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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Russian Missiles Hit Poland: Does NATO Respond?


News just breaking tells us that two Russian missiles, presumably part of the barrage of 100 launched today against Ukraine, have landed in Poland and may have killed two people. This is serious stuff; Poland is a member of NATO.

Why serious? Because Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, the very bedrock of NATO’s existence and its fundamental raison d’etre, states: “The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked 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.”

Heady stuff. Article 5 has only been invoked once before, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center (sic), and led directly to US and the west’s involvement in the wars in Afghanistan and, arguably, Iraq in 2003.

But the true worth of Article 5 is not to the USA, but more to the other NATO allies, including the UK. Basically, it ties the USA, still the biggest strategic player on the planet, to the defence of Europe. That’s why everyone is scrambling to become a member in the face of perceived Russian military revanchism. For them NATO is the only game in town in terms of national security, hence the new found enthusiasm of Finland and Sweden, after decades of studied neutrality, to join.

Part of the reason that Russian chose to invade Ukraine at the beginning of this year was possibly to prevent the Ukrainians joining NATO. Russia has long been paranoid about being encircled by her enemies, and the accession of previous states of the former USSR to the western Alliance has exacerbated this fear. Russia has lost influence in its former vassal states and seeks to arrest, if not reverse, this trend.


So, will Russia’s missiles hitting Poland elicit the full NATO Article 5 response? Putin better hope not, because if it does he’s on a losing wicket. NATO is infinitely stronger militarily than Russia is, especially after its losses in the Ukraine war, and a direct confrontation with NATO will most likely spell the end of the line for Putin and his acolytes.

By all accounts Poland’s Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, has called for Poland’s Committee of the Council of Ministers for National Security and Defence Affairs to convene “as a matter of urgency”; the meeting will reportedly take place at 9pm local time (8pm UK time).

However, let’s hope that wiser heads prevail and that an immediate response is tempered by common sense. It seems highly unlikely that this has been a deliberate attack against Poland by Russia and more a tragic mistake. Such things do happen in war, I’m afraid, because the waging of it is by no means a perfect science, or indeed art.

To avoid a European conflagration, Russian must be profuse in its apologies for its stray missiles, and Poland magnanimous in its acceptance. All of this is, of course, small recompense for those families whose loved ones have been so cruelly and indiscriminately taken away from them.

Lt Col Stuart Crawford is a Defence Analyst and a former Army officer, author & broadcaster – sign up to his podcast at defencereview.uk

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Is The Russian Army “Quiet Quitting”?


w/c 14th November 2022

The concept of “quiet quitting” has enjoyed some popularity in the media of late. It means, as I understand it, doing just enough to fulfil your employment contract but no more. No staying late at night or coming in early, and certainly no working at weekends. It’s the revenge of a generation of university graduates who are unable to find jobs worthy of their degrees. They have my every sympathy. The days of pleasing the boss and showing willing by going that extra (unpaid) mile are over.

It would appear that this particular malaise has spread and infected the Russian armed forces in Ukraine, or in some cases even before they get there. We see numerous accounts of reluctance to advance and instances of insubordination and downright refusal to obey orders which are bordering on mutiny. This is not a good look for the armed services of any country, far less for one already at war.

There are many examples of this historically, but also of the opposite ie fighting on when all hope is lost. Think of the surviving Japanese soldiers who emerged from the jungles of Pacific islands decades after the end of the Second World War. Or of the young men of the Hitler Youth and Waffen SS who continued to battle against Allied forces towards the end of the same conflict in northwest Europe, when is was obvious to them and everybody else that Germany had lost the war.

But Russian forces appear to be treading the path of many other armies who gave up instead of fighting on. The Afghan National Army immediately springs to mind, when it melted away in the face of a resurgent Taliban when the west abandoned it and Afghanistan in those chaotic scenes not so long ago. Or of the Iraqi army in the first Gulf War in 1991, when many of their soldiers surrendered at the first opportunity in the face of the Coalition’s overwhelming superiority. Or even of Vietnam, where instances of indiscipline and the “fragging” of unpopular officers were reported as US public support for that war melted away.

