Two missiles, seemingly fired at targets inside Ukraine, flew beyond the Ukrainian border into Poland on Tuesday, reportedly killing two people.
UPDATE 9:30 AM EST, NOVEMBER 16: NATO has reported that the missiles that entered Poland were likely Ukrainian air defense missiles that missed their targets.
“This is not Ukraine’s fault. Russia bears ultimate responsibility as it continues its illegal war against Ukraine,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels.
Although this incident is serious, it appears very unlikely that it will draw NATO into the conflict.
On Tuesday, a barrage of Russian missiles found targets in cities throughout Ukraine in what Kyiv has described as the heaviest wave of strikes since the Russian invasion began in late February. Thus far, there have been reports of missiles making landfall in the Ukrainian cities of Kyiv, Lviv, Rivne, Kharkiv, Kryvyi Rih, Poltava, Odesa, Mykolaiv, and Zhytomyr.
But amid this massive volley of missiles, two missiles reportedly crossed over Ukraine’s Western border into the village of Przewodow in Poland, which is a NATO member. According to local media reporting, at least two people are confirmed dead. Thus far, few other details have been released.
What do we know so far?
It appears the missile strike in Poland was likely unintentional, as Russian missiles pounded Ukrainian targets across the country. Multiple missiles have reportedly struck targets in the Ukrainian city of Lviv, which is less than 50 miles from the Polish border.
According to Polish government spokesperson Piotr Muller on Twitter, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has called an urgent meeting of the nation’s Committee of the Council of Ministers for National Security and Defense Affairs. Thus far, the Polish government has not released an official statement.
Poland’s ZET Radio reports that two Russian missiles strayed into Poland, both hitting a grain processing plant and killing two people inside. Those reports indicate that the local fire department, police department, and officials from the Polish Army are all on-site.
This incident is serious, but unlikely to lead to a larger war
Although this incident is quite serious, it currently seems very unlikely that it would prompt Poland to invoke Article 5 of the NATO charter, better known as the “collective defense” article, provided the strike was indeed unintentional.
While Article 5 outlines how the entirety of the NATO alliance will respond to a direct attack against one member as though it’s an attack against the whole, an unintentional incident, even a deadly one, is not the same as a declaration of war or concerted military campaign. Instead, it’s far more likely that this incident will lead to Poland invoking Article 4 of the same charter, which calls for discussion among NATO members to determine the best way to respond collectively.
Article IV of the NATO Charter reads:
“The Parties will consult together whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the Parties is threatened.”
While this is not a foregone conclusion, it seems most likely. What NATO will decide to do thereafter, however, remains uncertain, but a declaration of war is almost certainly not among the potential options.
Feature image: A Russian missile flies toward a target. (Russian Ministry of Defence via Wikimedia Commons)