A stray missile from the east crossed Poland's eastern border and hit a nearby village of Przewodów, near Hurbieszów in the Lublin region, killing two people on Nov. 15.
This is a big deal for a number of reasons, including primarily a possibility of a nuclear war and American perception in the world.
The situation is tense, to say at least. An attack on Poland, a NATO member, could have triggered Article 5 of the NATO treaty: an attack on one is an attack on all necessitating a response with extreme prejudice; we'll find ourselves at war.
Fortunately, Poland immediately started dialing down the crisis. It chose Article 4: a consultation of the member states to address the crisis.
The question is whether this will be perceived as a weakness by Moscow.
There are two states that can destroy the United States with a push of a button: Russia, which inherited the Soviet Union's nuclear arsenal; and China, which built its own nuclear force as America was enjoying its national security siesta in the 1990s and later.
China and Russia are tactical allies against the U.S. So it behooves us to pay attention to their actions, including the tragedy in Przewodów.
First, we must establish the guilty party beyond reasonable doubt. Then, we must develop an appropriate response.
At the moral level, Russia is naturally guilty for having invaded Ukraine without which no bombs would be falling anywhere, including on Poland. However, as always, competing narratives about the tragedy have emerged.
For days both Russia and Ukraine strenuously denied culpability. Let us disentangle the mystery.
First of all, there had been previous Russian rocket assaults near the Polish border as early as March 2022. So the November Przewodów killings should not have come as a surprise. Wars tend to spill over.
Next, on the fatal day, at least 100 Russian missiles rained all over Ukraine, hitting often civilian infrastructure targets, energy installations in particular. A stray missile would not have been anything that unusual.
Further, it has been established beyond reasonable doubt that the killer missile was Soviet made. That means any successor nation of the USSR could have used it, including both Ukraine and Russia. So the make of the aerial vehicle by itself does not solve the mystery.
At any rate, the Kremlin's President Vladimir Putin immediately blamed Ukraine. Since his mendacity has been exposed many times, his denials lack credibility.
On the other hand, initially, Ukraine strenuously denied any guilt. It claimed that the missile came from Russia.
Accordingly, a version of events appeared that it was a stray Russian missile. Another counterclaim surfaced that a Ukrainian anti-air defense missile destroyed a Russian missile and the fall-out dropped a few miles into Poland.
In this scenario, the local military covered up the accident and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, unaware of the details, immediately laid the blame on Putin.
However, we are then told that NATO signals intelligence and other technical intelligence, including radar tracking, found the origin of the missile to have been Ukraine itself. According to this narrative, a Ukrainian anti-missile downed a Russian missile and then the Ukrainian device veered off course into Poland, hitting Przewodów.
Case closed? Not so fast.
In fact, for days, Kiyv's Zelenskyy stubbornly insisted that no Ukrainian missile had been fired at Poland. The Ukrainian leader changed his mind after talking to Joe Biden.
What transpired between the two statesmen exactly is a mystery but one can guess that the American president possibly told the Ukrainian head of state to fall in line. America does not want a nuclear war.
In this scenario it looks like Biden folded for the greater good of the de-escalation.
But if that is true that means that, earlier, the White House had to prevail over the Poles. Poland tested the remnants of the projectile, but most likely it had to rely on NATO technology for the missile tracking.
It is possible that Washington advised Warsaw to stand down and echo the official narrative that Ukraine was inadvertently at fault.
At any rate, it looks like the crisis is over, thankfully.
To establish the truth about the Przewodów missile attack is vital as always. In this case in particular, erring with the naming of the culprit would bring us closer to a nuclear war that most of us do not want.
Marek Jan Chodakiewicz is Professor of History at the Institute of World Politics, a graduate school of statecraft in Washington D.C.; expert on East-Central Europe's Three Seas region; author, among others, of "Intermarium: The Land Between The Baltic and Black Seas." Read Marek Jan Chodakiewicz's Reports — More Here.
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