Highlighting the increased tension between Russia and the West over a threatened Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Pentagon has announced 8,500 troops currently in the United States have been placed on heightened alert status, readied for potential European deployment should Russian President Vladimir Putin take military action against his neighbor. Additionally, the Department of Homeland Security has cautioned all potentially affected entities to be on guard against potential Russian cyberspace attacks in retaliation should the United States make moves to actively defend Ukraine against a Russian assault.
If American troops are sent to Europe, they will not be immediately sent to any hot spots … at least not at first.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said about 8,500 U.S.-based troops are being put on alert for possible deployment — not to Ukraine but to NATO territory in Eastern Europe as part of an alliance force meant to signal a unified commitment to deter any wider Putin aggression.
The problem with such a deployment is it serves no genuine military purpose. While immediately sending troops to Ukraine would be provocative in the extreme, simply sending them to existing European bases could be interpreted by the Kremlin as a paper tiger. Unless there is a clear commitment to actively sending American and NATO troops in harm’s way should Russia invade Ukraine, a mere deployment is of no concern.
My colleague Dennis Santiago, whose knowledge of such matters far exceeds my own, is optimistic that the announced defensive deployments will be a powerful deterrent to Putin. I defer to his expertise, but remain doubtful due to Russia firmly having Europe in its literally oily grasp. A turn of the pipeline spigot would, again literally, leave Europe in the dark. I am also extremely doubtful that current European leadership has the intestinal fortitude to engage Russia militarily despite NATO’s far greater military skill.
The threat of a cyberspace attack is, in many ways, the most worrisome. This extends far beyond the prospect of Amazon being unavailable for a few hours. Putin don’t play. It takes no stretch of the imagination to picture him ordering a full cyberattack crippling American infrastructure, commerce, and national security.
The situation’s seriousness cannot be overstated. Russia, despite its denials, is plainly preparing for war. It has no reason to fear the feckless Biden Administration. Unless some kind of diplomatic solution can be found, nothing — nothing — good can come of this. People will needlessly die. The situation is fluid. Sadly, the fluid is quite likely to become blood.