American Boots on the Ground in Ukraine Risk Escalation, But Follow an Old US Playbook
11:12 GMT 04.11.2022 (Updated: 08:57 GMT 15.11.2022)
© AP Photo / Stephen B. MortonSoldiers with the U.S. Army's 87th Division Sustainment Support Battalion, 3rd Division Sustainment Brigade, board a chartered plane during their deployment to Europe, Friday, March 11, 2022, at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Ga.
© AP Photo / Stephen B. Morton
The United States has deployed a “small number” of troops in Ukraine, ostensibly to carry out inspections to make sure that the tens of billions of dollars in armaments shipped to the country aren’t pilfered by Kiev. Moscow has spent months warning of the dangers of sophisticated weaponry falling into the hands of arms dealers and criminal groups.
The deployment of US troops in Ukraine, supposedly to carry out an accounting of Western arms aid to Kiev, threatens to dramatically escalate Russia-NATO tensions, especially if Americans end up getting injured or killed in Russian air and missile strikes against Ukrainian weapons stores.
An AP report Monday citing a senior US defense official revealed that a “small number of US military forces” were inside Ukraine. In a press briefing Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman Pat Ryder confirmed that the US had “small teams” “comprised of Embassy personnel…conducting some inspections of security assistance delivery at a variety of locations,” and that this was “part of a broader effort of the US government to track US-provided capabilities and to prevent the illicit spread throughout Eastern Europe.” Ryder said the “Embassy personnel” were US military personnel assigned to the Embassy’s Defense Attaché office, not combat forces.
“In terms of personnel that are conducting these inspections, my understanding is they would be well far away from any type of frontline actions. We are relying on the Ukrainians to do that, we’re relying on other partners to do that,” Ryder said.
Last week, Finnish law enforcement reported that weapons sent to Ukraine had found their way into the hands of motorcycle gangs and other criminal groups across Northern Europe, Denmark, and the Netherlands. This summer, Interpol chief Juergen Stock warned that “the high availability of weapons” in Ukraine would “result in the proliferation in illicit arms in the post-conflict phase.”
1 November 2022, 13:15 GMT
What’s the Danger of US Boots on the Ground?
A handful of defense observers and media outlets (but predictably, none in the mainstream) have sounded the alarm about the dangers of US troops wandering around in a conflict zone inspecting weapons caches which Russia has slated for destruction.
Former Trump Pentagon advisor Douglas Macgregor has expressed serious concerns about the prospect of US boots on the ground.
“[There is] this strange announcement that we’re suddenly sending after eight months of no accountability a few hundred soldiers under a brigadier general of somehow or another tracking all of the equipment that’s been sent. We already know that large quantities of the equipment has been sold off to others around the world including ISIS.* What is this really all about? We’ve been at this for eight months, we’ve spent $65 billion and now suddenly we’re worrying about accountability? This is beginning to look a little like an advance party for this very dangerous proposition that a ‘multinational coalition of the willing,’ a force of perhaps 50-60-70-80 thousand Western troops will eventually go into Western Ukraine. This was floated as you know a couple of weeks ago by retired General [David] Petraeus,” Macgregor warned.
“Now if you’re interested in coming to some sort of arrangements with Moscow, first of all, don’t put together a multinational force to intervene, because the Russians have already said if you do this, we’ll destroy it, effectively. So if we go in there, we’re going to be at war with Russia,” MacGregor stressed.
On Thursday, 19FortyFive contributor Jack Buckby pointed out that the troops have created a dangerous grey area in the Ukrainian crisis. “It’s unclear what could happen if US soldiers are killed by a Russian strike, but it could be considered an attack on NATO. An attack on NATO could trigger a military response from NATO countries, which could in turn translate into a full global conflict with Russia. That being said, the United States has probably already prepared for this eventuality. If it is an intentional strike on US soldiers, therefore, it could spell trouble for Russia,” Buckby wrote.
It’s not clear how the US would determine whether a Russian strike was “intentional” or not, or precisely what kind of “trouble” such an outcome would lead to, given that Washington continues to maintain publicly it’s not even a party to the Ukraine conflict.
26 October 2022, 11:07 GMT
Tried and Tested Strategy
The US strategy of deploying troops to a conflict zone in a bid to solidify their allies’ is nothing new, and constitutes a risky strategy of escalation that goes back to the Cold War, when Washington and Moscow would often place troops in allied nations and client states to signal to one another that any attack on these countries would constitute an attack on the US or the USSR.
The US took this strategy to a new level in Syria over the past five years, stationing about eight hundred troops in the war-torn Middle Eastern nation’s oil-rich northeastern territories and threatening a crushing response to any Syrian Army attempts to free its territories. The strategy has allowed Washington’s Kurdish "Syrian Democratic Forces" allies to control of over 90 percent of Syria’s oil riches, as well as wide swathes of the country’s most fertile agricultural lands, and to illegally export these resources abroad. This strategy has enabled the US to effectively starve Damascus and undermine its efforts to rebuild from the foreign-backed conflict fomented a decade ago, prompting Russia and Iran to provide the ordinarily energy- and food-self-sufficient nation with emergency food and energy aid.
* Also known as Daesh, a terrorist group outlawed in Russia and many other countries.