How Kyiv’s errant missile nearly caused World War III

Ukraine ‘accidentally’ fired a missile at Poland. Picture: Supplied

Ukraine ‘accidentally’ fired a missile at Poland. Picture: Supplied

Published Nov 20, 2022


UKRAINE'S President Volodymyr Zelensky almost achieved his wish this week to drag the reluctant Nato on to the battlefield with Russia, writes Abbey Makoe …

A Ukrainian-operated, Russian-made S-300 air defence system missed its target and landed in nearby Poland – a Nato member – sadly killing two people.

The incident caused an unprecedented brief moment of panic since the outbreak of the war on February 24. Never has tension been so thick in the air that it could be cut with a knife.

Although Ukraine is only “an ally” of Nato – the biggest war alliance in human history – and not (yet) a member of it, the military organisation has been involved in the conflict primarily as Ukraine’s backers and bankrollers.

President Zelensky was quick to sound the alarm following the unexpected blast on Polish soil, bluntly accusing Russia of responsibility.

Around the world, tensions rose quite sharply. Western media outlets immediately reported as “fact” that Russia had “escalated” the war by firing into Nato territory.

As Polish authorities called an emergency security meeting, speculation rose that Poland was likely to invoke Article 4 of Nato, which provides for extensive consultation among member states to determine the appropriate response where one of them is attacked. The move would have been swiftly followed by Poland triggering Article 5, which says “an attack on one is an attack on all”.

Russophobia in the Western media is well-documented. Sometimes it runs much deeper than it does in Western governments. As Polish president Andrzej Duda kept his initial calm while his government expeditiously investigated the cause of the blast that hit a grain factory, the international community was on tenterhooks, wondering if World War III was imminent. It would be a nuclear war, guaranteed to decimate the world, with millions of fatalities and a gross reconfiguration of global geography as we know it.

But, thankfully, President Duda soon announced his findings on the blast: It “was probably an accident” caused by Ukraine’s air defences, he ruled unwaveringly. The US-led Nato concurred, saving the Global North some blushes. A confrontation between Russia and Nato is what all parties – except Ukraine – have discouraged and thus far avoided. A day later, the US and Nato insisted the blast on Polish soil was a Ukraine-caused “accident”. But President Zelensky was adamant Russia bore responsibility for the missile attack, and therefore called on Nato to put boots on the ground alongside the Ukrainian forces squaring off against Russia.

It is a dangerous game President Zelensky is playing. There is a growing desire in geopolitics for the war to end. Recently, the Biden administration privately implored President Zelensky to tone down his hostile rhetoric against Moscow and publicly show hints of a willingness to negotiate an end to the war.

Across Europe, the hardships caused by the war and sanctions against Russia have resulted in an astronomical rise in gas and oil prices. The cost of living is unbearable, inflation is uncontrollable, and fears of social upheavals are real if the war carries on much longer.

The war has left untold misery in its wake. Russia, in retaliation for Western sanctions, has reduced its gas supply to Europe just as winter dawns, triggering panic and anxiety not seen in recent memory.

For their part, the Kremlin has heaped praise on Washington for their “measured response” and cool heads in the wake of Ukraine’s unsubstantiated claims that Russia had fired missiles into Nato territory.

The incident revealed just how awry things can go amid conflict. So far, Russia has been extra-careful not to do anything that would trigger Nato’s involvement in the war, which Moscow regards as its “special military operation”. But Ukraine’s expressed intent is to broaden the conflict by bringing Nato on to the battleground; hence the lone insistence by President Zelensky that Russia had deliberately fired at Poland. It smacks of desperation on the part of Kyiv.

Thus far, the US-led Nato has been incredibly generous to Ukraine in terms of material support. Apart from the money the West is throwing at Ukraine to ensure Kyiv’s survival, an enormous quantity of arms and ammunition reach Ukraine through Poland from Europe and America to fight against Russia. But some military analysts say Russia’s restraint from bombing all of Ukraine to smithereens is thanks to the Kremlin’s decision not to engage in a full-blown war. The selected military targets in what now looks like a war of attrition have centred on power infrastructure and military apparatus wherever it can be located across Ukraine.

Russia has argued that where civilians have been killed, it has been because Ukrainian fighters operate out of residential areas, thus endangering the lives of innocent civilians. Nato’s secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, has excused Ukraine’s errant missile blast in Poland as an honest mistake. He spun the tricky development by blaming it all on Russia’s “illegal war against Ukraine”. Had it not been for Russia attacking Ukraine, Kyiv would never have had cause to fire an erroneous air defence missile into Poland in the first place, Stoltenberg argued.

Western warmongers were equally loud in their calls for Nato to immediately supply Ukraine with “modern” air defence systems that would not go as awry as the Russian S-300 that landed in Poland did.

They yearn for escalation, not de-escalation. They aspire for no peace until Russia is gang-attacked by Nato and defeated. They see no value in using this week’s unfortunate “accident” to avoid a possible disaster from escalating.

Russia’s veteran foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, who this week addressed the G20 meeting in Bali, Indonesia, indicated Moscow’s willingness to sit around the table with Ukraine’s backers – led by the US – in an attempt to thrash out an armistice. But President Zelensky expressed little interest, tabling before the G20 members a 10-point plan as a precondition for talks with Russia. Moscow regards the 10-points as a non-starter, an unhelpful departure point in negotiations if Ukraine truly wants a negotiated end to the war.

Lavrov has previously said the West is driven by Russophobia, a claim he levelled at President Zelensky’s address to the G20 when he addressed members as “G19” – minus Russia.

The extent of hostility amid the unending conflict continues to claim lives on all sides. The world is affected by rising food insecurity. The cost of living crisis affects all nations, albeit differently. However, poorer nations such as those in Africa are bearing the brunt of a war they neither caused nor partake in. Is the unfairness of this an indication of the ugly side of the unipolar world order?

The UN should increase its efforts to broker peace before another “accident” escalates the conflict.

This week showed us just how real the possibility is – alive and kicking.

Warmongers need not be granted their wish. It is not their brethren on the battlefield who return home in body bags. It is other people’s family members, their loved ones. Divine intervention helped drag the world from the precipice this week. The best news to emanate from the conflict was short and sweet: “The incident was an accident.” It is funny how people with no possibility of any direct loss in a conflict can wish it to carry on indefinitely. Nay, they pour fuel on the war fire.

It is the ugly side of human behaviour: inward-looking, self-centred, self-serving, and short-sighted. They lack a vision for the greater good of society. Their unflinching outlook on life is “us and them”. They have not an iota of knowledge of the sweet value of “we in us”, or “us in them”. The role of the Western media in the Ukraine conflict leaves much to be desired. Their penchant for propaganda overshadows their feeble attempt at journalism.

Their propensity to lecture the world about Western civilisation and frown upon any “civilisation” that is different from theirs leaves a bitter taste. The international community is comprised of diverse societies whose diversity enhances humanity. Instead of throwing Russian-made weapons into Nato territory to spark an escalation of the war that should end, all efforts deserve to be put into peace endeavours so that Ukrainians and Russians can live together side by side in peace again. To fuel a war in which one can never suffer any loss of life is downright immoral and grossly uncouth.