Nov 16, 2022 - Podcasts

A deadly strike in Poland puts NATO on alert

A missile hit Poland on Tuesday near the border with Ukraine, killing two Polish citizens. Russia has denied responsibility but the incident has prompted international alarm and an emergency NATO meeting Wednesday morning in Brussels.

  • Plus, former President Trump announces his 2024 run for office.

Guests: Axios' Dave Lawler and Jonathan Swan.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Alexandra Botti, Lydia McMullen-Laird, Robin Linn, Fonda Mwangi and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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NIALA: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Wednesday, November 16th.

I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Here’s what we’re covering today: former President Trump announces his 2024 run for office. But first, today’s One Big Thing: a deadly strike in Poland puts NATO on alert.

NIALA: A missile hit Poland yesterday near the border with Ukraine and killed two people. This came on the same day that Russia launched a series of missile attacks across Ukraine, one of the broadest since the start of the war. Russia has denied responsibility and says, “no strikes were made against the targets near the Ukrainian Polish state border.” But the incident has prompted international alarm and NATO members are gathering in Brussels this morning for an emergency meeting to discuss the incident.

Axios’ World Editor Dave Lawler is here to help us understand what all of this means. Good morning, Dave.

DAVE: Good morning, Niala.

NIALA: President Biden held his own emergency meeting earlier this morning in Bali with some leaders at the G20 summit to discuss what's going on. President Biden hasn't publicly attributed any blame for the explosion, indeed, he said it was unlikely that this missile came from Russia. What do we know about this missile and whether it could have come from Russia?

DAVE: Right. So of course initially when these reports came out that there had been an explosion on the Polish side of the border. This is exactly one of the scenarios that people were worried about when they worried about the war expanding beyond Ukraine, right? Obviously, Poland is NATO territory, so an attack on Poland is an attack on the alliance. But, we of course didn't know where this missile came from, and we still really don't. Although, as you said, Biden said he thought it was unlikely that it came from Russia's territory, that's based on the trajectory of the missile, he said.

And so then the question is, you know, was it fired from within Ukraine, and if so was it fired by the Russian side, either intentionally or accidentally or in the other scenario that is perhaps possible is that it was a missile defense mishap, I guess from the Ukrainian side. And we don't yet know which of those is even the more likely answer. But Biden has said that the alliance, the NATO alliance will talk, they'll establish the facts, all before they decide what the next steps here are likely to be. So we're in the fact finding phase but wait and see at the moment.

NIALA: So there's something important you said about an attack on one is an attack on all for NATO. Can you remind us about Articles 4 and 5? Because we're gonna be hearing a lot about that?

DAVE: Sure. So, basically everybody was wondering, you know, at least in my Twitter feed after this happened was, does this trigger Article 5, which is the commitment that every member of NATO has made that they will treat an armed attack on one member as an armed attack on them and respond accordingly?

But nothing really triggers Article 5, it's actually a consultation process from within NATO. And that starts with Article 4, which is, you know, a member that says its territory is threatened, can trigger Article 4, can ask the members to get together. If they decide that this rises to the level of Article 5, they can declare that and then they can decide at that point what the best possible response is, we're a long way away from that. And indeed, the Pols have been quite cautious about what they're saying. There's certainly been no talk from Polish officials in public about the idea that this is an Article 5 situation and that NATO countries should be prepared for a military response to this. We're a long way away from that scenario.

NIALA: Right. And of course, a reminder that the US is part of NATO. But Dave, we do wanna keep this in perspective. Does this seem like the nightmare scenario that you and I have talked about since the start of the war?

DAVE: Right now, after the statements I've seen from world leaders since this attack happened, I'm much less fearful, I guess, that this is that scenario again, I don't want to get too far ahead of where we are at the moment. But it doesn't feel like Armageddon to me as I'm sitting here right now Niala.

NIALA: Axios’ World editor, Dave Lawler. Thanks, Dave.

DAVE: Thanks Niala.

NIALA: In a moment, Jonathan Swan on Trump’s announcement last night.

Former President Trump announces his 2024 run for office

NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today, I'm Niala Boodhoo. Former President Donald Trump has officially declared the start of his 2024 presidential campaign.

DONALD TRUMP: In order to make America great and glorious again, I am tonight announcing my candidacy for President of the United States.

NIALA: Axios’ Jonathan Swan joined us right after the speech with his analysis. Hey, Jonathan.

JONATHAN SWAN: How you doing?

NIALA: Former President Trump said that this was a movement, not about one person, and that it wasn't his campaign, but our campaign. What did you think about the tone of last night's announcement?

JONATHAN: It was a really staff driven speech, low energy. He almost seemed bored by the text. He largely did stick to the script, and he didn't say things that he's been doing instinctively, like attacking Ron DeSantis, attacking Glenn Youngkin, ranting about how the 2020 election is stolen. He didn't do any of that. And part of the reason he didn't do any of that, I'm told, is because some of his key advisors had urged him not to do any of that. If this was a thumping Republican victory in the midterms, you would've had a completely different speech tonight

NIALA: Yeah. Jonathan, let's talk about the 2022 midterm elections. They were a disaster for Trump. Many of his high profile endorsements like Dr. Oz, lost. How much does that factor into even the timing of this campaign announcement now?

JONATHAN: Well, the timing, he sort of boxed himself in. The morning of Election Eve, he was thinking about announcing that night. So the night before the midterm elections, he was seriously considering announcing at his rally in Ohio. He was talked out of doing that, and his compromise was to say, I'm gonna make a big announcement on November 15th. Once he'd said that, there was always a risk that he would look weak if he retreated from that promise. So not ideal timing for a presidential kickoff, but he went ahead with it anyway against the advice of some of his key advisors.

NIALA: Given all of that, what are you hearing from inside the Republican party about what kind of support Trump will have for this presidential campaign?

JONATHAN: It's a very divided party, very divided indeed. You have, particularly among elite Republicans, and by that I mean conservative media class, top elected officials on Capitol Hill, conservative influencers, you have a lot of anti-Trump energy at the moment. You have the Murdoch Empire turning against Trump, in the form of the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal editorials. You have large portions of Fox News, turning against Trump and boosting up DeSantis. And then you have the Republican establishment in Washington divided, really. And he hasn't had the power that he probably would've had if it was a sweeping victory in the midterms to compel and force Republicans to endorse him and bend the knee. As we are recording this, I'm not aware of a single Republican senator who has endorsed Trump yet. But I still haven't seen a huge, huge erosion of his base. I've seen some erosion in the early polls for sure. DeSantis is doing better in head-to-head than he has been against Trump and there has been some slippage, but we shouldn't over interpret those polls, given how resilient Trump has proven to be in the past in terms of his political strength.

NIALA: Jonathan, how else are you thinking about this moment?

JONATHAN: I just think right now we are heading into a really interesting period for the Republican party, where a lot of the fights and existential questions that have been asked about the party's identity and its future are kind of accelerating to a collision point. And I think the 2024 election will be a test for the party. If Trump emerges as the candidate, that tells you something profound about the future of the Republican party. If they manage to defeat him, that tells you something, but not necessarily what some of the establishment wanted to tell them. Because, if hypothetically a candidate like Ron DeSantis, who in many ways has modeled himself on Trump, wins, you know, Trump without the baggage as some of his allies like to call him. You know, Trump has still left an indelible mark on the Republican party.

NIALA: Axios’ Jonathan Swan. Thanks, Jonathan.

JONATHAN: Pleasure.

NIALA: That’s it for us today! You can reach our team at podcasts at axios dot com or reach out to me on twitter. You can also text me at (202) 918-4893.

I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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