Jake Epstein, Charles R. Davis, John Haltiwanger, and Lloyd Lee
- Two people were reportedly killed after Russian missiles landed in an eastern Polish village.
- Poland is a member of NATO, which operates under the principle of collective defense.
- It’s not clear how Poland or NATO will respond.
Two people were killed after Russian missiles landed in an eastern Polish village on Tuesday, a US intelligence official told the Associated Press. The incident seemingly marks the first time that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war has spilled across Ukraine’s borders and into the territory of a NATO member.
The missiles landed in the village of Przewodów, which is located in eastern Poland a short distance from Ukraine’s western border, and reportedly came amid a barrage of over 90 Russian missiles that targeted Ukraine’s infrastructure.
A Polish government official said the country’s prime minister called an emergency defense committee meeting. Russia denied reports that its weapons landed in Poland, with its state-run TASSnews agency calling reports they had “a deliberate provocation.”
A spokesperson for Poland’s Foreign Ministry confirmed in a statement that a “Russian-made missile fell” into the region and that an ambassador for the Russian Federation has been asked to provide an immediate explanation.
The damage shifts attention onto the NATO alliance, which has repeatedly warned it will defend the territory of its allies from Russia. Poland is a member of the NATO, which operates under the principle of collective defense — enshrined in Article 5 of the alliance’s founding treaty. Under this agreement, an attack against one NATO country is considered an attack against the entire military alliance. But Article 5 has only been invoked once in NATO’s history, following the terror attacks against the US on September 11, 2001.
Article 5 states that NATO members will assist the attacked party or parties by “taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.”
It’s unclear what caused the Russian projectiles to land in Poland, which could have a major bearing on how the alliance reacts.
The US and its Western allies have warned Russia repeatedly that an attack on NATO territory would trigger a strong response.
“We have a sacred obligation under Article 5 to defend each and every inch of NATO territory with the full force of our collective power,” President Joe Biden said in March.
Adrienne Watson, the White House National Security Council spokesperson, said Tuesday afternoon that “we’ve seen these reports out of Poland and are working with the Polish government to gather more information. We cannot confirm the reports or any of the details at this time. We will determine what happened and what the appropriate next steps would be.”
Echoing these comments, Pentagon spokesperson Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said during a press briefingthat the US is “aware of the press reports alleging that two Russian missiles have struck a location inside Poland near the Ukraine border. I can tell you that we don’t have any information at this time to corroborate those reports and are looking into this further.”
Sen. Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters he did not think the apparent strike was intentional.
“I have to believe that it was a mistake by Russia,” he said, per The Washington Post’s Liz Goodwin. “And I think if it is, Russia should come out very quickly and say that.”
Poland’s foreign affairs ministry and NATO did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Insider. The Russian government also did not respond to an inquiry.
The incident immediately triggered remarks from top officials in neighboring countries.
“My 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,” Latvia’s defense minister said on Twitter.
A spokesperson for the Hungarian government said that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán would also convene a meeting of the country’s defense council in response to “the missile hitting territory of Poland.”
The incident comes as Russia fired a barrage of missiles across Ukraine on Tuesday, leaving half the population of Kyiv without power.
Translations by Oleksandr Vynogradov.
Reactions from r/worldnews on Reddit:
Pinning this comment from the Live thread to assuage people’s worry around article 5 being invoked in light of the 2 killed in the Polish border town.
This is NOT the start of WW3, folks. Calm. However, Poland has a lot of options to make things incredibly unpleasant for Russia without kicking off WW3.
The situation is still developing and I will update this comment as confirmed information comes in.
The current most credible theory is:
US official have told POLITICO it was likely caused by a missile strike or errant missile, not remnants of a missile Ukrainian armed forces shot down. Source
Polish Foreign Ministry confirm a Russian-made rocket fell on the territory. Source
Russia missiles did hit electrical infrastructure near Kovel, Ukraine, 50kms (31 miles) from the Polish border. Source
Ukraine confirmed earlier today 73 missiles (out of ~100) and 11 drones were shot down. Source
A quick refresh on NATO bylaws:
Article 5: An attack on one member of NATO is an attack on all of its members.
Article 4: 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.
Here’s everything you wanted to know about Article Four of the North Atlantic Treaty but were afraid to ask.
Update 19:00 GMT:
Poland holds urgent meeting amid reports of stray Russian missile strike.
Update 19:32 GMT:
Pentagon looking into Poland missile strike reports.
The Department of Defense Press Secretary, Brig Gen Patrick S Ryder, has said:
“We are aware of the press reporting on this. We have no information at this time to corroborate those reports but again, are taking them seriously and looking into them. And so I will make sure that we provide you with any updates as soon as we have them.”
He continues: “We’re looking into these reports – don’t have any information to corroborate them at this time. So I don’t want to speculate or get into hypotheticals. When it comes to our security commitments and Article 5, we’ve been crystal-clear that we will defend every inch of Nato territory.”
Update 19:59 GTM:
Lithuania PM” “Concerning news. Every inch of NATO territory needs to be defended.”
Update 20:07 GMT:
Russia denies any involvement in ‘missile strike on Poland’.
Russia has denied statements from Polish media outlets and officials that Russian missiles fell on the Polish village of Przewodó near the Ukrainian border.
The Russian ministry of defence posted on its Telegram, calling the reports “a deliberate provocation in order to escalate the situation.”
Update 20:20 GMT:
NATO Statement: “We are looking into these reports and coordinating with our ally Poland.”
Update 21:21 GMT:
Poland ‘raises military readiness’…
Polish government spokesman Piotr Muller has confirmed that there was an explosion that killed two Polish citizens, Reuters news agency reports
Poland is raising the readiness of its military units, he says, and “verifying if we need to activate Nato Article Four.”
That article says: “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.”
Update 21:33 GMT:
NATO Secretary General’s Tweet: “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.”
Update 21:40 GMT:
US President Biden has been briefed and is speaking to Polish President Andrze Duda, officials say.