Poland fears Russia will test Nato resolve with 'accidental' missile strike

Senior foreign ministry official expresses concerns over Putin aggression and questions German resolve

Polish and US troops take part in a joint tactical training mission in Nowa Deba, Poland. Getty Images
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Poland fears Russia will test Nato’s resolve by “accidentally” firing a missile into its territory, a senior foreign affairs official has said.

Lukasz Jasina, chief adviser to Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau, said there were concerns that Moscow would attempt to escalate the war into Nato territory after its operation in Ukraine stalled.

He said Poland had been surprised by the Russian army's setbacks but it had been a "positive shock". He said the war ended “30 years of stability” for Poland post-Cold War, which was “the longest stable period in Polish history since the 17th century”.

“We are afraid that Vladimir Putin will try to test Nato,” Mr Jasina said in an interview with The National in Warsaw, in which he also questioned Germany's commitment to helping Poland and called for the US to be more proactive in sending military aid.

“There's always the potential of a Russian ‘mistake’, that they will explode one of their missiles in Chelm or Zamosc, cities very close to the Ukrainian border. This [Russian] empire is killing people so of course Polish people are right to fear this.”

US President Joe Biden and other leaders have vowed that if Russia steps “one inch” on to Nato territory there will be retaliation under the Article Five agreement of collective defence among the 30-member alliance.

But Poland is apprehensive about the likelihood of Nato coming to its defence, with memories still lingering of the country’s betrayal by western powers shortly after the Second World War when it was surrendered to Stalin's Soviet Union.

“If there was a missile attack on Poland that's of course a red line and we will use Article Five of the Washington Treaty,” said Mr Jasina, who is also a historian.

However, he did not feel the West “will be very helpful” because Eastern Europe had been “betrayed so many times”.

Mr Jasina criticised Germany for failing to take a tougher stance against President Vladimir Putin’s regime and its continued reliance on Russian oil and gas supplies, as it had not diversified its energy requirements.

“This behaviour of our western neighbours, especially Germany, is so fearful, they always say to make some compromise with Russia,” said Mr Jasina, the ministry’s chief spokesman. “Even now, Chancellor [Olaf} Scholtz I would say is not the most vocal critic of Putin."

“We want to eliminate Russian oil,” he said. “But we need good sources and the Middle East would be a very good place for such payments.”

With Poland on the front line against Russian aggression and much of the population fearful that they will be targeted after Ukraine, Warsaw wants Nato to provide more security.

Mr Jasina, 42, candidly put across the requirement. “More equipment, more soldiers, permanent bases, especially with our American friends and more troops. Good missile systems and good rocket missile defence. More tanks, more planes.”

He called for the US to be decisive in providing more advanced weaponry to Kyiv, hinting that Washington could resurrect the deal that would lead to Poland supplying Ukraine with desperately needed aircraft.

Last month, a deal to send about 30 of its MiG-29 multirole combat aircraft to replace 10 fighter jets thought to have been lost by Ukraine fell through due to Washington’s reluctance to escalate the conflict by providing offensive weaponry. But with growing evidence of Russian atrocities and countries such as Czech Republic providing T-72 tanks, that attitude might change.

Poland would possibly supply the warplanes if the US agrees to backfill its air force with fighters such as F16s.

“Poland cannot be defenceless” but “maybe there will be another different decision from Nato” on the MiGs, Mr Jasina said, with Warsaw in regular contact with Washington.

“The war has already escalated. And Mr Putin will escalate the war no matter what we did,” he said.

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Updated: April 13, 2022, 11:59 AM