Late on Tuesday, the world was shocked to hear the Polish president’s statement that his country had been hit by a Russian missile (or missiles).
The missile(s), struck a Polish grain facility at a farm near the village of Przewodow, about four miles inside the country’s border with Ukraine. The blast killed two people.
Associated Press quoted an anonymous US official saying that “two stray Russian missiles” were to blame. Images later emerged online of the impact site, apparently showing fragments of a S-300 missile: used by both sides, but too short-range to have been fired from Russian-controlled territory – and known to be used by Ukraine for air defence against incoming Russian missiles.
Implying that Russia was behind the incident, Polish President Andrzej Duda said he would trigger NATO’s Article 4: which would have called an all-member discussion of a threat to the security of a NATO country.
But soon after, the western commentators were sounding a note of caution. All of a sudden, it was “unclear” who had fired the offending missile(s). “We do not yet know”, “There is no evidence”, “unconfirmed reports”, “of course, there will have to be an investigation”, and so on, and so forth.
The “Free Press” lies – again
The Russian defence ministry claimed that, on Tuesday, it had not targeted anywhere within 35km (22 miles) of the Ukraine-Poland border. In a comment, the ministry said: “Statements by various Ukrainian sources and foreign officials about allegedly ‘Russian missiles’ falling in the village of Przewodów are a deliberate provocation with the aim of escalating the situation.” The Russians also claimed to have identified the wreckage as a Ukrainian S-300 from photographs.
That did not prevent the so-called Free Press of the west from immediately blaming Russia for the attack without a shred of evidence.
Steven Barnett Rosenberg is the BBC correspondent in Moscow. His main qualification for the job seems to consist in his inveterate hatred for Russia and all its works. If there were a Nobel Prize for venomous and lying journalism, he would surely be an excellent candidate.
Thus, in informing us – with his customary sneer – of what we already knew, namely, that the Russians had denied all involvement in the Polish missile affair, he hastened to reassure us that, since Moscow habitually denies everything, no trust whatsoever should be placed in these denials. So “Guilty, as charged!”
This “report”, like all his other so-called reports from Moscow, tell one absolutely nothing about what is happening there, since they are clearly written in London and sent from the MI5 desk at the Foreign Office. That being the case, one wonders why the BBC could not have saved the expense of his ticket to Moscow at all.
The newspaper headlines said it all. The Tory-supporting Daily Telegraph screamed ‘RUSSIAN MISSILE STRIKES POLAND.’ Not to be outdone, the (“Labour-supporting”) Daily Mirror snarled: ‘TYRANT’S WAR ON UKRAINE’ (complete with a scowling photo of Putin, in case you didn’t know which Tyrant was referred to) RUSSIAN BOMBS HIT POLAND!’
So, as if by a miracle, ONE “Russian” missile became an infinitely large number of Russian Bombs, showering down on the poor people of Poland on the direct, personal order of the Tyrant in the Kremlin.
One can only wonder how such a genocidal onslaught only managed to send a grand total of two to meet their Maker. Very poor marksmanship, one might think…
But even more inexplicable was the choice of target. Out of all the important military and civilian targets the Russians might have picked, why did they settle for an insignificant hamlet, which until that moment, nobody had even heard of?
In what way would a missile attack on Poland benefit Russia? The answer is very clear: not at all. On the contrary, Moscow knows very well that an attack on the territory of a member of NATO would be an open invitation to draw the western alliance into a war with Russia. For that very reason, the Russians have studiously avoided any such actions since the start of the war.
No. None of this made any sense whatsoever. But the fearless searchers after truth at The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mirror have always worked on the very sound principle: ‘Why let the truth spoil a good story?’
However, the Pentagon itself soon began to cast doubt on the story, saying it “could not corroborate” the claim that Russian missiles were responsible. More unnamed US officials were quoted in the press, saying “preliminary reports” implied that Ukrainian air defence missiles caused the blast.
