By Nauman Sadiq
A visibly anxious and panicked Biden tweeted  yesterday, March 11: “I want to be clear: We will defend every inch of NATO territory with the full might of a united and galvanized NATO. But we will not fight a war against Russia in Ukraine. A direct confrontation between NATO and Russia is World War III. And something we must strive to prevent.”
The string of rambling tweets betrayed the apprehensive mental state of a raving executive who was under tremendous pressure from certain quarters to significantly escalate the conflict with the arch-foe and wanted to console himself and the listeners that by not committing American ground and air forces to Ukraine, specifically for enforcing the no-fly zone, he was making the right decision.
Despite Russia’s massive nuclear arsenal, several Pentagon officials, full of hubris and evidently suffering from misplaced superiority complex, have recently made their misconceived institutional logic public that they no longer regard Russia as an equal military power, instead they contemptuously dubbed it “a second-rate regional power,” and if given an opportunity, they wouldn’t hesitate to take Russia head-on, even if the risk is as perilous as the conflict spiraling into a catastrophic nuclear war.
It’s noteworthy the national security and defense policies of the United States are formulated by the all-powerful civil-military bureaucracy, dubbed the deep state, whereas the president, elected through heavily manipulated electoral process with disproportionate influence of corporate interests, political lobbyists and billionaire donors, is only a figurehead meant to legitimize militarist stranglehold of the deep state, not only over the domestic politics of the United States but also over the neocolonial world order dictated by the self-styled global hegemon.
All the militaries of the NATO member states operate under the integrated military command led by the Pentagon. Before being elected president, General Dwight Eisenhower was the first commander of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE).
The commander of Allied Command Operations has been given the title Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), and is always a US four-star general officer or flag officer who also serves as the Commander US European Command, and is answerable to the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff.
CNN reported March 6  Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley visited a week before an undisclosed airfield near the Ukraine border that has become a hub for shipping weapons. The airport’s location remains a secret to protect the shipments of weapons, including anti-armor missiles, into Ukraine. Although the report didn’t name the location, the airfield was likely in Poland along Ukraine’s border.
“US European Command (EUCOM) is at the heart of the massive shipment operation, using its liaison network with allies and partners to coordinate ‘in real time’ to send materials into Ukraine, a second Defense official said. EUCOM is also coordinating with other countries, including the United Kingdom, in terms of the delivery process ‘to ensure that we are using our resources to maximum efficiency to support the Ukrainians in an organized way,’ the official added.”
In Europe, 400,000 US forces were deployed at the height of the Cold War in the sixties, though the number has since been brought down  to almost 100,000 after European powers developed their own military capacity following the devastation of the Second World War. The number of American troops deployed in Europe now stands at 50,000 in Germany, 15,000 in Italy and 10,000 in the United Kingdom.
During the last year, the United States has substantially ramped up US military footprint in the Eastern Europe by deploying thousands of additional NATO troops, strategic armaments, nuclear-capable missiles and air force squadrons aimed at Russia, and NATO forces alongside regional clients have been provocatively exercising so-called “freedom of navigation” right in the Black Sea and conducting joint military exercises and naval drills.
The Biden administration approved on Feb. 24 an additional 7,000 US troops  to be deployed to Germany, bringing the total number of American forces sent to Europe to 15,000 this month, including troops previously deployed to Poland, Bulgaria and Romania. In Poland alone, the US military footprint now exceeds 10,000 troops as the majority of 15,000 troops sent to Europe last month went to Poland to join the 4,000 US troops already stationed there.
“We have 130 jets at high alert. Over 200 ships from the high north to the Mediterranean, and thousands of additional troops in the region,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told CNN .
A spokesman for US European Command told CNN the United States was sending two Patriot missile batteries to Poland, and was also considering deploying THAAD air defense system, a more advanced system equivalent in capabilities to Russia’s S-400 air defense system.
Besides providing 2,000 surface-to-air missiles and 17,000 anti-armor munitions, including Javelins and NLAWs, to Ukraine’s security forces and allied militias, British Defense Minister Ben Wallace said  that the UK was considering sending the laser-guided Starstreak shoulder-fired anti-aircraft system, a significant upgrade from the Stinger missiles sent by the US, Germany and other allies. The weapon has a range of over four miles and can take down fighter planes more effectively than the Stinger.
Although NATO powers did provide Stingers to their jihadist proxies that helped turning the tide in the Soviet-Afghan war in the eighties, since then, despite providing anti-tank munitions and rest of weapons to militant groups in the proxy wars in Libya and Syria, Western powers have consistently avoided providing MANPADS to proxy forces, because such deadly anti-aircraft munitions could become a long-term threat not only to military aircraft but also to civilian airlines.
In the sheer desperation to inflict maximum material damage on Russia’s security forces, however, NATO appears to have breached its own long-standing convention of curbing the proliferation of anti-aircraft munitions. Following Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, Germany alone has proudly bragged  of dispatching caches of 500 US-made surface-to-air Stinger missiles and 2,700 Soviet-era, shoulder-fired Strela missiles to Ukraine’s conscript military.
Who would be responsible for the myopic and vindictive policy of providing anti-aircraft munitions to Ukraine’s irregular militias once Kyiv falls and those MANPADS are found in black markets posing grave risk to civilian airlines across the globe? In fact, Russia’s seasoned Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov alluded to the grave risk posed by the proliferation of anti-aircraft munitions in the peace talks with the Ukrainian counterpart in Turkey.
