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What to Know About the Poland Missile Blast

NATO leaders have been racing to piece together what happened.

By , a reporter at Foreign Policy.
Polish officials make a statement on the missile crisis.
Polish officials make a statement on the missile crisis.
Jacek Siewiera (left), head of the Polish National Security Bureau, and Polish government spokesperson Piotr Muller make a statement after a crisis meeting of the National Security Bureau in Warsaw, Poland, on Nov. 15. JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP via Getty Images

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re looking at a missile that struck Poland, Israel’s new right-wing legislators, and the world’s 8 billion people

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re looking at a missile that struck Poland, Israel’s new right-wing legislators, and the world’s 8 billion people

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Reports of Missile Blast Alarm NATO

Uncertainty and panic have gripped NATO countries after a potential Russian missile or debris reportedly hit Polish territory and sparked an explosion on Tuesday, killing two people and stirring fears of the war’s potential expansion outside of Ukraine. 

In the blast’s aftermath, contradictory reports sparked a diplomatic frenzy as alarmed NATO leaders raced to determine what had happened. But as of Tuesday night, it remained unclear whether Poland—a NATO member—had been hit by a missile or debris, who fired it, and whether the strike was intentional. 

Poland said it was likely struck by a Russian-made missile and is currently weighing invoking NATO’s Article 4 provision, meaning it would consult with other NATO countries over security or territorial-related concerns. Russia, for its part, has denied any connection with the blast, dismissing Polish reporting as a “deliberate provocation in order to escalate the situation.”

But even if the missile itself was Russian-made, it wasn’t immediately obvious who launched it or where it came from. Some recent reports suggest it may have been fired by Ukrainian air defense units to intercept a Russian missile, according to the Financial Times. U.S. President Joe Biden said it was unlikely that the projectile was fired from Russia, given its launch trajectory, and publicly backed Warsaw’s investigation.

“I’m going to make sure we figure out exactly what happened,” Biden said. “Then we’re going to collectively figure out our next step.”

Until more information is known, experts have urged caution. 

When it comes to “the larger speculation of whether this is a Russian attack, whether this is a major escalation, then you have to hold your breath and say, ‘Wait a minute, let’s get the facts first,’” Daniel Fried, a fellow at the Atlantic Council and former U.S. ambassador to Poland, told Foreign Policy on Tuesday.

If intelligence agencies were to determine that the reported missile strike was a deliberate Russian attack on Polish territory, then it could potentially set off NATO’s Article 5 collective defense commitment, as FP’s Robbie Gramer, Jack Detsch, and Amy Mackinnon report. So far, however, NATO leaders have largely avoided blaming Russia.

“Article 5 is not automatic,” Jim Townsend, former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for Europe and NATO policy, told Foreign Policy. “Even if Poland comes and says, ‘we’ve been attacked,’ it’s up to the [North Atlantic Council] to decide whether that is true or not.”

Confusion surrounding the missile crossing into Poland came as Moscow unleashed a spate of airstrikes across Ukraine on Tuesday, following the liberation of the strategic city of Kherson. The onslaught of missiles left nearly 10 million people facing power outages, Kyiv said, and hit some residential buildings. 


What We’re Following Today

Israel’s new Knesset. Israel has sworn in new Knesset members in what is its most right-wing parliament ever. The formal ceremony followed a string of violent and deadly clashes in the West Bank amid soaring tensions. On Tuesday, a Palestinian man killed three Israelis and injured three more by a Jewish settlement; in recent days, Israeli troops also killed a 15-year-old Palestinian girl during a raid

According to the United Nations’ metrics, this year is set to be the deadliest on record for the West Bank’s Palestinian population. 

The world’s 8 billion people. The world is now home to 8 billion people, according to United Nations estimates, a milestone that corresponds with advances in science, medicine, and technology. In 2086, this number is projected to reach a peak of 10.4 billion people.


Keep an Eye On 

Egypt’s human rights record. Imprisoned British-Egyptian activist Alaa Abd el-Fattah has ended his monthslong hunger strike, he reportedly wrote in a letter to his family. “I’ve broken my strike. I’ll explain everything on Thursday,” the letter said. His family is set to meet him on Thursday for a scheduled monthly visit

Maldives bomb plot. Maldives authorities have detained 14 people suspected of plotting a bombing attack with the Islamic State, officials said. Police raided 13 homes and apprehended the individuals last Friday. 


Tuesday’s Most Read

A Theme Park Crisis Is Wrecking South Korea’s Bond Market by S. Nathan Park

Xi-Biden Meeting May Help End China’s Destructive Isolation by Scott Kennedy

Only an Absolute Bureaucracy Can Save Us by Blake Smith


Odds and Ends 

After going missing, Rosie, a 10-year-old border collie, appeared to turn herself in to authorities at the Loughborough Police Station in central England by laying down in the waiting room. Her owners said a loud firework had spooked her into running away, the BBC reported.

“I was so pleased and so happy she was safe and so proud of her that she was clever enough to find her way to the police station,” Rosie’s owner told the BBC.

Christina Lu is a reporter at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @christinafei

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