Top Nato officials used an emergency hotline to Russia to defuse a potentially explosive situation following the missile strike on Poland, the head of the alliance has revealed.
Jens Stoltenberg said there had been communication between Nato and Moscow “in the last 24 hours” but declined to divulge what had been said.
It is clear that a phone call was made immediately after a missile struck the village of Przewodow killing two civilians which could have led to the military alliance invoking Article 5, with the consequence of a direct response on Russia.
But Mr Stoltenberg disclosed that it had become apparent that the missiles were from the Ukraine defence systems fired at the massive wave of 100 Russian cruise missiles that struck the country on Tuesday night.
“We have no indication that this incident was a result of a deliberate attack on Nato territory,” he told the press conference on Wednesday. “And we have no indications that Russia is planning offensive military actions against Nato allies. But I think this demonstrates the dangers connected to the ongoing war in Ukraine.”
He was then asked if there had been any communication between Nato and Moscow following the incident on Polish territory.
“We're able to communicate with Russia in different ways, but I cannot as yet go into the details of exactly what kind of contact there has been in the last 24 hours,” he replied.
Last week it was reported that CIA Director William Burns had secretly met his Russian counterpart in Turkey, potentially to ensure there were no misjudgements or miscalculations, and to clarify direct lines of communication between Washington and Moscow.
US President Joe Biden confirmed on Wednesday that the missile was unlikely to have been fired from Russia due to its trajectory.
“I don’t want to say that until we completely investigation but it is unlikely in the lines of its trajectory that it was fired from Russia,” he said, adding: “But we will see.”
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, also speaking at the G20 conference in Indonesia, described the latest assault as “the cruel and unrelenting reality of Putin's war” and that the UK “stands steadfastly” behind Poland.
He added that that as long as the war continued “it poses a threat to our security and that of our allies”.
In response to any further escalation by Russia, Nato's Supreme Allied Commander Europe, known as SACEUR, had the authority to increase its forces on the eastern flank, Mr Stoltenberg confirmed.
“SACEUR has all authorities to move in additional forces including air and naval forces to augment our air defences quickly if needed,” he said at the group's Brussels headquarters.
He added that following the Nato leaders’ conference in Madrid there were “earmarked forces” and pre-positioned equipment ready to confront Russian aggression.
“We can quickly scale up the battle groups we have in the eastern part of the alliance,” he said.
He also indicated that there were further investigations continuing into whether a Russian missile had been targeted close to the Polish border.
The National has been told by Polish security sources that there was a possibility Russian mission planners incorrectly entered the wrong co-ordinates for a cruise missile with the target just inside Poland.
“Our preliminary analysis suggests that the incident was likely caused by a Ukrainian air defence missile fired in defence,” Mr Stoltenberg stated. “But let me be clear this is not Ukraine's fault. Russia bears ultimate responsibility as it continues its illegal war against Ukraine.”
He added that Nato needed to “stay vigilant, calm and closely co-ordinated”.
“We will continue to consult and monitor the situation very closely,” he added. “Nato stands united and we will always do what is necessary to protect and defend all allies.”