Missiles in Poland 11/16/22

Political Thoughts with Richard Bleil

Russian missiles have fallen on Poland.  Well, at least one, anyway, and it seems to have been an errant missile at that.  The missile did kill two people when it struck a corn silo.  So, was it an intentional attack?  Seems an expensive attack to kill two civilians and take out a grain silo. 

And yet we cannot minimize this.  Some people will become livid and look for the military response against Russian targets.  Some people will dismiss the incident altogether with a shrug.  Perhaps, just perhaps, the proper response is somewhere in between.

First, let’s look at the possibility that it was, indeed, intentional.  Only Putin knows for sure if this was on his orders or not.  The strike seems accidental.  It was very near the Ukrainian-Poland border as Russia continues striking deep into the Ukraine in their unjust war.  The Ukraine, as I understand it, continues to make great strides in taking back the ground lost in the first half of the invasion, something that Russia takes as a great embarrassment as they assumed the war would be a victory for them in just a few weeks.  The recent missile strikes seem to be focusing on the Ukrainian infrastructure to deny the citizens basic utilities such as electricity and water rather than attacks on military targets.  This betrays the desperation of the Russian forces as they fail to accomplish their military goals while suffering tremendous losses. 

Throughout the war, one overriding fear is expansion of the conflict beyond the Ukraine.  Poland has been a concern of the international society from the start.  Unlike the Ukraine, Poland is and has been a member of NATO, so if Russia (or any other nation) attack Poland, all NATO nations are actually obligated to respond to defend it.  This could be a mixed blessing for Poland, as it should dissuade Russia from pressing its invasion into Poland, but on the other hand, it’s also possible that Russia could view Poland as a testing ground for the resolve of NATO.  Just how serious is the NATO alliance about defending other member nations? 

A missile strike on a grain silo with very few injuries could be an accident.  In the use of any weapons, there is always the possibility of error, and errant missile striking a farm over the border from a nearby target, or a bomber accidentally flying over a boarder, or a warship accidentally finding itself in sovereign waters.  But it’s also a great test to see if Poland or other NATO nations are serious about their defense.  If there is no response at all, maybe the next “accidental” attack will be deeper into Poland, or on a Polish power station or water station, or “accidentally” hitting Polish troops.  I’m not suggesting that this was an intentional attack, but it is an interesting way to test international resolve against Russian aggression.

If Poland and NATO decide that a response is required, what should that response be?  Should the NATO nations fire a multi-million-dollar cruise missile at a Russian farm?  Seems a little overkill, doesn’t it?  On the other hand, an attack on Russian forces or the military is hardly correctly scaled.  An attack killing Russian soldiers or destroying hundreds of thousands of dollars of military equipment seems excessive for a grain silo. 

Sanctions would probably be a good response, except that Russia has already been sanctioned so tightly that I cannot imagine a new sanction target.  Even if we did, with all of the other sanctions already in place, the sanction would be lost in the noise.  Perhaps an international tribunal to determine culpability of Russia in the attack, but Russia is already under investigation for war crimes in the Ukraine.  Like sanctions, it would again be lost in the background noise.  Perhaps Russia should be fined to compensate for the loss of life and property, but the economy of Russia is struggling so much right now that they would likely ignore any such fines. 

So, what should the response be?  I’m not here to discuss one.  Rather, I want to point out the quagmire in which we find ourselves today because of the invasion of the Ukraine.  Anybody who thinks a simple solution to this attack (accidental or not) is sufficient is probably not really thinking through the deeper implications.  Fortunately, President Biden is a well-seasoned politician.  I expect that his response will be slow, well considered, and appropriately scaled to be sure that Russia understands that this is not acceptable while, hopefully, keeping us out of the war.  If he were smart, Putin would apologize and issue a statement of compensation, but his past actions seem to suggest that he is too prideful to respond appropriately.  The next week or two will be interesting to watch.

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