‘The National Interest’: Joe Biden’s Ukraine policy is marching toward Catastrophe

12:17 21.06.2024 •

Allowing Ukraine to use American weapons to strike targets in Russian territory increases the risk of escalation without meaningfully aiding Ukrainian capabilities, writes at ‘The National Interest’ two experienced authors – Robert Clarke, the Director of Marketing Strategy for Foreign Policy, a commentator on U.S. foreign policy in The American Conservative, Realist Review, and the Financial Times, and Jason Beardsley, the Director of Veterans’ Initiatives and Senior Advisor for Concerned Veterans for America, who served for twenty-two years in the United States Army and Navy.

The Biden administration, in lockstep with several of the United States’ European allies, has approved the use of American weapons to strike targets on Russian soil around the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv.

Biden’s authorization to leverage American equipment to strike targets in Russia near Kharkiv unravels American policy going back to the beginning of the Cold War — while American military aid has been used to attack Soviet and Russian forces, it was never authorized to openly hit targets within the Soviet Union or Russia itself (with the notable exception of the American intervention in the Russian Civil War from 1918–1920).

Ukraine has already proven willing to use its own long-range munitions to strike targets related to Russia’s nuclear defense posture — such as nuclear strategic bomber sat Engels air base earlier in the war and a nuclear defense early-warning radar just a few weeks ago. This creates an immense risk that Moscow perceives this policy change as the first stage of a serious expansion of the conflict with the goal of collapsing the Russian state.

The prospect of alliance trainers on the ground creates a different high-risk, low-reward situation. American, French, or otherwise, trainers would be vulnerable to either deliberate or accidental strikes from Russia’s country-wide missile and drone campaign that targets Ukrainian infrastructure and military targets regularly — to say nothing of the direct risk from artillery, tanks, and infantry for trainers stationed near the front lines.

If those trainers are killed in a strike, the victim country could choose to make a case that the attack constitutes a triggering of NATO’s Article V mutual defense agreement. While allied nations could choose to reject that claim, it would create a crisis within the alliance. It could lead to either direct U.S. involvement in the war or a massive fissure in our relationship with allied nations.

In Ukraine, U.S. trainers will not merely be passive observers. Co-author Jason Beardsley personally participated in advising and assisting missions during his twenty-two years in the U.S. Armed Forces. They are actively involved in leading and guiding local forces, potentially finding themselves amid combat scenarios. Historical precedent from America’s advise and assist mission in Vietnam suggests that the Biden administration would be sleepwalking into another scenario where mission creep contributes to full-blown war. The distinction between advising, assisting, and training becomes indistinguishable from combat.

Rules of engagement for trainers and advisers allow for combat involvement if they come under attack. This defensive posture, while necessary for self-protection, increases the likelihood that U.S. soldiers will engage in direct combat with Russian forces.

These experiences underscore the risks that American trainers in Ukraine will face. The potential for direct engagement with Russian forces, whether intentional or accidental, could have far-reaching consequences. The escalation of the conflict would not only endanger the lives of U.S. personnel but also risk drawing the United States into a broader confrontation with Russia.

President Biden’s policy shifts create a situation where the administration will find it highly challenging to control escalation in a crisis. President Biden promised the American people that he would not put boots on the ground in Ukraine.

Unfortunately, his current policies are slow-walking the United States into breaking those promises.

Photo: Galiga Shirt


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