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What would the USA do if Russia attacks Poland and what has Biden said about it?

NATO’s Article 5 of is a “sacred obligation” said President Biden vowing to use the full force of American power “defend every inch of NATO territory.”

Article 5 of the NATO alliance is a “sacred obligation”
Thierry MonasseGetty

The possibility of the war in Ukraine spilling over into a NATO member nation got perilously closer again on Tuesday when a reportedly russian-made missile exploded just across the Western Ukrainian border in Poland. Two people were killed in the expolsion and it has prompted the NATO ally to consider activating Article 4 of the NATO Alliance, not to be confused with Article 5. This would allow Poland to bring up this concerning turn of events for discussion at the North Atlantic Council.

Previously in March, a barrage of Russian missiles hit a Ukrainian military base just miles from the border with Poland. This caused concern at the time when the US and NATO allies were rushing aid to the Ukrainians fighting off a massive Russian invasion that threaten Kyiv. Russia had warned the US that military aid shipments to Ukraine would be considered “legitimate targets” for the Russian armed forces.

While the origen of the missile has not been confirmed, it coincided with the biggest wave of missle attacks on Ukraine in over a month. That came shortly after President Volodymyr Zelensky proposed a 10-point peace plan. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg posted on Twitter that he had spoken with Polish President Andrzej Duda and after offer condolences said that it was “important that all facts are established.”

The White House for its part said that Biden “has been briefed on the reports out of Poland and will be speaking with President Andrzej Duda of Poland shortly.” Biden told Vladimir Putin prior to his war of aggression on Ukraine that the US has a “sacred obligation” to meet its Article 5 commitments, which states that an attack on one is an attack on all. But he has reiterated that the US will not get involved in the hostilities inside Ukraine.

US and NATO allies fortify eastern flank of alliance

Prior to Russia invading Ukraine the US and other NATO members began deploying forces to countries on the eastern flank of the alliance. In response to the invasion, for the first time in history NATO deployed its elite response force as part of a collective-defensive mission. The Pentagon has now repositioned thousands of troops stationed abroad to other European countries and strengthened the US presence with around 20,000 additional service members from US bases, bringing the total to more than 100,000 service members across Europe.

The show of force and alliance unity is supposed to deter the Kremlin from targeting countries that are working to resupply Ukraine with weapons in their fight against the Russian invaders. The US has committed around $400 million in additional lethal aid as of November to Ukraine from the new aid package Congress approved.

The advance weapons systems have include anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons that helped the Ukrainian forces slow and then repel the invading army. As well as the extremely effective HIMARs which have turned the tide of the war allowing the defenders to regain large swaths of occupied territory. There is still a concern though that Russia may target supplies intended for Ukraine inside NATO countries.

NATO's Eastern Flank Defence and Deterrence 
Source: Nato
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NATO's Eastern Flank Defence and Deterrence Source: NatoNATO

“The United States will defend every inch of NATO territory”

President Biden has reiterated the US’s commitment to the alliance to NATO members and Putin. “There is no doubt —no doubt that the United States and every NATO ally will meet our Article 5 commitments,” Biden said. "As I made crystal clear, the United States will defend every inch of NATO territory with the full force of American power." This position has been repeated by other high-ranking members of the Biden administration as they meet with allies.

After the missile strike on a Ukrainian military training facility just across the border from Poland where Americans had been stationed prior to the invasion, worries that Russian munitions could cross into a NATO member state were ratcheted up. Department of Defense press secretary John Kirby told Martha Raddatz at the time on ABC “This Week” that the US and NATO has a “deconfliction system” established with Russia.

The US troops who were training the Ukrainian forces had been withdrawn prior to the Russian invasion to avoid them coming under fire and thus becoming co-combatants and war with Russia. That is currently why the US is holding off on using any direct military force, including a no-fly zone over Ukraine. “There is very little that you can see that would make sense for this war to be escalated between two nuclear powers” Kirby said in March.

But he also said that the US is committed to responding if Russian forces attack a NATO member state. “We take our Article 5 commitment very seriously,” Kirby said. “An armed attack against one is considered an armed attack against all,” adding “we continue to flow and to move and to reposition forces and capabilities along NATO’s eastern flank to make sure that we can defend every inch of NATO territory if we need to.”