Today there have been reports of Russian missiles landing in Poland resulting in deaths. Both Poland and Hungary have called meetings of their security councils. People have also been quoting promises by President Biden that every inch of NATO territory would be defended.
It is worth remembering first that NATO mutual commitments don’t prerequisite immediate military escalation when there is harm on member state soil. We already have precedent here from the Salisbury attacks
Member states will want to be clear about what actually happened. The predominant view seems to be that this was accidental with stray missiles landing across the border.
However, there are still two concerns there. First, there is the risk that Russia will become more reckless and indiscriminate as her conventional operations fail and may even be happy to see a few stray missiles fall the wrong side of the Ukraine border.
NATO and the EU will therefore have to find ways to make clear that recklessness will also bring a firm response if it costs lives in member countries. They need to find a way to communicate this in a way that acts as deterrent rather than escalation.
The other concern is that more and more accidents may happen without Russian strategic intent. Indeed, it is probable that Russia has long since lost any sense of strategic purpose in Ukraine. This may on the one hand be good news for Ukraine as Russia is more vulnerable. However a wounded beast, lashing out indiscriminately also is a risk. This is also sadly how conflicts escalate.
This is why western powers will need to respond with great care and caution. It is also another reminder of the ongoing fragility in the region and the need for much prayer.