Missile explosion in Poland: what comes next?

After the missile strike in Przewodów, near Poland's border with Ukraine, efforts to clarify the incident and de-escalate the situation are growing. The US, Poland and Nato have all declared that the Russian-made projectile was likely fired by a defensive missile system in Ukraine. There is no indication of a deliberate attack, Poland's President Andrzej Duda stated. The press remains concerned.

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Gazeta Wyborcza (PL) /

Zelensky putting his credibility on the line

Gazeta Wyborcza finds it problematic that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky initially stuck to the version according to which Russia fired the missile:

“Zelensky is playing a risky game because he is undermining his own credibility in the eyes of his key Western partners. Kyiv probably hoped that in view of the war and Russia's massive terrorist attacks the West would turn a blind eye to the facts. But this is not possible in societies with a free media and politicians who are accountable to the citizens. Because sooner or later the truth would come out.”

Kirill Shulika (RU) /

Bali prevented another Cuban crisis situation

Blogger Kirill Shulika points out in a Facebook post just how precarious the situation was:

“Kyiv does not want to take responsibility for what happened. ... It's clear that the Americans don't want a third world war. ... In this context, Zelensky is currently experiencing some unpleasant moments. His first statement was very unfortunate. He later qualified his statements [and called for a thorough investigation], but the night after the missile crash was probably the most tense since the Cuban missile crisis. Fortunately, the leaders of the Western world were at the G20 meeting in Bali and were able to come together quickly.”

Večer (SI) /

Ultimatums won't help

Incidents such as this are not conducive to peace negotiations, Večer fears:

“There's a significant difference between the negotiations in March and now. Back then Kyiv desperately needed peace because Russia's army was on the offensive. Now it's just the opposite. Almost every day Zelensky makes heavy demands that Russia's President Putin either doesn't want to or cannot meet. Even if it's clear who is the aggressor and who is the victim in this war, negotiations are always a search for a compromise and not the presentation of ultimatums. The leaders of the allied states would do well to point this out to the Ukrainian president.”

Dagens Nyheter (SE) /

This is how World War III could begin

Vigilance is now needed, Dagens Nyheter stresses:

“This is exactly how a major war could start - and it is an important reminder of the forces that Russia and President Putin have unleashed with their attack on Ukraine, which violates international law. Even if the missile turns out to be Ukrainian, the blame lies with the Kremlin. Without the Russian attack there would have been no need to launch defensive missiles. Russian imperialism has not only inflicted untold suffering on the people of Ukraine, it has created a far more dangerous Europe and a more dangerous world where relationships are characterised by mistrust and there is less and less time to react to an unusual incident.”

Wiener Zeitung (AT) /

Level-headedness is the order of the day

Finding the appropriate course of action requires time, the Wiener Zeitung cautions:

“Recent events have shown all the involved parties - and the public - how great the danger is that this war could escalate into a direct military confrontation between nuclear powers; how important clearly-established facts and level-headed action are on all sides; how easily mere rumours can lead to demands and deeds. It takes time to check facts, to reflect, to act in a wise and coordinated manner. The logic of the digital public sphere triggers the exact opposite. We cannot change that, we just have to be aware of it at all times - and arm ourselves against it.”

Strana (UA) /

Nato doesn't want any further escalation

Strana notes that the West is clearly trying to defuse the situation:

“The swift declaration by Nato, the US and even Poland that the missile did not come from Russia showed that the West is not prepared to let relations with Russia escalate. This is also notable against the backdrop of speculation in Western media that Washington and Western Europe are trying to pressure Ukraine to soften its stance in negotiations with Russia. ... This all goes to show that Nato does not want to be drawn into a direct confrontation with Moscow. Above all, the position of Poland, which has always been an implacable opponent of Putin, speaks volumes in this regard.”

