NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday that a blast in Poland that killed two people was probably not an attack by Russia, but rather caused by a Ukrainian air defense system meant to counter a Russian aerial bombardment.
The two were killed on Tuesday when a missile came down in Polish farmland not far from the border with Ukraine. The blast came amid a Russian aerial assault in Ukraine and raised deep concern about whether Russia might be expanding the war by targeting a NATO member country.
“An investigation into this incident is ongoing, and we need to await its outcome. But we have no indication that this was the result of a deliberate attack,” Stoltenberg told reporters after chairing emergency talks between NATO envoys in Brussels.
“This is likely caused by a Ukrainian air defense missile,” he said, adding that the alliance has “no indication that Russia is preparing action” against any of its 30 member countries.
But Stoltenberg insisted that the incident happened because of Russia’s invasion.
“This is not Ukraine’s fault. Russia bears ultimate responsibility,” he said. “The whole incident is caused by Russia’s brutal war in Ukraine.”
Stoltenberg said that neither Poland nor any other ally had called for emergency consultations under Article 4 of NATO’s founding treaty, which provides for such talks if any the allies consider that their territory might be under threat.
Poland had said late Tuesday that it was considering calling for Article 4 consultations.
Earlier Wednesday, three U.S. officials said preliminary assessments suggest the missile was fired by Ukrainian forces at an incoming Russian projectile, and U.S. President Joe Biden said it was “unlikely” that it was fired from Russia.
The findings are no doubt a relief to NATO. Since President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops into Ukraine in February, the organization has sought to avoid being dragged into a wider war.
The world’s biggest security alliance has declined to send troops into Ukraine and has refused Kyiv’s requests to police a no-fly zone over its cities, which might require allies to shoot down Russian fighter jets or target air defense systems in Russian territory.
While some of NATO’s member countries are providing weapons and other support, NATO as an organization doesn’t. The military alliance has focused on building up its forces in member countries near Russia and Ukraine’s borders to dissuade Putin from targeting them next.
After Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia triggered urgent Article 4 consultations. These are launched when “the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the [NATO] parties is threatened.”
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