A rocket killed two people in Poland near the Ukrainian border. Everything currently indicates that it was at least not deliberate shelling by Russia. Nevertheless, Putin’s rocket terror in Ukraine is the trigger. What’s next?

Gerhard Mangott is Professor of International Relations at the University of Innsbruck and a proven expert on Russia. In an interview with FOCUS online, he explains why Vladimir Putin is afraid of a direct military confrontation with NATO, but will continue his war crimes against Ukraine and what the situation is at the moment.

FOCUS online: Is the escalation now banned?

Gerhard Mangott: Not quite yet. There is a crisis meeting of the NATO ambassadors this morning. But if one can rely on the statements of US President Biden, it should have been an interceptor missile. This tells us that it may also have been Ukrainian rocket fire in the form of an interceptor missile against incoming Russian cruise missiles, which were then diverted to Polish territory.

However, at this point in time, it cannot be entirely ruled out that it could also have been S-300 missiles that Russia fired from Ukrainian territory. However, the signs indicate that it was the remains of a Ukrainian interceptor missile.

Is Putin off the hook with that?

Mangott: There were statements very early yesterday that Russia had deliberately attacked Poland with the aim of escalating the conflict. It was unbelievable from the start. I firmly believe that Putin knows he cannot attack a NATO country.


Mangott: The Russian troops have already been disenchanted in Ukraine and would have absolutely no chance against NATO forces. I ruled out an escalation brought about by Russia from the start, but there was a possibility that it could have been a Russian stray.

But it doesn’t look like it at the moment. This also removes the accusation that Russia wanted to escalate. Still, there are those who say the two-person blast would never have happened if Russia hadn’t launched rocket terror into Ukraine on Tuesday. In that case, a Ukrainian interceptor missile would not have had to go up.

Will Russia stop rocket terror now?

Mangott: I don’t think so. Even if it were a Russian missile that strayed into Poland, it will not affect Russia’s strategy to destroy the Ukrainian population’s winter heat, water and electricity supplies. These attacks will continue. These are clearly war crimes. The incident will not change that.

The Ukrainian Defense Minister calls for the establishment of a no-fly zone after the rocket hit.

Mangott: The chances are still zero. Most NATO countries have made it clear that a no-fly zone would mean that NATO planes would have to shoot down Russian planes flying in Ukrainian airspace. That would then be a direct military confrontation between NATO and Russia and thus trigger an uncontrollable escalation of the hostilities.

I am sure that such a no-flight zone will not come, although there are supporters of one among the Baltic States, Romania and Poland.

Will NATO now further increase its troop presence on the external borders?

Mangott: The incident yesterday afternoon itself will have little impact on that. But since the beginning of the war we have been observing a systematic increase in troops on NATO’s eastern flank, which will continue.

What was going on in the Kremlin when the rocket hit Poland became public?

Mangott: I think that definitely caused a certain amount of nervousness, because the Russian side couldn’t rule out that it was a Russian missile that detonated in Poland. One knew, of course, that this would have been the shelling of a NATO country.

On the other hand, the rule of international law applies that an unintentional attack on another country does not automatically trigger the right to self-defense. The Russian side then very quickly denied that it was a question of Russian shelling. It was rumored on the Telegram channels and among Russian military bloggers that the incident could have been staged by Poland and Ukraine in order to provoke NATO intervention in Ukraine’s interests. That’s absurd.

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