Poland Accuses Russia of Military Action Within NATO

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Russian intelligence agencies are orchestrating sabotage and other violent acts within NATO territories, according to Polish officials.

“We face a foreign state conducting hostile and — in military terms — kinetic action on Polish soil,” stated Polish Interior Minister Tomasz Siemoniak to Bloomberg this week. “There has never been anything like this before.”

This statement reveals increasing tensions between Russia and NATO allies amid the ongoing war in Ukraine. While Western powers have avoided direct military confrontation between NATO and Russian troops, they have supplied weapons to Ukraine’s defenders, creating a range of potential counter-measures by border allies.

“The threat level is quite high. We urge the public to remain vigilant,” Vilmantas Vitkauskas, head of Lithuania’s National Crisis Management Center, said this week. “The threat of arson, as seen in neighboring countries, is also present in Lithuania. We urge businesses and security services to stay vigilant, monitor the situation, and report any suspicious incidents.”

Shopping centers have become particular hotspots recently. On May 9, Lithuanian authorities responded to a fire at an IKEA warehouse near Vilnius. A few days later, a shopping center in Warsaw was destroyed in another fire that Polish authorities consider arson.

“We currently have nine suspects detained and indicted, directly implicated in acts of sabotage on behalf of Russian services,” Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said Monday. “These include Ukrainian, Belarusian, and Polish citizens.”

Poland Accuses Russia of Military Action Within NATO
Police walk by a temporary fence blocking access to a burnt-down shopping center in Warsaw, Poland, on Wednesday, May 15, 2024. A weekend fire at the Marywilska 44 shopping center was a tragedy for many members of Poland’s Vietnamese community. People lost entire livelihoods and say they don’t know how they will make a living. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

These incidents are recent indications that Russia is conducting what Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas describes as a “shadow war” against the alliance.

“I would like to see acknowledgment that these are not isolated events,” she told the Associated Press in an interview published this week. “We should share information about this among ourselves and make it as public as we can.”

The fires would not be the first instances of sabotage within NATO’s borders related to the war in Ukraine. In 2021, Czech authorities accused Russian intelligence of causing a pair of explosions at ammunition depots in 2014, which killed two civilians and led to the expulsion of numerous Russian officials.

This controversy was fresh in allies’ minds at the start of the full-scale war, as NATO members began delivering large quantities of weapons to Ukraine, defying Russian threats. Polish authorities announced last year that they had foiled a plan to conduct “sabotage activities aimed at paralyzing the supply” of Western military aid to Ukraine.

“We’re no longer talking about agents of influence or some online activities,” Siemoniak said this week. “These are individuals who are ready to come and set things on fire.”

Joel Gehrke
Joel Gehrke
Joel Gehrke is a foreign affairs reporter, with an emphasis on U.S. competition with China and Russia, Middle East policy following the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement, and the crisis in Venezuela. Previously, he covered domestic politics for National Review Online.

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