NATO and the USA, the forces deployed on the borders of Ukraine

Of Giuseppe Sarcina

Ukraine under attack: thousands of US and NATO soldiers deployed in neighboring countries. But the US president warns: we will not fight


WASHINGTON – Yesterday – before the start of the attack on Ukraine, ordered by Putin at 4 am today – the US Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, had dismissed his guest, the Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, promising “Military assistance”. But reminding him that the United States will not intervene directly to defend Ukraine. The reason is simple and it has President Joe Biden explained: “If Russians and Americans start shooting each other, it means that the Third World War has broken out”; between nuclear powers, it should be added.

Biden’s position hangs in the balance. On the one hand, he could be accused of allowing Vladimir Putin to swallow up a piece of Europe. On the other hand, he risks dragging the US into a frightening conflict. Here because Washington has tried, in recent days, to make the most of the numbers of its “military commitment”, leaving, however, “open the way for diplomacy”. The Pentagon website points out that they are now there “About 90 thousand soldiers” deployed in Europe. In the last month 4,700 soldiers have left from the Fort Bragg base in North Carolina, headed for Poland, where they were joined by 300 soldiers seconded by German garrisons. And another 8,500 are ready to move out of the United States, on quick notice. The Pentagon then moved one thousand “Stryker” fighters and armored battalions to Romania and a small garrison of 100 units in Bulgaria. Lastly, the day before yesterday, the US Defense announced another four “repositionings”. About 800 US infantrymen, now stationed at Camp Ederle, Vicenza, will deploy in Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. Also on the Baltic will arrive a battalion made up of 20 attack helicopters, currently stationary in Germany. Another 12 helicopters of the same type (AH-64) will fly from Greece to Poland. Finally, eight F-35 fighter planes will leave the German bases to reinforce the garrisons in Poland, Romania and Bulgaria.

But all of this doesn’t seem to impress Putin that much. The political-strategic calculation of the Russian leader is based on two assumptions. The first is that the US military will really never enter Ukraine. Indeed Lloyd has already brought back the 150 military trainers present in Kiev. Second: Putin of course knows well how NATO works. Over the past twenty, thirty years, the US has lightened its military presence in Europe. One data: in 1987 the large bases of the US army, navy and air force were 80; today I’m 29, mainly distributed in Germany, Italy, Spain, United Kingdom and Turkey. With the end of the Cold War, the US gradually gave way to NATO.

Now, the Atlantic Alliance defines itself as a defensive organization that is set in motion only if a country invokes the help of the other partners, appealing to the obligation of mutual defense, enshrined in Article 5 of the Treaty. Or NATO can act on a mandate from the UN, even outside its borders. It happened in 1995, with the operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In 1999, however, the Atlantic Alliance decided to bomb Belgrade to stop the massacres ordered in Kosovo by the Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic. This is the precedent that some analysts suggest repeating to stop Putin.

In 2014, precisely in response to the Russian annexation of Ukraine, the NATO countries decided to set up the “Response Force”, a nucleus capable of immediately mobilizing up to 40,000 soldiers within a few days. In addition, the facility includes nine Rapid Deployable Corps, with a potential of 60,000 units each. On paper, therefore, the Alliance would be able to counter Putin’s advance. The point, however, is that NATO missions are decided “by consensus”, practically with the unanimity of the thirty member states. We have seen, however, how much effort Europeans and Americans have agreed on the sanctions to be imposed on Russia. It is easy to imagine that the front would break if a military expedition to the rescue of Ukraine were to be planned. After all, in recent weeks the Europeans have responded differently, even if only to the urgency of strengthening the Eastern European flank.

The most responsive partners were there Denmark, which sent a frigate to the Baltic Sea and four F-16 fighters; there Spain which provided warships in the Mediterranean and Jet for Bulgaria. L’Italy is engaged in three operations which will now be strengthened: air surveillance in Romania; NATO mission in Latvia (200 soldiers); air-sea patrol. France and Germany made limited contributions. Paris plans to send “a few hundred” soldiers to Romania. Berlin has already assigned 130 military personnel to Lithuania, in addition to the approximately 350 already present. Now he could send more. Basically they are only measures of reinforcement of the defensive deployment. This time the West is betting everything on sanctions and politics.

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