Ukraine War, November 15, 2022: Russian missiles hit Polish town; Putin tests NATO mutual defense obligation under Article 5 of NATO Treaty (Updated November 19, 2022)

Developing. We are publishing this article as it is being written. Please check back for updates

To see a list of previous articles, enter “Ukraine” in the Search Box on the upper right, on The Trenchant Observer web site, and you will see a list in chronological order.

To understand the broad context within which current developments in Ukraine should be considered,see

“Ukraine War, October 26, 2022: The context for analysis of current developments; The “dirty bomb” as a Russian propaganda distraction from current war crimes,” The Trenchant Observer, October 26, 2022.

Dispatches

1) Anne Applebaum,”The Russian Empire Must Die; A better future requires Putin’s defeat—and the end to imperial aspirations,” The Atlantic, November 14, 2022 (7:00 a.m. ET);

2) Roland Oliphant, Joe Barnes, Matthew Day, Danielle Sheridan, and Nick Allen, “Russian missile hits Nato member Poland, leaving two dead; Warsaw locked in urgent talks after explosion near village of Przewodow, five miles from border,” The Telegraph, November 15; 2022 (9:14 pm);

3) Katrina vanden Heuvel, ”How to end the war in Ukraine? Sit down and talk. It’s time,” Washington Post, November 15, 2022 (8:02 p.m. EST);

4) María R. Sahuquillo, “Polonia pone a sus tropas en alerta tras una explosión con dos muertos junto a la frontera ucrania;
La OTAN investiga la detonación en coordinación con Varsovia, miembro de la Alianza Atlántica y de la UE; Algunos socios apuntan a Rusia sin aportar evidencias,” El País, el 15 de noviembre 2022 (17:19 EST);

5) María R. Sahuquillo, “Poland puts its troops on alert after an explosion with two deaths near the Ukrainian border; NATO is investigating the detonation in coordination with Warsaw, a member of the Atlantic Alliance and the EU. Some partners point to Russia without providing evidence,” El País, November 15, 2022 (17:59 EST);

6) “Polen bestätigt Einschlag von Rakete aus russischer Produktion – Nato-Krisensitzung; Laut polnischer Regierung wurden die Explosionen im Grenzgebiet zur Ukraine durch Raketen aus russischer Produktion ausgelöst. Warschau versetzt Kampfeinheiten in Alarmbereitschaft. Die Nato hält eine Dringlichkeitssitzung ab. Mehr im Liveticker.” Die Welt, den 16. November 2022 (00:31);

7) “Poland confirms impact of rocket from Russian production – NATO crisis meeting; According to the Polish government, the explosions in the border area with Ukraine were triggered by rockets from Russian production. Warsaw puts combat units on alert. NATO is holding an urgent meeting. More in the live ticker.” Die Welt, November 16, 2022 (00:31);

UPDATES

8) María R. Sahuquillo y Gloria Rodríguez-Pina, “El zarpazo de la guerra en Polonia pone a prueba la respuesta de la OTAN; La explosión en una aldea polaca, que ha dejado los dos primeros muertos en suelo de la UE como consecuencia directa de la guerra de Rusia contra Ucrania, muestra el riesgo de escalada entre potencias nucleares,” El País, el 19 de noviembre 2022 (23:40 EST);

9) María R. Sahuquillo and Gloria Rodríguez-Pina, “The war’s sudden strike (zarpazo) in Poland tests NATO’s response; The explosion in a Polish village, which has left the first two dead on EU soil as a direct result of Russia’s war against Ukraine, shows the risk of escalation between nuclear powers,” El País, November 19, 2022 (23:40 EST).

10) Lluis Bassets, “El arte ruso de la provocación
Lanzar misiles sobre todo el territorio ucranio es dejar abierta la puerta a un accidente de los que conducen a una escalada bélica,” El País, el 16 de noviembre 2022 (13:20 EST);

11) Lluis Bassets, “The Russian art of provocation; To launch missiles over all Ukrainian territory is to leave the door open to an accident for those who lead to a war escalation,” El País, November 16, 2022 (13:20 EST);

Analysis

A Russian missile hit a Polish town today, leaving two dead.

This is just the way Vladimir Putin probes and tests the will of the West. This is his modus operandi. Violate the limits, but in an ambiguous way. Going back to Russia’s “little green men” invading the Crimea in February 2014, or his White Trucks convoy ruse in the summer of 2014 as first irregulars then Russian troops invaded the Donbas.

Or the chemical weapons attack in Ghouta, Syria, when Bashar al-Assad with Russian advisors crossed one of Barack Obama’s supposed “red lines”, which turned out to have no consequences.

As María R. Sahuquillo and Gloria Rodríguez-Pina point out, it is a moment of truth for NATO. Does Article 5 have any real meaning? Are pledges to defend “every square inch” of NATO territory real, or not really?

Will Biden’s advance down the path of appeasement lead him and NATO to appease Putin once again by doing nothing in response to an attack on Polish territory?

One can hear the appeasers and the Russian apologists now:

Where is the proof it was a missile or missiles fired by Russia?

Was it just an accident? If the attack was not intentional, then maybe it was not an “attack” on the territory of a NATO country within the meaning of the mutual defense commitment contained in Article 5 of the NATO Treaty.

Was the attack intentional? Where is the proof?

Where is the proof that the missiles were not launched by Ukraine.

Coukdn’t the missiles be Ukrainian air defense missiles that fell on Poland by accident?

In Ghouta, (Syria), it took a U.N. investigation and a lot of time to establish proof that the chemical attacks were carried out by Bashar al-Assad and Syrian forces (advised by Russia).  By then Putin had succeeded in demonstrating that Obama’s “red lines” were illusory, particularly after he called off airstrikes at the last minute and punted the decision on how to respond to Congress.

These are well-known Putin and Russian ploys.

In war, events move at the speed of war, not the speed of a criminal trial. Judgments must be made on the basis of the available facts and what seems likely or probable.

War is not a court of law.

Will the West respond, or will Putin succeed in chipping away more bricks from the solid wall of NATO’s mutual defense obligation under Article 5 of the NATO Treaty?

An appropriate response would be to authorize the long-range artillery rockets (ATACMS) for the HIMARS artillery units, to authorize the transfer of jet fighters to Ukraine, and to release the modern German tanks and armored personnel carriers to Ukraine which Germany has been holding back.

That would be a warning to Putin that he might understand.

In addition, the U.S. and NATO should make clear–through actions and not public warnings to Russia–that if Russia continues its attacks on Ukrainian cities and civilian infrastructure, NATO countries will supply Ukraine with the long-range artillery rockets (ATACMS) and other weapons; and authorize their use to strike targets in Russian territory from which missile and drone attacks against targets in Ukraine are being launched.

Any such Ukrainian counter-attacks would be in accordance with the “inherent” right of individual and collective self-defense authorized under Article 51 of the U.N. Charter and international law.

Biden and NATO face a stark choice:

Either they enter down the path of appeasement of Putin and Russia, or they respond to Putin’s escalations of the conflict since September 21 with measured but forceful actions.

The alternative is appeasement and inaction as Putin continues to escalate.

The Trenchant Observer

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