'Disaster' if US trainers go to Ukraine without a plan with Russia

11:47 22.05.2024 •

Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (photo), said that NATO “trainers” will eventually be sent to Ukraine, breaking one of the few remaining red lines preventing the Ukraine war from erupting into a direct conflict between Russia and the West. This proposal, without a larger strategy for ending rather than escalating the war, is a recipe for disaster, stresses Mark Episkopos, a Eurasia Research Fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft.

“We’ll get there eventually, over time,” said Brown, according to The New York Times, adding that sending them now would put “a bunch of NATO trainers at risk.”

Brown’s comments tacitly concede two realities that Western officials have been loath to acknowledge: the Ukrainian war effort is slowly crumbling and cannot be sustained without a steady escalation of Western involvement.

Yet there is a third factor that should be of serious concern to U.S. and European leaders: sending NATO personnel into Ukraine absent some kind of larger, explicit understanding with Moscow is highly likely to embroil NATO states, including the U.S, in a shooting war with Russian forces.

The Kremlin may very well be open to some kind of formal settlement that establishes lines of demarcation in Ukraine and sanctions the presence of Western military personnel in parts of the country, but that framework is not what’s being proposed here. Absent an explicit agreement with the West over the scope and limits of NATO’s military presence in Ukraine, the Kremlin would likely view the initial wave of NATO trainers as a trial balloon to gauge Russia’s reaction to greater and more direct Western involvement in Ukraine.

Thus, there is a high degree of probability that Moscow would conclude it needs to make a point of targeting these trainers as vigorously as possible to dissuade the prospect of larger-scale NATO military intervention.

Brown reportedly acknowledged that sending these personnel in now would put “a bunch of NATO trainers at risk,” but it is not clear what exactly about the battlefield dynamics in Ukraine leads him to conclude that this scheme would be safer to execute in the future.

This proposal, without a larger strategy for ending rather than escalating the war, is a recipe for disaster. It would not bring Ukraine closer to achieving anything that can meaningfully be considered as victory over Russia, but it would bring NATO and Russia within a hair’s breadth of open conflict — something that all Western leaders should be seeking to avoid.

A man holds a portable electronic warfare system in Ukraine earlier this year.
Photo: Global Images via Getty

Mike Nagata, a retired US Army lieutenant general who led special operations in the Middle East, said that the US is "still falling behind" in its electronic warfare capabilities, reported Defense One.

Electronic warfare units, which use electronic signals to remotely scramble the GPS coordinates used to guide weapons, have played a key role in Russia's war in Ukraine.

"The gap between where the United States should be and where we are, in my judgment, continues to expand not everywhere, but in far too many places," Nagata reportedly said at the SOF Week conference in Tampa, Florida.

Two retired special operations personnel singled out Russia in remarks to the publication. They said that one reason the Kremlin's technology is significantly better, is because it had also invested in electromagnetic innovation for decades while the US had focused its jamming technology on gathering intelligence in areas such as the Middle, according to the publication.

Russia has repeatedly used its electronic warfare units to disable expensive precision-guided weapons that the US has given its ally Ukraine in its battle against Russia.

According to reports, they've proven effective in sending GPS-guided Excalibur artillery rounds off course. They have also been effective against the JDAM US-made missiles used by Ukraine's air force, as well as the rockets fired by US-made Himars missile systems.


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