Naftemporiki (GR) /

Kyiv in a panic

Naftemporiki criticises Volodymyr Zelensky's reaction:

“'It was not our missile', the Ukrainian president claimed once again, 24 hours after the fact. Does he really want a Third World War between Nato and Russia? ... Or does he see that attempts are now being made to find a compromise solution to end the war and is trying to undermine any peace initiatives? ... Clearly Zelensky is against negotiations. But what he doesn't seem to want to understand is that no one is asking him for anything. The Western leaders will decide what is to be done in Ukraine. ... Zelensky will not be consulted, and that's why he's panicking. And panic is the worst advisor for it can even lead to provocations.”

Dserkalo Tyschnja (UA) /

Apologies in order

The incident could damage Ukraine's reputation, writes Volodymyr Kravchenko, foreign policy commentator for Dzerkalo Tyzhnya:

“If the statements of the US and Polish leaders are confirmed, this incident will have rather unpleasant consequences for our country. Russian propaganda will gloat over this tragedy. ... But the main thing now is that we must not jeopardise our relations with Poland. ... To avoid undesirable consequences, our leaders should lose no time and begin active consultations with Warsaw today. And if it does turn out that the missile was fired by the Ukrainian air defence system, we should assume responsibility and settle the incident at the diplomatic level.”

BBC (GB) /

Avoid escalation

Nothing suggests Russia is deliberately attacking Nato territory, the BBC reassures its readers:

“What matters here is what the intended target was, whoever fired the missile. And so far there is no indication that Russia was intentionally targeting anywhere beyond Ukraine's borders. The Kremlin knows that such a move would potentially trigger Article 5 of Nato's constitution, theoretically bringing the entire alliance to Poland's defence. That is not a place Nato wants to be in, especially just a day after Russia and America's spy chiefs have just been meeting to discuss how to avoid unnecessary escalation in this war.”

Tygodnik Powszechny (PL) /

Half-hearted response the most likely

If Russia is responsible, Tygodnik Powszechny sees three different scenarios:

“The first: pretend that nothing happened. ... The second, half-hearted option: we make good on our declarations with limited action, for example moving parts of Poland's air defence closer to the border. ... We use the situation to up the pressure on the allies to supply Ukraine with effective air defence systems more quickly and on a larger scale. ... And finally the third option: we use the situation to change the policy towards Russian aggression and take a truly resolute stance. ... Of these three options, the second seems the most likely today.”

Onet.pl (PL) /

The missile defence system failed

Poland is more vulnerable than it has been led to believe, Onet worries:

“We still don't know whether it was a Russian or a Ukrainian missile that fell on Polish territory. ... Be that as it may, the Nato missile defence system has now been tested. ... Our biggest problem at the moment is that the system didn't work, and that the Russians know it. In March, US President Joe Biden declared in Warsaw that the Atlantic Alliance would protect every inch of Nato territory. Today it has become clear that, for the time being, this protection has failed across the board.”

Avvenire (IT) /

Time for peace

Once again we must push for negotiations, Avvenire urges:

“If we were really dealing with a deliberate Russian attack, a targeted provocation, we would be plunged into the nightmare that only yesterday the signals from the US-Chinese summit in Bali seemed to avert. The other two hypotheses - error or coincidence - could, if the political protagonists are up to the task of these dramatic circumstances, even strengthen the effort to find a negotiated way out of a war that brings us to the brink of Armageddon. ... For nine months now we have remained on this insane brink while weapons are sent and death and devastation are sown. It is time to bring about peace.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Neither routine nor an emergency

Commenting on Poland's request to convene a Nato meeting on the basis of Article 4 rather than Article 5 of the defence case, La Stampa says:

“Poland has asked for a meeting of the Atlantic Council, but within the framework of Article 4, which provides for consultations in situations of potential security threats. It is not a day-to-day matter, but neither is it an emergency. ... This is a sign that Warsaw, while blaming Moscow for the incident, does not feel it has been militarily attacked. Nato's collective defence [set out in Article 5] is not triggered automatically. It must be requested and unanimously approved by all allies. This is not the case today. This does not change the fact that Moscow is playing with fire.”