As we round out three months of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, there doesn’t seem to be any cooling off of rhetoric – not from Ukraine, Russia, or the United States.
Between speculation of sending special forces troops to protect the newly re-opened U.S. embassy in Kiev and Senator Mitt Romney’s echoes of George W. Bush’s “Axis of Evil” speech, the United States’ role in this conflict is postured to increase versus decrease.
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Why Even Re-open the Embassy In the First Place?
While the Pentagon hasn’t provided the President with a concrete plan on options to send U.S. Special Forces to Kiev to guard the U.S. embassy, he must certainly have been briefed on ideas.
Typically the U.S. Marines guard our embassies around the world; however, not wanting to provide optics that we are sending U.S. troops to Ukraine under false pretenses that might escalate tensions with Russia, we have yet to have a typical guard presence at our embassy.
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Although there is nothing typical about our engagement in Ukraine thus far, last week, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said:
“We are having that conversation with the State Department about what their security requirements might look like…”
When news outlets started reporting more on this possibility, the Pentagon was quick to release the following statement:
“We are in close touch with our colleagues at the State Department about potential security requirements now that they have resumed operations at the embassy in Kiev, but no decisions have been made – and no specific proposals have been debated – at senior levels of the Department about the return of U.S. military members to Ukraine for that or any other purpose.”
In other words, “nothing to see here, folks; move along, nothing to see.” The Pentagon really needs to invest in a good plumber because that building is leaking uncontrollably at this point.
Tough Talk That Leads To What, Exactly?
Senator Mitt Romney penned an op-ed in the New York Times where he postulates what the United States should do if Russia decides to utilize nuclear weapons. (Why he is convinced that Russia will use nuclear weapons, nobody knows.)
Channeling his inner John Wayne, he stated that the U.S. should pose an ultimatum to the world:
“You are either with us, or you are with Russia – you cannot be with both.”
However, he doesn’t follow up with the next step, ‘and then what?’ I think he assumes that the world would be with us. However, I’m not nearly as confident as Mitt.
The Senator’s concerns aren’t the first to be brought up, to be fair. For example, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Bob Menedez said earlier this month:
“One of my concerns is that ironically, the more success that the Ukrainians have, the greater the risk that Putin will do something because he’s losing has to save face at home.”
So would Russia use nuclear weapons, and in what capacity?
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Two Nuclear Doctrines
Russia’s Nuclear Weapons Doctrine states that the use of nuclear weapons is authorized when:
- Russia is attacked by weapons of mass destruction
- the enemy attacks the country’s critical government or military sites in a way that would threaten a nuclear response
- a first strike against Russia is detected
- Russia is faced with existential military defeat
That seems pretty clear to me. Not a lot of ambiguity. (That’s not to say governments abide by their own rules, of course.)
Put that into contrast with our Nuclear Doctrine, which is laid out in the Nuclear Posture Review. It says that we:
“…would only consider the use of nuclear weapons in extreme circumstances to defend the vital interests of the United States or it’s allies and partners.”
Clear as mud? “Vital interests” leaves quite a bit open to interpretation.
While campaigning, President Biden had said he fully supports the ‘no first use’ concept versus what has historically been an ambiguous policy aimed at ‘flexible deterrence.’
Just as an aside, as for heated rhetoric, this person is a sitting United States Congressman:
Crisis After Crisis
The latest $40 billion aid package to Ukraine passed with only 11 Republicans voting against it, which brings the total aid to about $54 billion in a matter of months.
By comparison, Russia’s entire defense budget in 2021 was $66 billion.
Senator Josh Hawley explained his no vote stating the following:
“I just think this is an exercise in nation building. So I’m a nationalist. I’m not in favor of nation building. I think we ought to be prioritizing American strength.”
While about 25% of the recent aid package is going to the U.S. military to help bolster capabilities in Europe, he has a good point.
To defend his argument, one can merely point to the rising gas prices, rising cost of groceries, record debt, and baby formula shortages.
The worst part is that we haven’t seen anything yet, according to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
“Russia has blocked almost all ports and all, so to speak, maritime opportunities to export food – our grain, barley, sunflower and more. There will be a crisis in the world.”
The crisis he’s referring to is the food crisis. According to Sara Menker, CEO of Gro Intelligence, the world only has about ten weeks’ worth of wheat to deal with the global food crisis. What’s more, she stated:
“Even if the war were to end tomorrow, our food security problem isn’t going away anytime soon without concerted action.”
With Ukraine supplying 25% to 30% of the world’s grain supply, perhaps Senator Romney can pen an op-ed on handling that crisis.
Maybe we can get ahead of that one instead of behind as we have been in the other crisis.
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