflict between Ukraine and Russia could spill over into NATO countries, where it would become “out of control”.

    Fewer options in response to what happened may include supplying Poland with more air defenses, stationing more NATO troops closer to Russia’s border and sending more weapons to Ukraine.

    Before NATO members tried to reach consensus on a response, Poland would have to make a request to NATO saying its territorial integrity or security was at risk.

    “They get the ball rolling,” he said.

    Police secure the entrance to the Polish town of Przewodow, where at least two people have been killed by a stray missile.
    Photo: TUSEN

    A cornerstone of the NATO treaty is Article 5, which states that the parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America is considered an attack against all of them, Reuters reported.

    There has been a lot of discussion about the article following the incident.

    Gillespie said that to trigger Article 5 the action had to be a deliberate armed attack – it could not be accidental, reckless or negligent.

    “If an accident happens, at best the country that did it … would admit it, apologize and offer compensation to the Polish people who suffered.”

    Adding to the current tension was Russia’s response to the accusation for which it was responsible – declaring the claim a provocation designed to escalate the war.

    Gillespie said the world was in “a fog of warfare” and people should be skeptical of any information.

    “One thing I would suggest is they would know where it came from because you can look at the ammunition itself but also the tracking devices now you can see where the missile was moving through the airspace so someone will know where it came from.”

    Even with hypersonic missiles it was possible to detect where they had been launched from, where they were going and where they would hit, so that air defense systems could intercept them.

    Biden’s statement citing the missile’s trajectory should ease tension, he added.

    TUSEN correspondent Jonathan Head said Checkpoint leaders were extremely cautious in responding to the Polish missile incident lest they advance the prospects of nuclear war or promote another cold war.

    “I think they’re still very unclear about who fired the missile and where it came from, so no one is going to start talking about what response is relevant until they have a lot more information,” he said.

    “And I think that will take a while…

    “President Biden has spoken to the Polish Prime Minister on the phone, but they are not disclosing anything at this stage. And I think that is understandable, even the Polish authorities do not yet know exactly what the source of this missile is.”

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