Russia-Ukraine War Spillover Into NATO Territory

A missile strike killed two people in the Polish village of Przewodow, about six kilometres north of the Ukrainian border. The explosion occurred on November 15, however a conclusion has not been made yet on who fired the missile. The New York Times indicated that the weapon was most likely Russian-made, but both the Ukrainian and Russian armies are using missiles produced in Russia during the Soviet era.

Poland initially brought up the possibility of invoking NATO’s Article 4, which calls for the 30 members of NATO to “consult together whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the Parties is threatened.” That was deemed unnecessary after the emergency meeting between NATO and G7 leaders, who argued that the explosion was an unintentional accident. During the meeting, NATO also identified that the missile was fired by Ukraine’s air defence. Ukraine, nevertheless, is sure that the rocket did not come from its territory. According to Euronews, Kyiv joined the investigations looking into the explosion. Due to the explosion’s proximity to the border, it is possible that it was caused by a misfired missile or by the remains of a rocket that Ukraine’s air defence systems had shot down.

According to the Ukrainian air force, 70 inbound Russian missiles were shot down on Tuesday. One person was killed when a piece of a damaged missile impacted a residential building in Kyiv. The missiles were primarily targeting Ukraine’s electrical infrastructure. According to authorities, that was the most severe barrage since Moscow invaded Ukraine on February 24.

To ease the international fears, NATO’s secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg reported that there was no evidence that the incident resulted from a planned strike or that Moscow was planning to launch an offensive campaign against the alliance. He also stated that it was not Ukraine’s fault that it was defending its land against the invader, adding that “Russia bears ultimate responsibility as it continues its illegal war against Ukraine.” The Ministry of Defence of Russia declined any involvement in the incident. The ministry said on Telegram that any claims by Polish authorities or media organizations that Russian missiles had hit Poland were “deliberate provocations.” The ministry reported that “no strikes on targets close to the Ukrainian-Polish state border were made.”

Since the start of the war, NATO member states have worked to keep the battles on Ukrainian soil and prevent outright confrontation with Russia, despite supplying weapons to Kyiv. While providing assistance to Ukraine, NATO has been cautious not to get too deeply engaged in the crisis to avoid an escalation. However, the explosion demonstrated how dangerously close the war is to NATO states. If it had been concluded that the attack was deliberate, the consequences would have been much more severe as NATO members are committed to mutual defence.

To prevent such incidents from happening again on NATO territory, the alliance should first ensure Russia does not launch more missile strikes in Ukraine. Hence, NATO will provide Ukraine with more air defence systems to defend itself effectively. The alliance should also work on reinforcing its eastern flank. As there could be other missiles coming, NATO should be ready to react as the next attack may not be incidental.

The explosion served as a reminder of the necessity to stop any further escalation of the conflict. The barrage which caused the death of two people on NATO territory was aimed at civilian infrastructure, which is illegal under international law. Heavy battles continue in Ukraine, and the possibilities of a potentially disastrous spillover remain too real.