US President Joe Biden poured more doubt on Russian responsibility this morning. He said it was “unlikely” missiles originated from Russian territory, given their trajectory.
After some delay, the Polish leader was reluctantly compelled to backtrack. He admitted that there was “no evidence” of an intentional attack, and that a “tragic accident” had led to a Ukrainian air defence missile landing in Poland:
“From the information that we and our allies have, it was an S-300 rocket made in the Soviet Union, an old rocket and there is no evidence that it was launched by the Russian side. It is highly probable that it was fired by Ukrainian anti-aircraft defence.”
In other words, his earlier statements, implying that Moscow was to blame, were false. Poland then sheepishly abandoned the idea of triggering Article 4.
When Biden said the missile was “probably not fired from Russia”, in the serpentine language of diplomacy, this is about as near as you can get to admitting that the Russians were definitely not responsible.
But the question must be asked: who was? If the missile was not fired by the Russians, only two possibilities remain: either it came from the planet Zog, or else, as both the US officials and Polish President conclude, it was fired by the Ukrainians.
NATO has stated that its initial findings suggest that the missile that hit Poland was fired by Ukrainian forces. It is quite possible that the Ukrainians had fired at an incoming Russian missile, which then ended up hitting a target on the other side of the Polish border. That was the version favoured by an Associated Press report published on Wednesday, citing U.S. officials.
The real question that should be asked however, is who would benefit from an incident that causes NATO to invoke Article 5 of its charter: the article that states that, if one member state is attacked, the whole military might of NATO should be brought to bear on punishing the aggressor?
The answer is staring you in the face. It is Ukraine.
Let us leave to one side for a moment the question of whether it was a deliberate provocation or an accident. What was interesting was the reaction of the Ukrainian leaders.
President Zelensky made an immediate statement, blaming Russia and strongly implying that NATO should retaliate:
“Terror is not limited to our national borders.” He said. “Russian missiles hit Poland… NATO territory. This is a Russian missile attack on collective security… a very significant escalation. We must act.”
His remarks immediately aroused a furious chorus from the Eastern European anti-Russia hawks, who jumped to the same conclusion. The Deputy Prime Minister of Latvia issued the following declaration:
“My condolences to our Polish brothers in arms. Criminal Russian regime fired missiles which target not only Ukrainian civilians but also landed on NATO territory in Poland. Latvia fully stands with Polish friends and condemns this crime.”
These were not just empty words. Poland immediately stepped up its military preparedness. In other words, they were just waiting for the opportunity to jump from the frying pan into the fire.
The Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs dismissed idea that Ukraine air defence missile responsible for the blast in these terms:
“Russia now promotes a conspiracy theory that it was allegedly a missile of Ukrainian air defence that fell on the Polish territory. Which is not true. No one should buy Russian propaganda or amplify its messages..”
Mihailo Podolyak, Adviser to the Head of the Office of President of Ukraine, issued the following statement:
“Strikes on Polish territory — not an accident, but a deliberately planned ‘hello’ from the Russian Federation, disguised as a ‘mistake’. It happens when evil goes unpunished & politicians engage in ‘pacification’ of aggressor. Ru-terrorist regime must be stopped. Condolences to the victims’ relatives.”
Even when the Americans had exposed the lie about Russian involvement, the men in Kyiv continued to blame Russia. They maintained the claim that the rocket had been fired by the Ukrainian army was merely a “Russian conspiracy theory”!
One should indeed be well aware by now of the seemingly endless capacity of the propaganda machine to churn out lies. But Moscow has no monopoly over such lies. On the contrary, the disinformation campaign organised by the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence makes its Russian equivalent look as innocent as Alice in Wonderland. And its latest exercise in lying really deserves to win some sort of prize.
Zelensky under pressure
In the article we published on Monday, I explained that Zelensky is now in a very difficult position. Every report coming out of Washington confirms what I wrote. The West is running out of weaponry, which the Ukrainians are using up at an alarming rate.
