It is a unique event in the Ukraine war: Two Russian missiles apparently landed in a village in NATO country Poland on Tuesday, killing two people. FOCUS online Russia expert Herfried Münkler explains what reactions from the West can now be expected.

Two people died in an explosion in a Polish village near the Ukrainian border. According to the AP news agency, the US secret service confirmed that Russian missiles caused the explosion.

A spokesman for the US Department of Defense in Washington said there was currently no information to confirm Polish media reports of an alleged Russian missile strike. According to his spokesman, Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has convened an emergency meeting of the Polish Security Council.

FOCUS online: Mr. Münkler, the incident in Poland is so explosive because it is an attack on a NATO country. In the defense alliance, there is actually an obligation to provide assistance in such cases (Article 5). Does this actually apply?

Herfried Münkler: That will certainly not happen immediately. There will first be attempts by the West to verify the incident and assess the damage. You will pay close attention to how the Russian side reacts – and then communicate clearly: This must not happen a second time.

So you don’t believe in an immediate military response from NATO?

Münkler: With the equipment that the Russians have been shooting with for a long time, there was actually a lot of misalignment to be expected. And it certainly won’t be the case that the West will simply send a missile to Russia as a form of retaliation, so to speak. In my opinion, people will rather try to use the political incident from this incident, to consume it politically.

What kind of reaction from the Russians can we now expect?

Münkler: I could imagine that there will be some sort of apology from the Russian side. That seems obvious to me, especially when you consider how much pressure the Russians have already come under in Bali at the G20 summit.

China strictly rejects the risk of a further escalation of the Ukraine war. On the contrary, there is pressure to end the war as quickly as possible. In this mixed situation, strays who are also hitting NATO territory are highly explosive for the Kremlin. From a political point of view, this incident is definitely a catastrophe for Russia. They now stand as notorious escalators.

In view of the events in eastern Poland, are we now at a new level of escalation in this war?

Münkler: I wouldn’t call the impact of the rockets that per se. However, the event can lead to an escalation – but that depends on how Russia reacts and what explanations it will give. There will then be a joint assessment of this by the NATO countries.

However, I firmly believe that there will be clear threats from NATO that nothing stands in the way of an escalation should such an incident happen again.

How likely do you think it is that the impact in Poland was not triggered by a stray, but was caused deliberately?

Münkler: Given the current situation Putin is in, I can hardly imagine that. Military defeat in Cherson, domestic political competition from figures like Prigozhin and Kadyrov, the summit in Bali that turned out to be disastrous for Russia: Putin has his back against the wall.

In principle, however, I cannot rule out this scenario given the state of the Russian army. There could well be forces within it that are striving for an escalation with the West as well. After all, there are lunatics everywhere. To do this, however, one would need to know more precisely how the batteries of the missiles fired were and are being controlled.