Poland Missile Attack: Who Is To Blame and What Happens Next?


The meeting of the G20 political leaders on Bali in Indonesia has just ended, but the agenda in its final hours was very definitely hijacked by the missile strike in Poland that killed two people. Accusations over who might or might not be responsible have flown hither and thither, but at time of writing there are still no firm conclusions, not in the public domain anyway.

Initially it seemed clear that Russia was probably to blame. The attack coincided with a much larger missile attack on Ukraine as a whole, when Russia launched a barrage of around 100 missiles at various sites and cities, presumably lashing out in revenge for its humiliation at Kherson.

The theory that it had been a deliberate attack seemed to be borne out by the location where the missiles landed. It is not that far away from the power line which takes electricity from the EU into Ukraine via the Dobrotvirska power plant just across the border, which is an important energy hub. It would seem to fit with the pattern of Russia targeting critical civilian infrastructure.

Typically, the Russians came out fighting in response. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov accused Poland and “a whole line of other countries” of reacting “hysterically” to the incident and accusing Russia of being responsible for it without any firm evidence. He also lauded the USA’s response to the incident, after President Joe Biden reportedly said it was “unlikely” that the missile was Russian given the assessed trajectory of its flight.

An alternative view of the incident is that it was a Ukrainian-launched anti-missile missile, fired to intercept the Russian attack, which somehow found its way to land in that Polish field. This is further complicated by the suggestion that the Ukrainians had in fact used a Russian-manufactured S-300 missile, which debris from the site would seem to support.

Others are now saying that pieces of both Russian missiles and a Ukrainian interception missile landed in Poland. This is all typical fog of war stuff, made even more difficult to interpret via open sources because of the swirl of information, misinformation, and disinformation that usually accompanies reporting on such matters.

An example from personal experience; during the first Gulf War in 1991 I and my colleagues in the Headquarters British Forces Middle East (HQBFME) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, were on the receiving end of no fewer than sixteen Scud missile raids, launched by the Iraqis against the Saudi capital. The first couple were quite exciting, but for the final few we pretty much just got on with whatever we were doing.

Those attacks were pretty underwhelming overall and did little damage. We took some comfort at the time, though, from American reassurances that their Patriot air defence systems, of which there were three batteries stationed around the city, were intercepting the incoming Scuds and taking them all out. It is only recently that further research seems to indicate that the Patriots, fired at great expanse at around $3 million each, may not have hit any of them at all.

So we have to be careful not to believe everything that we’re being told, and there is a high likelihood that the truth is being manipulated to suit opposing agendas. What does seem pretty clear, though, is that if a Ukrainian-owned missile is indeed found to be responsible, then they probably didn’t launch it just for fun.

No matter which way you look at it, Russia is clearly to blame. If they hadn’t embarked on their unprovoked and illegal assault on their neighbour then none of this would have happened – no missile attack, no Ukrainian response, no deaths outside the Polish rural village of Przewodow.

This is yet another outrage to be laid at Vladimir Putin’s door. Will NATO respond and invoke Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, the one that says “and attack against one member is to be regarded as an attack against all”? I doubt it. No one wants a full scale all-Europe conflagration.

But it just might encourage those countries holding back on full support of Ukraine to speed up the quality and quantity of their arms supplies, as Zelensky has been asking for months now.

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Tank CommanderLt Col Stuart Crawford’s latest book Tank Commander (Hardback) is available for pre-order now

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