More seriously, they are running out of patience with Zelensky’s obstinate refusal to enter negotiations with Moscow. The war is dragging on, with no immediate end in sight, and the costs of keeping it going are ruinous, even leaving out of account the vast sums that will be needed for reconstruction.
In public, the imperialists are obliged to keep up the appearance of solidarity with Kyiv. Biden has just presented a bill to Congress for a huge amount of money for Ukraine. But not far beneath the surface, deep cracks are opening up. Some of the Europeans are becoming uneasy with the costs of the war, the high and rising inflation, and the risk of popular discontent and social disorder as winter approaches.
This is the context surrounding the American pressure on Zelensky to negotiate a deal with Russia. In public, all is sweetness and light, but in private, the heat is on. Zelensky is a desperate man. And desperate men do desperate things.
There is no doubt that it would suit him very well to see NATO enter the war and thus pull his hot chestnuts out of the fire. If the latest incident had served to push NATO into action against Russia, it would have been the answer to all his prayers.
We will probably never know the truth of what actually took place. Therefore, one should perhaps accept the version of events that has now been put into circulation, namely that it was “an unfortunate accident.” It is clear however, that Zelensky was attempting to use this event to pull NATO and US imperialism deeper into the war.
What will happen?
At the Bali meeting of G20 countries, a concerted attack on Russia was launched. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak tried to shout louder than anybody else, attacking Russia and demanding that it immediately withdraw its forces from Ukraine – though it is not clear whether anyone was listening to anything he said, or attached a great deal of importance to it.
A draft declaration from G20 leaders said “most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine”, demanding Russia’s “complete and unconditional withdrawal” from its neighbour’s territory. The reference to war is a rejection of Russia’s claim that it is involved in a “special military operation”.
But it also said: “there were other views and different assessments of the situation and sanctions”, reflecting the divisions among G20 states over Russia. The declaration warns that “the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is inadmissible. The peaceful resolution of conflicts, efforts to address crises, as well as diplomacy and dialogue, are vital. Today’s era must not be of war.”
Although the hostility to Russia on the part of the western imperialists is no secret, and their motives for wishing to undermine and weaken it by every means is clear from their actions in Ukraine, that does not at all mean that they are looking for a war with Russia. On the contrary, that would not be in their interests at all.
The so-called hawks – Poland, the Baltic states and Britain – can bark as much as they like. But they lack the teeth to do any serious biting. It is the USA, not they, that controls NATO and makes all the important decisions.
It was quite instructive to read the remarks of General Secretary of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, on the latest affair. He said that although the missile that landed in Poland and killed two people was “most likely” part of Ukraine’s air defence systems or missiles, he naturally added, “this is not Ukraine’s fault”, and that Ukraine “of course” has the right to shoot down the wave of Russian missiles targeting Ukrainian cities and critical Ukrainian infrastructure.
He warned that the Polish missile incident demonstrates that the war in Ukraine (“which is President Vladimir Putin’s responsibility”) “continues to create dangerous situations”.
But he added: “NATO is preparing for accidents like this to prevent them from happening, and if they happen to ensure that they don’t spiral out of control.”
The Ukrainians are demanding more weapons – which they will get. But they are also demanding other things, like a no-fly zone – which they will not get, because that would enormously increase the risk of direct conflict of NATO forces with Russia.
Berlin will offer support to the Polish air defence, a spokesperson for the defence ministry said. But a German government spokesperson has rejected the establishment of a no-fly zone, arguing that it would pose a threat of direct confrontation between Russia and NATO: “Together with all our allies we are agreed that we want to avoid a further escalation of this war in Ukraine.”
Precisely that. The imperialists will continue to provide the Ukrainians with sufficient money and arms – at least for the time being – to stop them from collapsing and keep the war going. But they have no intention of allowing the Ukrainians to drag them into an all-out war with Russia.
Meanwhile, the endless agony of millions of people will continue.