Mission Creep in the Russia-Ukraine War

Reprinted from Bracing Views with the author’s permission.

The latest headline from the New York Times shows mission creep for NATO in the Russia-Ukraine War:

As Russia Advances, NATO Considers Sending Trainers Into Ukraine

By Helene Cooper, Julian E. Barnes, Eric Schmitt and Lara Jakes

The move could draw the United States and Europe more directly into the war. The Biden administration continues to say there will be no American troops on the ground.

Recall that when Russia invaded Ukraine in its “special military operation,” the initial response from the U.S. and NATO was to provide defensive weaponry like anti-tank missiles and shoulder-launched SAMs. How quickly that escalated! U.S. aid to Ukraine is now approaching $175 billion (both provided and promised by Congress) and included offensive weaponry, everything from long-range missiles to main battle tanks to combat aircraft. Even so, Ukrainian forces, attrited by Russia and its superior resources in manpower and especially in artillery shells, are losing this war. Hence the headline above about NATO sending “trainers” into Ukraine.

Of course, trainers are already there in Ukraine, so I suppose the headline means MORE trainers, and more openly. It’s the illogic of military interventionism. As South Vietnam was clearly losing its struggle against North Vietnam and the NLF in the early 1960s, the U.S. response was to send in more “trainers” while also supporting a coup against the Diem government in 1963. The coup only exacerbated corruption and instability in South Vietnam and the “trainers” could do nothing to halt the slide, hence the decision by President Johnson in 1965 to commit U.S. combat troops, a decision of great folly, a decision Johnson had said he wouldn’t make since he wasn’t about to send American boys to fight a war that the Vietnamese should fight for themselves.

So, when the Biden administration promises there’ll be no U.S. troops on the ground in Ukraine, remember the Johnson administration made that same promise about Vietnam in an election year (1964), and quickly broke it after LBJ easily won the election.

“As Russia advances”: Might this not be a good time to foster diplomacy before Ukrainian units are forced to retreat further? Why continue to wage such an awful war when Ukraine has so little chance of achieving victory?

When its wars and military adventures go poorly, the top option reached for on that proverbial “table” by U.S. officials is to escalate militarily. The option that’s reached for as a last resort, if at all, is diplomacy.

In the escalatory cycle of America’s wars overseas, it so often starts with U.S. meddling, foreign assistance mainly in the form of weapons and military training, followed by more weapons and trainers as events turn south, and ultimately the commitment of U.S. troops until the loss can no longer be denied. Then the loss is typically spun as a “win” for our brave troops, who gave their all for freedom, even as those at home who tried to stop the war and save lives are attacked for allegedly stabbing our troops in the back.

We’ve seen this movie before, and its ending is never pretty.

William J. Astore is a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF). He taught history for fifteen years at military and civilian schools. He writes at Bracing Views.

3 thoughts on “Mission Creep in the Russia-Ukraine War”

  1. “War, good god y’all, what is it good for? Absolutely Nothing! Say it again y’all!”

  2. People still don’t get it. There was NEVER a “chance of achieving victory”. All you had to do at the start of the war was look at all those “military balance” charts every MSM outlet posted. As I’ve said repeatedly, it was IMPOSSIBLE for Ukraine to beat Russia. Only military ignoramuses believed otherwise.

    The goal was NEVER “victory” – it was to bleed Russia in concert with “devastating sanctions” so that the Putin government would collapse. It was delusional fantasy from the get-go.

    And so it remains delusional fantasy.

    As for these trainers, they’ll go in, they’ll be found by the Russians and they’ll die. And good riddance. Might be tough on their relatives, but this is Nature’s way of eliminating the stupid.

    And if NATO intervenes any further, Russia might have to eliminate the rest of us for the same reason: terminal stupidity.

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