If history is any guide, what happens next in Poland must be viewed with a lot of concern.
Within hours of a missile hitting a village in Poland and killing two people near its border with Ukraine, US President Joe Biden was telling the world that it was “unlikely” for Russia to be behind the attack.
Biden’s administration has steadfastly backed Ukraine in its war with Moscow, helping arm the Ukrainian military with powerful rockets and channelling millions of dollars in aid.
The fact that the US president himself was quick to calm the nerves says a lot about the history of the region, which has seen the ravages of two World Wars.
Poland is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), the powerful US-led security alliance which mandates a joint response if one of its members is attacked.
The missile struck at a place near the village of Przewodow, close to the Ukrainian border.
The Polish foreign ministry described the missile as “Russian-made” but in the ongoing conflict Ukraine has used its stockpile of Soviet-era ammunition and weapons, including the surface-to-air S-300 missiles.
World leaders meeting in Bali, Indonesia, for the G20 summit, huddled together in an emergency meeting to discuss the incident. And it’s no wonder why they should be concerned.
After all, World War II broke out after a relatively minor incident in a Polish village escalated into a global conflict that dragged the US, Germany, Russia, UK, France and Japan – among several other countries – into a quagmire of death and destruction.
The false-flag operation
World War II, in which more than 70 million people were killed, started with an incident centred around Poland.
By the late 1930s, Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler had gradually raised the rhetoric against Poland, demanding that certain territories be handed over to Berlin.
A contentious issue was the Free City of Danzig located on the Baltic Sea that was under the supervision of the League of the Nations since Germany lost its control in the 1914-1918 World War I.
After months of propaganda on German radio and newspapers, which accused Poland of acting aggressively, Hitler gave the go-ahead for a false-flag operation to shift German public opinion in favour of a war.
“If there’s the slightest provocation, I shall shatter Poland without warning into so many pieces that there will be nothing left to pick up,” Hitler had told the League of Nations High Commissioner in a meeting days before the attack.
On the evening of August 31, 1939, a team of Germany’s SS special forces, wearing civilian clothes and pretending to be Polish rebels, attacked a radio station in the German city of Gleiwitz (now part of Poland and known as Gliwice).
“Attention! This is Gliwice. The broadcasting station is in Polish hands,” the German soldiers announced mimicking Polish rebels.
To make it look like a Polish attack, the SS soldiers left the body of a German citizen of Polish nationality, Franciszek Honiok, at the entrance of the radio station. Honiok, a farmer, was arrested a day before the raid, drugged and shot in the head.
The next day, on September 1, Hitler cited the attack on Gleiwitz along with other alleged Polish aggravations to justify attacks on Poland. World War II had started.
Not the first time
The missile attack on Poland isn’t the only incident in the Ukraine war where mystery shrouds the circumstances.
On September 26, powerful explosions ripped through the Nord Stream pipelines, which transport Russian gas to Germany through the Baltic Sea.
The explosions were major international news, especially as targeting undersea pipelines require a sophisticated and well coordinated operation.
Sweden and Denmark, which share the territorial waters from where the pipelines passed, have concluded their investigations. Yet, both the countries have been tightlipped about their findings.
Stockholm is using national security concerns to keep its investigation under the wraps.
On the other hand, Russia, which is the majority owner of Nord Stream, has openly blamed the United Kingdom for the attack on the pipelines.
For a jittery world, wary of the Ukraine conflict spiralling into a global cesspool of armed conflict, the Poland missile hit touched a raw nerve for obvious reasons.
For, as they say, those who forget history are often condemned to repeat it.