Poland considers invoking NATO Article 4 after Russian-made missile hits village

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CNN

Two Polish citizens were killed by a Russian-made missile on Tuesday, raising fears that Russia’s war in Ukraine could spill over into NATO territory.

It is still unclear where the missile was fired from and why it fell in Poland.

The missile landed outside the rural Polish village of Przewodow around the same time Russia launched its biggest wave of missile attacks on Ukrainian cities in over a month.

At the site of the blast, about six kilometers west of the Ukrainian border, local media showed an image of a crater and an overturned farm vehicle. CNN cannot independently confirm the photos. A video taken by a resident, geolocated and confirmed by CNN, shows a large plume of smoke in the center of the village.

A local resident told CNN he heard a terrifying “whoosh” as the projectile flew over town, and a local school guard added that the force of the blast rattled the classroom windows.

Poland is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Polish officials said Warsaw was considering invoking NATO Article 4 to discuss its concerns with the security alliance’s decision-making body, and would also increase the combat readiness of some Polish troops.

“We have decided to increase the combat readiness of selected units of the Polish Armed Forces, with particular emphasis on airspace surveillance,” Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said in a speech on Tuesday, explaining that “the surveillance of the airspace is and will be carried out in a reinforced manner”. way with our allies.

Morawiecki pointed out that the evidence suggests the missile that landed was a “one-off” and that there is no evidence of other missiles.

The Polish Foreign Ministry summoned the Russian ambassador following the incident.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Russian Defense Ministry denied targeting the border and called reports from Polish media, which first reported the deaths, a “deliberate provocation in order to escalate the situation”, according to a brief statement on Tuesday. evening.

“Statements by the Polish media and officials about the alleged fall of ‘Russian’ missiles in the area of ​​the Przewodow settlement are a deliberate provocation with the aim of aggravating the situation,” he said, adding that “there were no strikes”. carried out on targets near the border between Ukraine and Poland.

He added that photos of the wreckage published by Polish media “of the scene in the village of Przewodow have nothing to do with Russian weapons”.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told CNN he had no information about an explosion in Poland.

Polish President Andrzej Duda stressed in a speech Tuesday that Poland does not know who fired the missile, while noting that the missile was “most likely produced in Russia.”

“We are working calmly and very calmly,” Duda said during a National Security Office speech in Warsaw, as he urged calm and reassured the country of support from NATO allies.

The United States is sending experts to investigate the site, and ongoing investigations will be a joint operation, Duda said.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Tuesday it was “important that all the facts be established”, after speaking with Polish President Andrzej Duda about the explosion.

Polish government spokesman Piotr Muller speaks to the media after an explosion near the border with Ukraine.

“I offered my condolences for the loss of life. NATO is monitoring the situation and the Allies are consulting closely. It is important that all the facts are established,” Stoltenberg said in a post on Twitter.

NATO allies reacted with concern to the incident. Some were cautious in their statements, neither speculating nor confirming what caused the explosion.

US President Joe Biden spoke with Duda and “reaffirmed America’s unwavering commitment to NATO”, according to a reading of the call.

French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday called for talks at the G20 summit, which Biden is attending, following reports of the incident in Poland, according to an Elysee spokesman on Tuesday.

A French defense source told CNN that France was “extremely cautious” and officials would not comment until they could “analyze all available information.”

On Tuesday, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak spoke to Duda, reiterating the UK’s “solidarity with Poland and expressing condolences for the victims”.

But NATO’s Baltic states have been more forceful in their statements, emphasizing their willingness to defend NATO territory.

Estonia called the news “very worrying”, according to a Twitter post from the Estonian Foreign Ministry. “Estonia is ready to defend every square inch of NATO territory,” he added.

Latvian Defense Minister Artis Pabriks blamed Russia, calling the incident a “crime”, even though there was no confirmation from Polish authorities at the time that a Russian missile had landed on their territory.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, whose country is not a NATO member, also pointed the finger at Moscow. “Hitting NATO territory with missiles is a Russian strike against collective security. This is a very significant escalation, we have to act,” he said.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is a group of 30 North American and European nations. According to NATO, its objective “is to guarantee the freedom and security of its members by political and military means”.

The alliance was created in 1949 in response to the onset of the Cold War. Its original purpose was to protect the West from the threat posed by the Soviet Union. Since the end of the Cold War, many former Soviet countries have joined NATO, much to Putin’s chagrin.

Article 4, which Poland is considering, is a consultation method which allows members to submit a matter, usually a security matter, that concerns them for discussion at the North Atlantic Council, the decision-making body of the alliance.

“The Parties shall consult each other whenever, in the opinion of one of them, the territorial integrity, political independence or security of one of the Parties is threatened”, specifies the article.

The best-known aspect of the covenant is Article 5 of the treaty, which, if invoked, means “an attack on one ally is considered an attack on all allies”. It has only been invoked once, in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 in the United States.

However, the alliance can take collective defense measures without invoking Article 5 – and did so in light of the Russian attack on Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has long complained that NATO has, over time, expanded its borders by admitting Eastern European countries that were once part of the Soviet Union – meaning that Russia now shares a land border with the world’s largest military alliance, reducing its geopolitical power. in what was once Moscow’s sphere of influence.

As recently as February, he demanded that NATO return to the 1997 borders, before the Baltic nations of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, the latter two of which border Russia, join the alliance.


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