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Is A NATO vs. Russia War Possible over Poland Missile Strike?

F-35 NATO
A U.S. Air Force F-35 Lightning II aircraft assigned to the 34th Fighter Squadron receives fuel from a KC-10 Extender aircraft over Poland, February 24, 2022. U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Joseph Barron/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Today has been the most consequential day of the war since Russia invaded Ukraine last February. First, Zelensky defiantly addressed the G20, then Russia responded with a massive missile attack against Ukrainian infrastructure. Then, late this afternoon reports emerged of a Russian missile going astray and landing on NATO-member Poland, killing two civilians.

(Watch 19FortyFive Contributing Editor and author RET LT. COL US Army Daniel Davis on Newsy.)

Will Article 5 of the NATO charter draw Poland – and by implication, the rest of the alliance – into war with Russia?

The situation in eastern Europe is heating up fast, and it is crucial to ensure everyone in America understands what is at stake for our national security and what our obligations are both to our Constitution and our NATO allies.

The war between Ukraine and Russia has been raging since February, already undergoing numerous swings and shifts, with significant casualties being suffered by both sides. Things heated up early today when Zelensky addressed the G20 summit via videoconference. During his remarks, he again emphatically declared that “we will fight” until his forces regain all Ukrainian territory. He then issued what he called a 10-point “peace plan,” point 6 of which required Russia to unilaterally withdraw all troops from Ukraine and simply stop fighting.

Apparently, Putin regarded that more as a demand to surrender and hours later replied by launching the largest and most withering missile attack of the war. By the first of November, Russian rocket and missile attacks had destroyed 40% of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure. But following Zelensky’s speech, the Kremlin reportedly unleased more than 100 cruise missiles that battered more than two dozen cities, destroying yet more of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, plunging whole cities into darkness. What happened late in the day, however, caused NATO to hold its collective breath.

According to numerous reports, an errant Russian missile was alleged to have landed on NATO-member Poland, killing Polish civilians. As of this writing, it is not clear if Russia deliberately targeted Poland, whether it was a misfire that missed its target, or whether it might have been a Ukrainian S-300 air defense missile that may have missed one of Russia’s 100 missiles and landed in Poland. Once the sun rises tomorrow, Polish officials will be better able to investigate and provide facts.

But already, many voices are speculating this could draw NATO – and therefore the United States – into direct confrontation with Russia, becoming parties to the war. As recently as September, Biden declared that the U.S. and the Atlantic Alliance would “defend every single inch of NATO territory” from any Russian aggression. Lesia Vasylenko, Ukrainian Member of Parliament, tweeted that the missile strike “calls for @NATO article 5 reaction.”

Any suggestion of using Article 5 – sometimes misnamed the “go-to-war clause” – first requires an understanding of what the NATO charter does and doesn’t oblige members to do. Article 5 states that NATO members “agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all,” and each “will assist the Party or Parties so attacked” by taking “such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force.”

Another critical provision of the NATO charter is often forgotten but incredibly relevant. Article 11 of the charter specifies that all members will carry out the treaty’s provisions “in accordance with their respective constitutional processes.”

Taken together, for the United States, that means that if any member of NATO is attacked, we may take whatever action the U.S. Congress and president deem necessary. Critically, the NATO charter does not supersede the Constitution’s sole war-making authority, which is given in Article I, section 8, clause 11 to the U.S. Congress. Related to what did or didn’t happen in Poland today, however, there is another crucial distinction.

To invoke Article 5, there has to have been an attack against a NATO member. By all appearances, this was either an errant Russian missile or a Ukrainian air defense missile that missed its target and went astray. For there to be any serious consideration of the initiation of Article 5, there has to have been an actual, deliberate attack. It should go without saying that the very essence of the NATO alliance is a mutual defense pact to prevent war – not a mechanism whose careless application could plunge the alliance into a war with the world’s largest nuclear arsenal.

M1 Abrams Tank

M1 Abrams tank.

For now, the United States, Poland, and NATO all need to avoid any hasty judgments, allow a thorough investigation to be conducted, and only then, once the facts are known, consider whether any further actions by NATO is warranted. But one thing must be clear: America’s most vital national interest is now and will remain to avoid any unnecessary escalation of the fighting in Ukraine that could drag us into an unnecessary, no-win war.

