Missile miscue: Russia, NATO faceoff averted - GulfToday

Missile miscue: Russia, NATO faceoff averted


Forensic experts investigate the site of a missile strike in Przewodow, Poland. Agence France-Presse

A Russia-made missile that hit a Polish village and killed two persons led to the momentary conclusion that Russia had escalated the war and extended it to Poland, a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), the western military alliance of the old Cold War era. And there was immediate apprehension that it would mean NATO would have to go to the aid of its member, Poland, and take action against Russia. But the man who acted with alacrity was United States President Joe Biden, who conferred with his aides and declared that perhaps the missile was not fired from Russia. And it turned out that this was indeed the case, something that Poland, Ukraine and NATO secretary general Stoltenberg realised soon enough. It was a Russia-made missile fired by Ukraine which went astray. Ukraine, as a former republic of the Soviet Union, still has in its arsenal made in Russia missiles, which Ukraine is using in its war against Russia.

Ever since its disastrous retreat from Kherson, the city in the Ukrainian east, Russia has been raining missiles on Ukrainian cities, most of them targeting energy infrastructure, and many of the cities had been plunged into darkness. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that 40 per cent of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure has been destroyed by Russian attacks, and 10 million Ukrainians were in darkness, though power connection was restored for eight million by repairmen. He was referring to the intensification of Russian missile attacks as an “escalation of war”.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz had squarely held Russia responsible for the episode of the mistaken missile attack. He said, “This wouldn’t have happened without the Russian war against Ukraine, without the missiles that are now being fired at Ukrainian infrastructure, intensively and on a large scale.” British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak remarked, “This is the cruel and unrelenting reality of Putin’s war.” Russia had reacted to the initial response of Poland and NATO on the misfired missile, praising American President Biden’s restrained response, and criticising the response of Poland and NATO. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, “We have witnessed another hysterical, frenzied, Russo-phobic reaction that was not based on real data.”

While the Russia-Ukraine war continues unabated, the incident of the misfired missile throws light on misinformation based on mistaken information. In this instance, Poland after its initial response updated its information and corrected its earlier assumption, Ukraine was forthright in admitting that it was a missile fired from its side, and NATO backed off. President Biden played his part in being the first to throw in a word of caution. Using misinformation to damn the opponent is the norm in times of war, but this time round every one played it right, and averted what could have been a catastrophe of a bigger war in Europe because of NATO’s commitment to its members and allies.

It cannot be sufficiently overemphasised that free flow of correct information is of utmost importance in maintaining peace and averting catastrophes. It should be incumbent on all governments that they stick to facts and be fair in its dissemination. If the initial information which was true – it was indeed a Russian-made missile – was not amplified by further information it would have been disastrous. More importantly, those in power on all sides in a conflict situation are duty-bound to stick to facts. It is also the case that despite European Union (EU) countries’ unrelenting opposition to Russia’s war in Ukraine and NATO only too ready to put up a stout defence against Russia, no one wants a big war in Europe. Americans have understood the need to contain the war and nudge the Ukrainians to negotiate peace with Russia.

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