Top Army general: Important to ‘remain calm’ following strike in Poland

“The first report you always want to take a hard look at, and you want to make sure you get the information,” Gen. James McConville said at POLITICO’s Defense Summit. “You want to … talk to people, get the questions answered, and then you’ve got an idea of what happened.”

Asked for details about how the Pentagon reacted in the early minutes of the crisis, McConville said that the “investigation is going on and we’ll find out the finer details, but the big thing is to remain calm during the situation.”

McConville added that his thoughts were with the victims in Poland, adding that the speed of modern warfare can amplify the impact of mistakes.

“When you have strong militaries with modern capabilities, sometimes you can miscalculate, or you can misconstrue what happened, and that can make for a very, very dangerous situation,” he said. “So the best way to avoid these types of situations is not to have a conflict” in the first place.

At the same event, House Armed Services Chair Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said Kyiv was right to blame Russia because they’re the ones raining down missiles on Ukraine.

“Let’s be 100 percent clear. That is Russia’s fault,” he said. Ukraine was “absolutely 100 percent right to blame Russia, because no matter what it was that landed in that field, it damn sure wouldn’t have landed in that field if Russia wasn’t committing war crimes on a day-in-and-day-out basis by invading and attacking Ukraine.”

An adviser to the Ukrainian government told POLITICO that Ukraine shot down over 70 of the 90 Russian missiles launched Tuesday night, using a variety of older Soviet systems and more modern air defense weapons donated by NATO partners. The latest weapon donated by the U.S. — the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System — was used for the first time during the onslaught and shot down every target it engaged.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with Poland’s Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak via phone Tuesday night, stressing Washington’s commitment to defending Ukraine.

“We have full confidence in Poland’s ability to conduct this investigation in a proper way. Until that’s complete, I think it would be premature for anybody to jump to conclusions,” Austin told reporters after the monthly Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting, noting that Ukraine has offered to help investigate.

Information gathered by the U.S. aligns with the initial results of Poland’s investigation, which found that the strike was likely from a Ukrainian air defense missile, Austin said. He vowed not to get ahead of the Poles, opting to “let that play out.”

Austin also spoke with Ukraine Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov about the strikes in Poland. Joint Chiefs Chair Gen. Mark Milley also told reporters he spoke with his Ukrainian counterpart, Lt. Gen. Valeriy Zaluzhnyy. Neither went into details about those conversations.

Milley’s staff unsuccessfully attempted to reach out to his Russian counterpart Gen. Valery Gerasimov to protect against escalation, Milley said.

Connor O’Brien contributed to this report.