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Biden says ‘unlikely’ missile that hit Poland was Russian; Poland, NATO say Ukraine likely fired missile

President Joe Biden speaking at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium on Mar. 24, 2022. (White House/Released)
November 16, 2022

U.S. President Joe Biden said it’s not likely that a missile that landed in Poland and killed two people on Tuesday came from Russian forces. Polish President Andrzej Duda said Ukraine likely fired the missile.

Biden and Duda expressed their doubts that it weas a Russian missile that hit Poland after initial reports suggested Russia was behind the attack. Had Russian been blamed for the strike it could set off a broader conflict between Russia and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Biden, who is currently traveling in Asia, was asked about the deadly incident in Poland on Wednesday morning. When a reporter asked if it’s too early to say Russia launched the missile, Biden responded, “There is preliminary information that contests that.”

“I don’t want to say that until we completely investigate,” Biden continued. “But it is — I — it’s unlikely, in the minds of the trajectory, that it was fired from Russia.”

Speaking in Warsaw, Duda said that based on the information Poland and its allies have gathered, the missile that landed in Poland “was an S-300.”

“There is no evidence that it was launched by the Russian side,” Duda added, Reuters reported. “It is highly probable that it was fired by Ukrainian anti-aircraft defense.”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also said on Wednesday that NATO’s preliminary analysis “suggests that the incident was likely caused by a Ukrainian air defense missile fired to defend Ukrainian territory against Russian cruise missile attacks.”

After the missile fell in Przewodow and killed two people, multiple western media outlets cited unnamed U.S. intelligence officials who attributed the missile strike to Russia. The Polish Foreign Ministry also issued a statement declaring the missile that landed in Przewodow was a Russian-made weapon.

As initial reports cast blame for the missile strike on Russia, Article 5 began to trend on Twitter.

NATO’s Article 5 stipulates that an attack against any NATO ally should be considered an attack against all members of the alliance. Poland is a member of NATO.

Article 5 reads:

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 recognized 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.

Any such armed attack and all measures taken as a result thereof shall immediately be reported to the Security Council. Such measures shall be terminated when the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to restore and maintain international peace and security.

Invoking NATO Article 5 could pit the nuclear-armed U.S., United Kingdom and France against nuclear-armed Russia, raising the potential for a nuclear war.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has raised the prospect of a nuclear war between Russia and NATO. Russian Kremlin officials have echoed those warnings, and Russian Security Council Deputy Secretary Alexander Venediktov said “there can be no winners” in such a conflict and that it “would be catastrophic for all mankind.”

“The hard fact is that there was no reason for an escalation. The Poles had all opportunities for stating at once that those were fragments of an S-300 missile,” Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday, the state-run TASS news agency reported. “Accordingly, all experts would have immediately realized that the Russian Armed Forces had nothing to do with that missile.”

Peskov said, “High-ranking officials in different countries were making statements without having any idea of what exactly happened or what the real cause was.” He also said “one should never rush to pronounce judgements and statements that can escalate the situation.”

While Stoltenberg shared the NATO assessment that the missile that landed in Poland was likely a Ukrainian air defense missile, he reiterated incident was the result of Ukraine defending itself against a Russian attack.

“Let me clear: this is not Ukraine’s fault,” Stoltenberg said. “Russia bears ultimate responsibility as it continues its illegal war against Ukraine.”