Also a 1945 Contributing Editor, Daniel L. Davis is a Senior Fellow for Defense Priorities and a former Lt. Col. in the U.S. Army who deployed into combat zones four times. He is the author of “The Eleventh Hour in 2020 America.” Follow him @DanielLDavis.

Written By

Daniel L. Davis is a Senior Fellow for Defense Priorities and a former Lt. Col. in the U.S. Army who deployed into combat zones four times. He is the author of “The Eleventh Hour in 2020 America.” Follow him @DanielLDavis1.

25 Comments

25 Comments

  1. 403Forbidden

    November 15, 2022 at 6:21 pm

    With Biden in charge, anything is possible.

    Recently, or just days ago, while he was in Cambodia farting and blowing his way around ASEAN bigshot leaders, he thanked the leader of Cambodia, or which Biden pronounced as Colombia, as he met the host for a photo op handshake.

    Could the landing of missiles be a comer on or a trap for old man Biden, as everyone already knows the man’s brain is addled by late stage dementia and even long covid.

    NATO will naturally only behave like a herd of lemmings when Biden gives the order to attack Russia. All the fighting will take place in europe, naturally.

    After all the smoke clears, migrants from north Africa & asia will be in charge. They will be the new masters of Europe. Biden ? He’d already inside the great lake of fire.

  2. Walker

    November 15, 2022 at 6:27 pm

    It doesn’t matter if Putin targeted Poland or not, to be honest. What matters is how we treat it. We decide if it was targeted or went stray. Because we decide what to do about it.

    So, simply put. We decide if we escalate or not. And what do we gain by escalating? We do need to hold Russia accountable no matter what, but what is the prudent way to do that? I would guess we stay the course. Continue to aid Ukraine in its war against Russia. We should have always know. This was possible and baked it into our plans.

    I would say, use this as a pretext to provide even more aid to Ukraine. The sooner Ukraine beats Russia, the sooner we all can sigh in relief.

  3. Duke

    November 15, 2022 at 6:59 pm

    Trumpists can read and write? Oh heavens!

  4. Joko

    November 15, 2022 at 7:44 pm

    Daniel Davis is really nuts. He honestly believes that Russia has a legitimate rationale for invading Ukraine and that the Russians have options other than blowing up the world. What we need to do to stop the suffering is to keep upping the ante in terms of supporting Ukraine. We should be supplying them with MBTs longer range missiles, fighter jets and helicopters. It is only when Russia realizes that every day that goes by will be worse for them and their troops that they will give up on this madness

  5. Frank Martin

    November 15, 2022 at 10:04 pm

    Under the best of circumstances I don’t trust our govt considering it’s history for dirty tricks/lies to start wars. NATO should have been disbanded after the fall of the Soviet Union. Instead it constantly expanded towards Russia, contrary to promises not to do so. On the heels of Afghanistan now we have this. It’s all BS & our govt is as corrupt as any we criticize.

  6. ATM

    November 15, 2022 at 10:08 pm

    Not sure why there is a war in Europe / Ukraine given that the war is between Russia and the USA.

  7. Jim

    November 15, 2022 at 10:49 pm

    President Biden says “preliminary” information suggests it is “unlikely” the missile is Russian.

    The tendency to jump to conclusions is endemic in war situations.

    That’s one reason among many why wars are so dangerous.

    An (unexpected) event can trigger a series of runaway escalations… and before you know it, events are out of your control.

    Often it’s this exact excuse for Maximalists to double-down and argue for even more escalation… they will never admit it was their policy which caused the crisis in the first place… in other words, a failed policy of their own creation… gee, should we follow advice from the same people who already gave us bad advice in the first place?

    Biden putting the brakes on the blame game… perhaps there are voices of restraint in the White House.

    Don’t let Poland or Ukraine bully the U. S.

    Don’t let the Maximalists bully the U. S.

  8. Commentar

    November 15, 2022 at 11:10 pm

    The eagle has landed. In eastern Poland.

    On the first day of the G20 summit in Bali, the red eagle landed in the far eastern part of Poland. WHAT NOW, OR NOW WHAT BIDEN GONNA DO.

