Analysis. Poland scrambled jets as a Russian missile entered its airspace. A drone fell in Romania. Bulgaria called for dialogue to avoid a ‘dangerous escalation.’

Donald Tusk: ‘The pre-war era has begun’

Escalating from words to fighter planes. On Thursday night, the Polish Armed Forces Operational Command gave the order for Warsaw and NATO aircraft at bases in Poland to take off to “ensure the security of Polish airspace.” The reason was yet another massive Russian bombardment of Ukrainian cities, and the precedent was set on Tuesday when, according to Polish radar, a Russian missile flew in the Polish airspace for 39 seconds before returning to Ukrainian airspace.

Speaking with international journalists from the Lena consortium (of which La Repubblica is a member), the Polish prime minister, Donald Tusk, described the delicate historical moment we are in as a “pre-war era.”

“I don’t want to scare anyone, but war is no longer a concept from the past. It is real, and it started over two years ago. The most worrying thing at the moment is that literally any scenario is possible … I know it sounds devastating, especially for the younger generation, but we have to get used to the fact that a new era has begun: the pre-war era. I’m not exaggerating; it’s becoming clearer every day.” Tusk called on Europe to be ready and united, even though the EU “still has a long way to go” to achieve these goals.

In his first extensive engagement with the foreign press, the Polish leader did not mince words, laying out all his country’s concerns and aspirations. For months, Polish higher-ups have been describing the country as a possible next target for Russia and calling for greater cohesion around a common European defense force.

But before that happens, Warsaw is moving forward on its own: Poland has already exceeded the 4 percent military spending ceiling for its upcoming budget, and the strategic partnership with the U.S. is becoming closer. Thursday’s order to scramble jets looked more like a show of force than a real defensive measure, but we have been accustomed to these sudden leaps forward in hostilities for some time now. Setting aside all alarmism, there is a danger that in such a climate, someone could really get carried away – not least because these are no longer isolated events.

In neighboring Romania, a drone went down on Wednesday at around 10 p.m. in the southeast of the country, in the Braila region. Several army search teams were sent to the area, which was cordoned off. The Defense Ministry and other Romanian public security officials are conducting an investigation into the incident and have not yet made any definitive statements, but this is at least the fifth drone found on Romanian territory since the beginning of the war in Ukraine.

“Romania will remain deeply involved in NATO’s permanent adaptation process, so that the Alliance becomes stronger, more resilient and better prepared for the future,” Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said on the 20th anniversary of Bucharest’s accession to NATO.

The Bulgarian government struck a different tone and called for dialogue: “We must assist Ukraine but we also must not allow dangerous escalation and inclusion of all of us in the conflict, which means a global clash with unpredictable consequences for humanity,” said Bulgarian President Rumen Radev, calling for doing “everything possible to put diplomatic efforts into a ceasefire, renewal of dialogue and peace-seeking.”

In the meantime, the Czech Republic has reportedly been successful in its initiative to purchase ammunition to send to the Ukrainian armed forces. In recent months, Czech president Petr Pavel had put together an “ammunition coalition” for Kiev around Prague, on the grounds that Ukrainian soldiers are in urgent need of bullets to respond to Russian fire. The 16 countries in the group (which doesn’t include Italy) succeeded in concluding supply contracts for one million rounds of ammunition, mainly of 155 mm caliber, with a total value of $1.8 billion. The imbalance between the firepower of the two armies at this moment is enormous. According to the head of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Oleksandr Syrsky, “until a few days ago, the enemy’s advantage in terms of ammunition fired was about six to one.”

Meanwhile, on the ground, the Russian military launched a powerful attack against Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, firing 99 warheads including drones and missiles. According to Ukrainian Air Force commander Mykola Oleschuk, “Ukrainian Air Defense Forces shot down 84 out of 99 Russian air targets.”

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