According to Poland’s President Duda, Tuesday’s rocket strike was probably not a targeted attack. Former German Air Force General Harald Kujat also believes in this. He analyzed the images from the site of the impact.
FOCUS online: Mr. Kujat, the Polish President has stated that the rocket hits were apparently an “unfortunate accident”. It is very likely that the missile, which was made in Russia, was used by the Ukrainian air defenses. When you were active you were a 4-star general in the German Air Force. How do you assess this incident?
Harald Kujat: The US can determine fairly accurately whether it is a missile fired by Putin’s troops. From a strategic and security policy perspective, I also consider this to be extremely unlikely.
First, because Russian forces are currently pursuing a very different strategic objective and cannot afford an attack that would provoke Russia into war with NATO. A war extended to NATO is incompatible with Russia’s aims in this war. For this reason, it must be prevented under all circumstances that such events lead to an escalation of the Ukraine war.
And secondly, if Putin actually wanted to attack NATO, he would not choose a small Polish village that is militarily irrelevant, but rather important NATO military targets. Targets such as the US air force base in Ramstein in Rhineland-Palatinate or the overseas port in Bremerhaven, which the US uses for reinforcements, i.e. for transporting troops and weapons to Europe.
What can you say about the technical details of the rocket impact, as far as that is at all possible from a distance?
Kujat: I looked at the pictures of the rocket parts, which were apparently taken at the impact site in Poland and are circulating in public media and social networks. I would be very careful afterwards to claim that the rocket detonated on the ground.
It may be an S-300 surface-to-air missile, the older version of a Russian-made anti-aircraft missile still in use by the Ukrainian armed forces. I think it is obvious that the rocket exploded in the air, i.e. it was used to defend against Russian air attacks, and its debris fell over the Polish village.
Will it even be possible to determine after the fact who fired the missile at which target?
Kujat: Yes, President Biden has already stated that given the trajectory, it is unlikely that the missile was launched in Russia. This is an important criterion that the US can verify.
The NATO countries come together for a first crisis meeting. You yourself were chairman of the NATO military committee from 2002 to 2005. Based on the current state of knowledge, how high do you estimate the escalation potential of the incident?
Kujat: First of all, NATO member Poland apparently demanded consultations with its allies under Article 4 of the NATO treaty. This means that the NATO Council will arrange for a full investigation into what has happened.
The duty of assistance, i.e. the military support of Poland by the NATO allies against an aggressor, is activated by invoking Article 5 of the NATO treaty. All member states have to agree to this, the principle of consensus applies.
This has only happened once in the history of NATO – after the terrorist attacks by Al Qaeda on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Polish and American statements to date suggest that the situation will ease.
Does that mean you believe that this dangerous incident will not lead to any further escalation in the end?
Kujat: That’s exactly what I’m assuming. With the help of the Polish investigation and American findings, NATO will find out the cause of the incident. Fortunately, there will be no further consequences from this.
It would be different if it came out that, contrary to all previous knowledge, it was a Russian attack. As already mentioned, this is very, very unlikely.
In an interview with FOCUS online, shortly after the start of the attack on Ukraine, you warned of the danger of an escalation of the war through precisely such incidents. Has the danger now passed?
Kujat: No, not at all. This incident can be followed by another at any time, really at any time. At the moment I think there is a good chance that this delicate episode will be cleared up. But it is not certain whether this will also succeed in the event of a new incident.
This enormous danger remains as long as the war lasts. And unfortunately history has taught us far too often that this is exactly how, if the circumstances cannot be clarified immediately or if one side is not interested in a clarification, locally limited conflicts can quickly escalate into large-scale wars – with completely incalculable consequences .
The United States, for example, entered the Vietnam War because it was said at the time that the North Vietnamese had attacked an American warship in the Gulf of Tonkin. Only much later did it emerge that this was a hoax.