    Biden can immediately call Austin to declare war by NATO to liberate polish eastern border with ukraine.

    Austin will request US cavalry units, Abrams heavy armor brigades, Stryker fast strike force & B-52 strategic bombers to go forward immediately in a close replay of Hitler’s Op Barbarossa which was initially very extremely successful.

    Eagle has just touched down in Poland. Can Austin avoid the mistake made by Hitler in summer of 1941 who drunk with success was rather predisposed to taking the rich oilfields in caucasus rather than zoom straight to red square.

    The eagle has sharp vision or is known for its predatory vision and therefore will be watching Austin’s moves. One fatal mistake, and a rs-28 nuke blast will end the adventure of the US military.

  9. Aboli

    November 15, 2022 at 11:55 pm

    A little nudge from Ukraine to get NATO in the war. A false flag.

  10. WillLongfield

    November 16, 2022 at 12:42 am

    Jojo – “It is only when Russia realizes that every day that goes by will be worse for them and their troops that they will give up on this madness”

    You really do know nothing about Russia or it’s strategic situation, do you? You think they are “mad” because you don’t understand their motives and rationale, but they are very clear and plainly stated. They are just not reported in the West.

    Contra to your glib statement, actually the realization that they have already come to is that they need to escalate significantly to complete their operation. NATO is aware of this too (unlike you and your Instagram-fueled ilk) and is urgently looking for an off-ramp from the conflict that leaves the Ukrainian State somewhat intact and viable. Something that sadly looks to be increasingly unlikely as Ukraine depletes its armaments and manpower while the invading army gathers its strength for a counterattack.

    As to the “missile” landing in Poland, it is either a Russian misfire or a failed Ukrainian AAM. Both Russia and NATO clearly understand the dangers of confrontation and strenuously work to avoid it.

  11. Friend

    November 16, 2022 at 2:14 am

    What do you mean by deliberate attack on NATO? You were already deliberately told that you were fighting a proxy war and that you should get the fuck back to 1997 or get nuked.
    Of course, your pathetic army of doughnut soldiers will cave, because it’s not an army; it’s a job centre for immigrants and niggers, of which you are terrified, apparently. Your army is probably best personified by Kyrie Irving – pay a nigger! Pay to appease for them to do nothing, because obviously you’ve got a nuclear threat from within from Nation of Islam, which is a branch of the KGB

  12. David Chang

    November 16, 2022 at 3:26 am

    God bless people in the world.

    Democratic-Republican Party, Presbyterian, and Ivy League worship democracy and believe socialism, but don’t obey Ten Commandments.

    They believe anti-access strategy, so they think, TSMC which be shared by Republic of China and United States is high-value. They tell about the worship of integrated circuit and imply that we need integrated circuit badly. It is like encouraging C.C.P. to destroy TSMC as soon as possible. But we should not believe the anti-access strategy, because of anti-access strategy is a trap of socialism warfare.

    Democratic-Republican party, Presbyterian, and Ivy Leagues have answered Communist Party with socialism policies, and they repeat the Sin of socialism warfare in Vietnam-Iraq-Afghan-Ukraine.

    But we should not determine policy by socialism, because Putin, Xi and Osama bin Laden have been educated with socialism since childhood, even if some people of US think that they are more smart than Putin, Xi, and Osama bin Laden. Deciding our policies with socialism will make more damage on people, and let people in the world trap in socialism warfare, but no people will win.

    In order to counter socialism warfare, our military should reject the temptation of Green New Deal, and explain the current situation of our military to people. So we should tell to the socialism parties, like Russia, China, Korea, Iran, and Ukraine, with the approval of Congress, and ask them to stop socialism warfare.

    God bless America.

  13. Friend

    November 16, 2022 at 4:13 am

    You’re gonna need a bigger cave.

  14. John

    November 16, 2022 at 6:01 am

    Honestly the war is clearly escalating as terror bombing is hitting Ukrainian Infrastructure.
    Ukraine will be able to build its own low cost long range drones which will be able to hit bomber bases south of Moscow. More Russian ships will be attacked and the Kerch bridge will not make it.
    Further escalation by Russia then will lead to a nuclear exchange with Nato

  15. Johnny Ray

    November 16, 2022 at 6:09 am

    “U.S. President Joe Biden told allies that a missile that killed two people in Poland was a Ukrainian air defense missile, a NATO source said on Wednesday.” ~Reuters

    So, looks like no Poland/NATO/Russia war this week.