The truth is that battles and wars are not usually won by exterminating or annihilating the enemy but by breaking his/her will to resist further. This can be achieved by demonstrating the hopelessness of the opposition’s position or cause and by the enemy winning on the battlefield. Contributory factors involved in such a collapse of morale and fighting spirit can include bad leadership, lack of decent food, warm clothing, decent equipment, and comradeship. Most important of all of these by far is the failure of leadership.

Ukraine has good leaders and high morale, Russia does not. That’s why Ukraine is winning.

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Evacuation Of Kherson: Bluff or Reality?

The city of Kherson, in the Oblast (region) of the same name and in the south-eastern corner of Ukraine, fell to the Russian invaders in early March. It has been held by them ever since, the only major Ukrainian conurbation to have suffered this fate. And now the word is that the occupation may be coming to an end.

“General Armageddon”, Sergei Surovikin, who was made Russia’s commander in Ukraine just recently, announced the withdrawal on Russian state television a couple of days ago, surrounded by his senior military commanders. He declared it was part of a general repositioning of Russian troops which would see them pull back entirely from the western bank of the River Dnipro.

From a military point of view this makes absolute sense. The Russians have been squeezed into an ever-diminishing pocket around Kherson city as the Ukrainians advance closer. There may be as many as 30,000 Russian personnel there and resupplying such a large number has become increasingly difficult, especially as the Ukrainians have constantly interdicted their opponent’s supply lines and rendered bridges unusable and their replacement pontoons and ferries extremely hazardous, thanks in the main to the US-supplied HIMARS rocker systems and the GPS-guided Excalibur 155mm artillery rounds.

Another consideration to be borne in mind is, if the Russians are indeed withdrawing, whether they are able to take some, or any, of their heavy equipment with them. It’s hard to see how they can, given the state of the bridges and ferries, and without it they will be a spent force, requiring rest and re-equipping before they are any use to anybody. That won’t happen overnight.

Politically it will be a bitter pill for Putin to swallow as, yet again, his strategic plan – whatever that may have been – crumbles before the eyes of the watching world. For him it is a personal humiliation, another failure in his mad military adventure, and it is no surprise that he left it to his generals to make the announcement.

The Ukrainians’ reaction has been cautious so far. They fear they might be being lulled into a false sense of security and are being lured into a trap. It’s perfectly possible that the Russians will fight for the city still. One of the basic rules of warfare is never to fight your battles on ground of the enemy’s choosing and the Ukrainian army will want to avoid doing just that. There has also been the fairly ludicrous suggestion that the Russians will let the Ukrainians retake the city and then level it with a nuclear weapon. I don’t think so somehow.

However, if the Ukrainians do end up in charge of the Kherson oblast and city on the western ban of the Dnipro, they are then faced with a major tactical problem if they wish to continue on their advance towards Crimea. The river is a mighty obstacle, and the Russians will have completed the earlier work of their enemy and demolished what remains of any of the crossings.

A river crossing is one of the more difficult military operations as I know from personal experience, and that was in peacetime with nobody shooting at us. An opposed river crossing is an order of magnitude harder, calling for careful planning, gathering of resources, and successful cooperation between all the various arms and branches of the services involved.

In addition, and just to complicate matters further, satellite imagery shows quite clearly that the Russians have been preparing defensive positions on the eastern bank for some time. Opposite Kherson city itself there seem to be three main defensive lines, so it will probably be a hard nut to crack. Unless something unusual happens, I can’t see any attempt to force a crossing before the spring, and even then it’ll be a big ask.

All of this is in the future, of course, and we have to wait and see if the Russians do abandon the city as per their announcement. My personal view that they’re not bluffing or deliberately setting a trap for their enemy, but rather taking a rational and sensible military decision in the circumstances in which they find themselves.

We can only hope that they don’t then take their revenge by bombarding the city from their artillery batteries across the river, levelling buildings and killing civilians in the process. Or is such restraint too much to ask of them?

Lt Col Stuart Crawford is a Defence Analyst and a former Army officer, author & broadcaster – sign up to his podcast at defencereview.uk

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

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