How Biden’s White House shook after the rocket explosion in Poland


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dated: 2022-11-20 07:19:02 .

Ukrainian officials have publicly accused Russia of killing two people in a rocket explosion in Poland on Tuesday.


President Joe Biden has insisted that the United States will support Ukraine in its nine-month battle to repel a Russian invasion. But he insisted: “We are not going to have World War III in Ukraine.”

When a missile hit a village in Poland near the Ukrainian border on Nov. 15, and there were early claims that it had been launched by Russia, he and his top advisory team were put into crisis mode. The United States and other NATO countries would be forced to militarily defend their fellow NATO member Poland in the event of a Russian attack—a situation that could escalate into a global war that most want to avoid.

Biden was woken up in the middle of the night in Bali, Indonesia by aid workers in the final days of a week-long trip to Asia and told that a missile had killed two people in Poland, a US official said.

The Ukrainian publicly blamed Russia, as did a now-corrected Associated Press report that quoted an unnamed senior U.S. intelligence official.

The reports sent the stock market plummeting and officials into turmoil. Eastern European countries reacted angrily and the temperature rose.

Preliminary information from US sources suggests that Ukraine may have launched the missile to deflect a blizzard of incoming Russian missiles and accidentally landed in Poland.

Seeking confirmation, the White House and other US agencies have said little publicly. “We cannot confirm the reports or details at this time. We will determine what happened and what the appropriate next steps would be,” White House spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said.

Behind the scenes, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman addressed some foreign diplomats, asking them to take a cautious approach and be “measured” as the United States works out how to respond, Western diplomats told Reuters.

Flanked by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, wearing a T-shirt and khakis, Biden called Polish President Andrzej Duda early this morning to express his condolences and support for the investigation, the White House said.

Some Moscow communications failed

As tensions simmered and European allies worried, the US military tried to reach Moscow.

The Pentagon has emphasized the importance of military communications with Moscow during the nine-month war in Ukraine.

For example, the White House held talks with Russia about its nuclear weapons threats against Ukraine, and senior defense officials spoke with their Russian counterparts in October after Moscow accused Ukraine of planning “dirty bombing.”

But attempts by the Pentagon to contact the Russian military on Tuesday failed.

Gene. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said his staff was trying to arrange a phone call with his Russian counterpart, Chief of Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov.

“Some attempts have been made. No success,” Milley told reporters.

“My staff could not connect me to General Gerasimov,” he said.

Sullivan, who had been in contact with Russian officials about the risks associated with invading Ukraine, did not contact them about the incident, the White House official said.

CIA Director Bill Burns, who met with his Russian counterparts at Russia’s SVR intelligence agency in Ankara on Monday, was in Kiev on Tuesday, the day the missiles hit Poland, and traveled to Warsaw the next day.

A US official said that while in Ukraine, Burns “discussed the US warning to the head of the SAR of Russia not to use nuclear weapons and reaffirmed the US commitment to help Ukraine fight Russian aggression”.

The U.S. official said Burns had met with officials in Poland and “discussed the current situation,” but declined to comment when asked if Burns had been in contact with the SVR again since the incident in Poland.

A Kremlin spokesman said he did not know whether Russian channels had been activated with the United States to prevent further escalation, but noted that the American response had been “cautious.”


Biden and his aides called an emergency meeting of G7 leaders in Bali for 9 a.m. Wednesday morning to discuss the incident, where he shared with them what the United States had learned — that the explosion was caused by a Ukrainian air defense missile.

Answering questions from reporters after the meeting, he was a bit more vague, saying it was “unlikely” that the missile was launched by Russia given its trajectory.

Later, NATO’s secretary general said the explosion was likely caused by a misguided Ukrainian air defense missile, but that Russia was ultimately responsible for starting the war.

Poland has conducted its own investigation into what happened. The U.S. military, at Poland’s request, sent American explosives experts to help with the investigation, a U.S. official said.

The official said the investigation is expected to conclude fairly quickly that Ukraine fired the missile. “Now it’s just a matter of forensic work to determine what type of missile it is,” the official said.

Ukraine insisted the explosion contained a “Russian trace” and sent its own experts to the scene to investigate.

The incident underscores how dangerous Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is for Europe and the rest of the world, observers say.

“Poland and the Baltics have been warning for some time that there is a real risk that something will happen that will draw the West into a larger conflict,” said a European diplomat. “What happened on Tuesday clearly shows that this war is not being fought, that it is not being controlled.”

(Other than the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and was published by a syndicated network.)

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