  16. pagar

    November 16, 2022 at 6:22 am

    The US white house has apparently and very quickly wriggled itself out of a prickly situation by sayin’ the rockets that landed in eastern poland were ukrainian in origin.

    WW3 in europe averted for now, but tomorrow, who knows.

    No word, though, on who were behind the recent explosions that hit the nordstream gas pipelines. Fog of war the likely culprit.

  17. froggy

    November 16, 2022 at 6:33 am

    When DD isn’t prattling in awe about all of Russia’s vast legions of cannon fodder, or imaginary aircraft which can clear the skies of as much as a seagull, he is attempting to stoke fear of World War III, Allow me to tell all of you this. If Putin will use nuclear weapons to defend his interests in Ukraine then we will eventually get to a nuclear conflict. That is because he will inevitably hit a red line that we cannot allow him to cross and we will need to escalate our response beyond HIMARS. We cannot cut and run because that will only reward him for his aggression and demonstrate to China that we lack yhe stamina to stay the course. The best thing that we can do about this missile strike is to provide Ukraine even more assistance; main battle tanks, aircraft and tens of thousands of drones, patriot batteries etc. We must demonstrate to Putin’s power base that there is no escape from their losses until Putin is gone.

  18. Friend

    November 16, 2022 at 6:45 am

    Yeh, there’s this little enquiry for the cave people.
    How come a missile never never strayed into Belarus?

  19. Paul Hoffman

    November 16, 2022 at 8:17 am

    Test

  20. Jim

    November 16, 2022 at 9:35 am

    The palpable disappointment from the usual suspects that the missile was a Ukrainian S-300 betrays their desire to escalate the war.

    It’s easy when somebody else is doing the dying.

  21. Joko

    November 16, 2022 at 11:17 am

    WillLongfield:

    Putin has no legitimate international security issues with Ukraine, which has never been a threat to Russia from a military perspective. Putin’s rationale for invading does not stand up to even the most basic scrutiny despite his many protestations. Ukraine is not a Nazi state, nor has it ever threatened Russia in any way prior to the invasion. Rather, Putin attacked because Ukraine chose to repudiate its Russian Puppet leaders to chart a new course as a European country. Russia unilaterally decided to attack Ukraine based upon false premises and bad information seeing as how they are getting their asses kicked. Now their plan is a WWII style London Blitz. Putin has proven himself unfit to lead his country and has only brought misery to them and the people of Ukraine. He need to go and more and more Russians are becoming aware of this every day. Ultimately if we push hard enough his own people will topple him. That is our best bet, because we cannot allow this maniac to continue in power.

  22. T. Martin

    November 16, 2022 at 1:13 pm

    Ukraine is implementing the Mouse That Roared strategy. In the future it will openly attack Poland and other countries in order to get Nato to declare war on the Ukraine, therby necessitating an invasion of Ukraine by Nato. This will have the effect of completely unbalancing the Russian’s. The only problem with this is that the US will have to engage in an officialy declared war, something it hasn’t done in 85 years.

  23. H.R. Holm

    November 16, 2022 at 11:39 pm

    Cheez, one missile evidently goes astray and all the pundits on the Western/NATO warmongering side want to go charging in and ‘kick ass on the Rooskies’. Chickenhawk ignoramuses have no idea what they are saying or playing hair-trigger with. When are more people in Congress going to see the light and read the riot act to Pathetic Joe about playing with radioactive fire? The wealthy war hawks better start wondering if they will make it to their ‘survival’ bunkers on time when the fire really starts burning hot. They most deservedly would not.

  24. Omega 13

    November 17, 2022 at 4:30 pm

    It was a misfire by Ukraine. Meh

  25. Walker

    November 17, 2022 at 6:28 pm

    19fortyfive. Why do you require comments to wait for review if you are going to let blatant racists like “friend” make comments like he did above? Making us wait for you to have someone click accept without even reviewing the comments make your system look worse than if you just let our comments go straight up. Your taking responsibility with this makes you responsible.

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