HIGH ALERT – U.S. military forces in Europe have been put on ‘high alert’ as the fighting between Russia and Ukraine escalated this week and additional Russian troops are deploying to the region. The U.S. European Command (EUCOM) raised its threat levels in Europe to a “potential imminent crisis” which is the highest potential watch level.
This conflict has been simmering since 2014 when Russia launched its ‘hybrid war’ with ‘little green men’ covertly invading the Crimea, creating a tense new de-facto border between Russia and Ukraine in the Donetsk Region of eastern Ukraine.
The current ramp-up in violence between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian forces signals the failure of the most recent cease-fire from July, negotiated by representatives of Ukraine, Russia and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
Russia’s leader, Vladimir Putin’s intentions are not clear, but many experts believe this appears to serve as an early test of President Joe Biden’s commitment to Ukraine. The problem is that a ‘test’ like this could quickly escalate into something far worse.
The New York Times (NYT) reported that Gen. Tod D. Wolters, the head of U.S. European Command (EUCOM) raised the watch level after four Ukrainian troops were killed in recent fighting in the Donetsk region and Russian troops deployed to the border region between Russia and Ukraine for an apparent set of military drills, but an estimated Russian 4,000 troops failed to leave when the drills ended on March 23.
Russia often uses military drills near Ukraine’s borders to send a message to both the Ukrainian government and other western nations. In February, the Russian military announced it would be holding two major airborne exercises with paratrooper drops in Crimea in March that many saw as telegraphing a fresh Russian incursion.
The target this time, according to the NYT: “water canals supplying Crimea from the Dnieper River in Ukraine.”
Retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Frederick B. Hodges, the former commanding general of U.S. Army Europe, and now with the Center for European Policy Analysis was quoted by the NYT as saying: “This could be posturing, but the Kremlin is testing the new administration,” adding that Russia has “zero interest” in reaching a peaceful outcome with Ukraine as it prefers to keep the country destabilized as much as possible. ADN