Ex-DoD Officer: Scheming for NATO Boots in Ukraine & Arms Supplies May Undermine Peaceful Solution
12:00 GMT 30.03.2022 (Updated: 16:50 GMT 30.03.2022)
Following the beginning of Russia's special operation to "de-militarise and de-Nazify" Ukraine, US and NATO politicians started circulating scenarios of intervening in Ukraine despite risking a broader conflict between Russia and the bloc. Such an involvement would be a disaster, says David T. Pyne, a former U.S. Department of Defenсe officer.
On 9 March, James Jeffrey, a US diplomat who served as Special Representative for the Syria Engagement, proposed
creating a "humanitarian safe zone" in Western Ukraine under UN Chapter VI in order to put US boots on the ground. According to the diplomat, for this idea to succeed, Joe Biden "would have to reverse, to a limited degree, his 'no US boots-in-Ukraine' position, but for good reasons."
Less than a week later, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of Poland's ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) made the appeal for a NATO-led peacekeeping mission in Western Ukraine. Under Kaczynski's plan the peacekeeping mission would be backed by armed forces.
Flawed Logic of NATO's Intervention Proponents
"Mr. Jeffrey’s proposal would be disastrous as by sending Western troops into Ukraine, they would be entering a war zone, effectively causing the outbreak of an unnecessary world war with Russia," says David T. Pyne, an EMP Task Force scholar and former U.S. Department of Defenсe officer. "It would be an extremely provocative move which I don’t think Russia would tolerate and the ramifications for the US and NATO would likely be dire."
According to Pyne, some Western politicians are guided by flawed historical analogues: they are wrongfully equating Russia to Nazi Germany, "bent on the conquest of Europe", and claiming that any concessions to Moscow would be nothing short of a 1938 Munich Pact-style "appeasement". Hence Warsaw's apparent desire "to get NATO to fight Russia in Ukraine despite the fact that there is virtually no evidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin has any intention of attacking Poland," he adds.
Moscow has repeatedly warned NATO member-states against intervening in Ukraine amid Russia's special operation, which was launched on 24 February in order to "demilitarise and de-Nazify" the nation.
Washington and NATO have dismissed Warsaw's plan and have ruled out the bloc's intervention so far. However, a team of national security officials brought together by the White House have been discussing potential scenarios under which the transatlantic military alliance could get involved in Ukraine, according
to The New York Times.
Instead of incentivising both Ukraine and the Russian Federation to negotiate a compromise peace agreement, the US and its NATO allies are sending more weapons to Ukraine making President Volodymyr Zelensky much less willing to negotiate the Russian demands, according to the former Pentagon officer.
"Biden’s strategy of prolonging the war with its ensuing death and destruction in Ukraine is very counterproductive in my opinion as it threatens to increase the chance for the outbreak of an unnecessary Third World War between the US and Russia that no one really wants," says Pyne. "As Russian Foreign Minister [Sergey] Lavrov has stated, such a world war would most likely be nuclear with unprecedented destruction and the loss of tens of millions of lives."
The truth is that the military action could likely have been avoided if the Biden Administration had simply provided a written guarantee to Moscow that Ukraine would never be admitted into NATO, according to the EMP Task Force scholar.
"Russia did not ask for the rollback of NATO’s eastern boundaries, merely that it would never be expanded eastward into additional former Soviet republics," he says. "This was an eminently reasonable request."
He notes that the fact that the US and NATO leaders viewed Russia's draft security agreements, submitted in mid-December 2021, as "unacceptable" shows that "they are incapable of understanding Russia’s legitimate security concerns and seem unable to understand that Russia is one of the most powerful nuclear superpowers in the world and thus the US and NATO would be wise to see that its vital interests should be respected in exchange for Russia respecting our own."
Russia-Ukraine Peace Talks & Moscow's Objectives
On 29 March, Russian and Ukrainian delegations met in Istanbul, Turkey, to discuss peace proposals.
Chief Russian Negotiator Vladimir Medinsky revealed that they received written proposals from Ukraine
confirming Kiev's readiness for "a neutral, non-aligned and non-nuclear status, along with a refusal to produce and deploy all types of weapons of mass destruction, including chemical and bacteriological ones, and a ban on the presence of foreign military bases and foreign troops on the territory of the country." Medinsky elaborated that the position of Kiev will be reviewed by Moscow and presented to President Vladimir Putin. Further negotiations will continue via video conferences for now, according to the chief negotiator.
On the same day, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu stated that Russia had accomplished the main tasks of the first phase of the special military operation
. According to Shoigu, the combat potential of the Ukrainian armed forces has been significantly reduced and now the Russian military can shift to liberating Donbass.
Moscow has also announced plans to take military and political de-escalation steps as Kiev demonstrates constructive position with regard to Ukraine's neutral and non-nuclear status. In particular, there would be "significant reduction" of military activities in the Kiev and Chernigov directions. Medinsky specified, however, that the move doesn't mean ceasefire and that the advance of the Russian military and Donbass militias continues.
Some Western observers rushed to describe Russia's strategic shift as a sign of weakness, claiming that Moscow's initial plan envisaged occupation of Ukraine and capturing its main cities, including Kiev. Still, Russia made it clear from the start that it had no intention to occupy Ukraine.
"Those who claimed that Putin is trying to reunite the Soviet Empire have been proven mistaken given that the Russian military forces that have been sent to Ukraine are of insufficient size to occupy the entire country and are only sufficient to occupy the regions of Ukraine east of the Dnieper River along with most of Ukraine’s southern coastline," says Pyne.
If Russia wanted to occupy Ukraine it would have amassed a much more powerful force; instead it employed approximately 40% of its ground combat units, constituting only 20% of its active duty military forces, according to the EMP Task Force scholar.
According to Pyne, Russia's special operation was "more of a preventative attack from the Russian perspective in reaction to":
· Biden’s decision to sign a strategic partnership agreement with Ukraine back in November committing the US to support their joining NATO;
· the US and NATO's rejection of a mutual security agreement with Russia offered in December 2021, with the limited objectives of ensuring Ukraine’s neutrality and demilitarisation.
"Biden was unwise to reject this proposed treaty [in January 2022] despite the fact that a number of its terms would have furthered US national security interests and helped ensure greater peace and stability in Europe," Pyne concludes.