The first media pieces on this event had headlines that were all variants of "Russian Missile Strikes Poland", and cited an unnamed US "official" as the source. No details. Subsequent stories emphasized that since Poland was a member of NATO, this would be an attack on a NATO member that could trigger a NATO military response. This is likely what will stick in the reader's memory. When corrections and details are released in a trickle, they don't have the impact to override that first impression.
As of the completion of this blog, Reuters has reported "^Poland blast may not be due to missile fired from Russia, Biden says^" (November 15, 20229:29 PM PST), and the US Government has not yet walked it back.
UPDATE of [email protected]:09pm PDT: The media narrative pivoted from "Russian missile" to "Russian-made missile". Probably false. Ukraine continued its manufacturing of missiles -- and other weapons -- from the Soviet-era. Ukrainian-made missiles -- evidenced by serial numbers and other markings -- are being used in this war.
As details were added, there were conspicuous absences. The reporting next included that this incident occurred during another in a series of large-scale Russian missile attacks on Ukraine's electrical grid and some other pieces of its energy infrastructure. According to ^BBC reporting (@00:39)^, "Ukraine's Public Broadcaster reported that the strikes had targeted Kyiv (Kiev) and the wider region, Kharkiv, Poltava, Mykolaiv, Dnipro and several other towns and cities nationwide."
Whoa!! The named cities are all far to the east of the Polish border. A quick check with Google Maps shows that Kyiv (Kiev) is the closest, at almost 300 miles. But what is missing from the list is the city of Lviv, which is only 40 miles from the Polish border. Lviv is a major waypoint between Poland and Ukraine for weapons, ammunition, supplies, foreign fighters and Ukrainian troops returning from training. Consequently has been a frequent target of Russian missile attacks since the beginning of the war. So, what does this omission imply??
A bit more before I provide a map summarizing this.
It then leaked out in various major news outlets that the missile had landed in the small farming community of Przewodow, about 40 miles north of Lviv. Then it was a farm near there. Then a photo showing that it hit a tractor pulling a large cart, killing two people. With photos from the scene of the remnants of the missile, multiple independent experts spotted features that identified it as coming from an ^S-300^ air defense system. The S-300 was developed by the Soviets in 1978 and has upgraded versions that are still in widespread use. The photos also showed that the explosion was small, consistent with it being an air defense missile.
Note: On the web and social media, there are multiple reputable sites that take information from official statements, from sites that appear to be strongly associated with each side, and from multiple independent analysts, including former US military intelligence officers. They are far more reliable and informative than the corporate media.
Typically multiple air-defense missiles are launched against each incoming missile in order to raise the probability of a successful interception. But some of these missiles fail to self-destruct before returning to the surface.
Trying to save the narrative that it was a Russian missile, various media outlets carried the claim that there had been instances of S-300 missiles being converted to attack surface targets, which was true to that extent. Unasked was whether the Russians could have an S-300 launcher within range. Wikipedia is largely reliable for specifications of military systems. Let's quickly consult it. The ^results^ are that the range of the S-300 missile variants top out at 250 miles, with most being under 50 and 100 miles. If you don't already have it bookmarked, search will quickly find multiple reputable maps showing the area controlled by the Russians. I already knew this, so I skipped to Google Maps to measure the distance such a missile would have had to travel. It was over 500 miles. No way this could have happened.
As promised: ^A map showing the above locations and distances^ (^http://bit.ly/3WYu1BY^).
OK, I realize that the corporate media has given up on fact-checking the narrative that it is pushing, but claims that are refuted by the top results of a Google search are insults to the mildly curious reader.
So what are the interesting questions about how this minor incident was pushed on the public? I don't see a good argument that the highly regarded Polish military intelligence didn't know almost immediately that this wasn't a Russian missile, much less a Russian attack on Poland. So why did Poland immediately make this an issue for NATO? Poland has been pushing for NATO intervention in Ukraine, but while this incident was inadequate for that purpose, it could be greasing the skids.
Another potential motive comes from when the Soviets (Stalin) redrew the borders of eastern Europe after WW2. A large area that had historically been Polish was transferred to Ukraine, with Poland getting a sizeable chunk of pre-war Germany. Romania also lost significant territory to Ukraine and Hungary lost some. Since spring, unattributed maps have been circulating showing the partition of Ukraine after the war. They all assume substantial returns of those territories. Poland has rejected their being interested in the readjustment. Belarus has stated that it will resist having a NATO country -- Poland -- on its southern border.
A subtext to this incident is that Russia is desperate because it is losing the war. For example, the media claims that the Ukrainian offensive in the Kherson Oblast (administrative region) drove the Russians back across the Dnipro (Dnieper) River. The Russian advance into this area early in the war was regarded as ill-advised because it stretched Russian and allied forces too thin. The Ukrainians did not win any significant battles in this offense: The Russians withdrew and the Ukrainians entered the evacuated areas days later. The Russians withdrew because their supply lines had been compromised: There are few bridges across the Dnipro in this area, and the US-supplied missiles were accurate enough to hit bridges, incrementally destroying them. And Ukrainian missile strikes had breached the dam that created a huge reservoir. If that dam suffered a serious failure, the flow would wipe out all the bridges -- permanent and temporary -- and flood large portions of the west bank of the river, which the Russians had decided they needed to evacuate. ^Map^ (^http://bit.ly/3O9Oq2V^).
On the battlefield during the "offensive", the Ukrainians suffered casualties at 5-8 times what the Russians did (according to solidly pro-Ukrainian media such as the New York Times and the Washington Post). Military analysts have been astonished by Ukraine's profligate expenditures of troops to gain small amounts of territory or to delay withdrawing long after the battle had been lost. In contrast, the Russian approach has been to give up land to save the lives of their troops.
An ^abbreviated index by topic and chronologically^ is available.