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Why Is Joe Biden Sending U.S. Soldiers So Close to Ukraine?

A Soldier assigned to U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, Africa engages pop-up targets with an M4 carbine during marksmanship training at Cao Malnisio Range in Pordenone, Italy, Jan. 26, 2021. (U.S. Army photo by Davide Dalla Massara)
A Soldier assigned to U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, Africa engages pop-up targets with an M4 carbine during marksmanship training at Cao Malnisio Range in Pordenone, Italy, Jan. 26, 2021. (U.S. Army photo by Davide Dalla Massara)

Is America Mindlessly Drifting to War with Russia?: Let’s start with this black-and-white fundamental truth right up front: America’s national security is not threatened, in any way, by the conflict raging between Ukraine and Russia. This statement is simultaneously true: we will stay safe unless we foolishly, recklessly stumble into a direct confrontation with Russia by joining the war on Ukraine’s side. 

Given the Administration’s frequent claims that the president has no intention of engaging in a war with Russia, one could be forgiven not knowing there was any chance of the U.S. getting sucked into the war with Russia. Biden reiterated in April that the United States would not “not send U.S. troops to fight Russian troops in Ukraine.” He has not publicly changed from that stance since. Yet the deployments and dispositions of U.S. military in the past week casts doubt on the president’s assurances.

In just the past few days, the United States Army deployed a brigade of the famed 101st Airborne Division to Romania – the first time the division has been in Europe in almost 80 years. The U.S.-led NATO alliance just held a major nuclear weapons exercise, and in the Adriatic Sea near Ukraine, the aircraft carrier U.S.S. George H.W. Bush is conducting exercises with NATO allies. While exercises are a normal and routine part of America’s national defense, these included ominous offensive allusions.

Brig. Gen. John Lubas, deputy commander of the 101st Airborne Division in Romania, said the unit was not there for a training event, but a “combat deployment,” adding that his troops “need to be ready to fight tonight, depending on how the situation escalates across the border” in Ukraine. 

In a Newsweek article this week titled, American Troops Prepared to Engage in War with Russia, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who was aboard the aircraft carrier, said the operation in the Adriatic “demonstrates our ability to rapidly reinforce our allies and project power across the alliance.” Since last February, the United States deployed thousands of troops to Europe, bringing the total number to 100,000, many of which have been forward deployed to Eastern European NATO states. 

What no one in Washington or Brussels has bothered to explain to the American people, however, is: why?

What is the threat to American national security that would necessitate the deployment of 100,000 U.S. troops, forward-deploy a combat division that hasn’t been in Europe since World War II, and send aircraft carrier battle groups up to the Ukraine border, all of which are expressly and publicly intended to prepare for war with Russia? 

Thus far, the non-thinking answer has been to constantly repeat that Russia launched “an unprovoked” war against Ukraine, with the implication being, that if not checked now, Putin may soon launch further attacks into eastern Europe and conquer more territory. So many of America’s current leaders were raised in the heart of the Cold War and learned from their youth to fear and even hate the Russian-dominated USSR. But Putin’s Russia of today is not a fraction of the genuine combat power once wielded by the Kremlin.

It is ironic that many experts claim Russia is a serious threat to attack NATO territory, while others claim the Russian military will not be able to defeat even Ukraine. It can’t simultaneously be that Russia is a regional menace that is a threat to roll through NATO countries, yet also so weak that Ukraine is going to defeat them. The reality is evident for anyone willing to see it: the Russian military did not have the capacity to successfully capture even neighboring NATO states (prior to this war, it was widely assumed NATO would be powerless to prevent a Russian victory over the Baltics) and owing to the tremendous equipment losses over the past eight months, it would take decades of time to rebuild even to their pre-war level.

Yet as I have frequently argued, if Russia mobilizes a large portion of its armed force and its defense industrial capacity, in time it will likely overcome the Ukrainian defenses – though even that minor objective is by no means a guarantee. The idea, however, that Russia has the slightest conventional capacity to invade any other country is laughable. They don’t. Period. Full stop. There is nowhere near the necessary military means to invade even one bordering state, much less take on the 30-member military alliance of NATO. 

Yet that has not stopped many in the United States from fanning the flames of fear on the idea that Russia is a danger to the U.S. and must be militarily confronted. Former general and CIA Director David Petraeus has suggested the U.S. troops do more than simply exercise near the Ukrainian border. In a recent interview with the French weekly L’Express, Petraeus suggested the United States might intervene in Ukraine with a multi-national ‘coalition of the willing’ type arrangement and potentially fight the Russians there. 

Earlier this month, in response to a hypothetical Russian use of a tactical nuclear weapon on Ukrainian soil, Petraeus argued the United States should “take out every Russian conventional force that we can see and identify on the battlefield in Ukraine… and every ship in the Black Sea.” The former general seems oblivious to the reality that if the U.S. directly attacked Russian military forces, they would respond in kind immediately, potentially targeting American troops in Europe or Syria – sending the risk of a full-on war between the world’s two largest nuclear superpowers through the roof.

It should be an article of faith that the United States Government and our Armed Forces have the primary obligation to defend our country, meet our treaty obligations, and preserve the ability of our citizens to prosper. Yet in today’s world, there is a ghastly lack of awareness of the consequences to a nuclear exchange with Russia, and a frighteningly cavalier willingness to risk such a war with Moscow over issues not even related to our national security

M109 Army

A Paladin M109 Alpha-6 Howitzer, fires an illumination round during a night fire exercise in support of Eager Lion 2016, May 23, 2016 at Al Zarqa, Jordan. Eager Lion 16 is a bi-lateral exercise in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan between the Jordanian Armed Forces and the U.S. Military designed to strengthen relationships and interoperability beween partner nations while conducting contingency operations. (U.S Army photo by Spc. Kevin Kim/ Released)

As I stated at the opening, let me reiterate once more: there is nothing at stake in the war between the bordering states of Russia and Ukraine that threatens our national security (or that of our NATO alliance). Russia has exposed a near total incapacity to conventionally threaten any NATO member, so America’s primary objective should be to contain the spread of the war to its current boundaries, promote a diplomatic end to the fighting on the best terms for Ukraine possible, and maintain our strong conventional and nuclear deterrent to guarantee our own security and continued prosperity. 

What we should never do, however, is foolishly court actions that would expand the war, draw us into an unnecessary fight, and put at risk our very existence as a nation. It’s shocking such obvious truths need to be written, yet that is the reality of this situation. Too many of our leaders and so-called experts are aggressively pushing us closer and closer to war with Russia – that could all too easily go nuclear – and doing virtually nothing to end the fighting. 

Now a 1945 Contributing Editor, Daniel L. Davis is a Senior Fellow for Defense Priorities and a former Lt. Col. in the U.S. Army who deployed into combat zones four times. He is the author of “The Eleventh Hour in 2020 America.” Follow him @DanielLDavis

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Daniel L. Davis is a Senior Fellow for Defense Priorities and a former Lt. Col. in the U.S. Army who deployed into combat zones four times. He is the author of “The Eleventh Hour in 2020 America.” Follow him @DanielLDavis1.