Russia’s reluctant and delayed military intervention in Ukraine is fundamentally a war of power projection, a shot across the bow to perfidious former allies, the East European states, who’ve been joining the EU and NATO in droves since the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, that the collective security of Eurasian nations is a shared responsibility, and NATO’s eastward expansion along Russia’s western flank not only imperils the security of resurgent Russia but also compromises the balance of power in the multipolar world.
It’s worth recalling that before the Biden-Putin summit at Geneva last June, Russia had a similar troop build-up along Ukraine’s borders. Extending the hand of friendship, Russia significantly drawdown its forces along the western border before the summit last year. Instead of returning the favor, however, the conceited leadership of supposedly world’s sole surviving super power turned down the hand of friendship and even snubbed Putin.
Despite losing the empire in the nineties, as far as military power is concerned, Russia with its enormous arsenal of conventional as well as nuclear weapons still more or less equals the military power of the United States, as is obvious from the unfolding Ukraine war where all the NATO could do is watch it from distance, and not even attempting to enforce a no-fly zone lest the conflict spirals into a mutually destructive nuclear war.
But it’s the much more subtle and insidious tactic of economic warfare for which Russia has no antidote, as the global neocolonial order is being led by the United States and its Western European clients since the signing of the Bretton Woods Accord in 1945 following the Second World War. Because any state, particularly those pursuing socialist policies, that dares to challenge the Western monopoly over global trade and economic policies is internationally isolated and its national economy goes bankrupt over a period of time.
Despite having immense firepower at its disposal that could readily turn the tide in conflicts as protracted as Syria’s proxy war, the Russian advance in Ukraine has been slower than expected according to most estimates because Russia is only targeting military infrastructure and doing all it can to minimize collateral damage, particularly needless civilian losses in the former Soviet republic whose majority population is sympathetic to Russia.
Rather than mitigating suffering of Ukraine’s disenfranchised masses held hostage by the Zelensky regime, the self-styled champions of human rights are doing all they can to lure Russia into their “bear trap project,” a term borrowed from the Soviet-Afghan War of the eighties when Western powers used Pakistan’s security forces and generous funding from the oil-rich Gulf States for providing guerrilla warfare training and lethal weaponry to Afghan jihadists to “bleed the security forces” of former Soviet Union in the protracted irregular warfare.
The Congress’ recently announced  $1.5 trillion package to fund the federal government through September would boost national defense coffers to $782 billion, about a 6 percent increase. On top of the hefty budget increase, the package is set to deliver $13.6 billion in emergency funding to help Ukraine, nearly twice the assistance package initially proposed, including $3 billion for US forces and $3.5 billion for military equipment to Ukraine, plus more than $4 billion for US humanitarian efforts.
Of the $13.6 billion humanitarian and military assistance for Ukraine announced by the Biden administration, the top brass of the Pentagon is reportedly making preparations for disbursing $3.5 billion for providing military training and arms to millions of refugees who have fled Ukraine following the war.
The Machiavellian plan of NATO’s military strategists is to establish refugee settlements with the “humanitarian assistance” in the border regions of Ukraine’s neighboring countries Poland and Romania, and then provide guerrilla warfare training and lethal arms to all able-bodied men of military age in order to mount a war of attrition against Russia’s security forces.
Although NATO’s military strategists are drawing parallels with the Soviet-Afghan War of the eighties and the two-decade occupation of Afghanistan by the US forces from Oct. 2001 to August 2021 when the ragtag Afghan insurgents defeated two super powers of the era, and are betting on the success of Ukraine’s potential insurgency against Russian forces from border regions of Poland and Romania, those were two very different wars.
The former Soviet Union and the US never lacked resources to subdue insurgency in Afghanistan. What they lacked was the will to pour infinite military and economic resources into a meaningless war lacking clear strategic objectives over an indefinite period of time.
By contrast, the Vladimir Putin government is fully committed and Russia’s national security establishment regards Ukraine as an integral part of Russia, eastern Ukraine with its large Russian-speaking population in particular, and would go to any extent to integrate Ukraine into Russia’s sphere of influence and forestall NATO’s further eastward expansion along Russia’s vulnerable western flank.
If we take a cursory look at the insurgency in Afghanistan, the Bush administration toppled the Taliban regime with the help of the Northern Alliance in October 2001 in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attack. Since the beginning, however, Afghanistan was an area of lesser priority for the Bush administration.
The number of US troops deployed in Afghanistan did not exceed beyond 30,000 during George Bush’s tenure as the American president, and soon after occupying Afghanistan, Washington invaded Iraq in March 2003 to expropriate its 140 billion barrels proven oil reserves, and American resources and focus shifted to Iraq.
It was the ostensibly “pacifist and noninterventionist” Obama administration that made the Afghanistan conflict the bedrock of its foreign policy in 2009 along with fulfilling then-President Obama’s electoral pledge of withdrawing American forces from Iraq in December 2011, only to be redeployed a couple of years later when the Islamic State overran Mosul and Anbar in Iraq in early 2014.
At the height of the surge of the US troops in Afghanistan in 2010, the American troops numbered around 100,000, with an additional 40,000 troops deployed by the rest of the NATO members, but they still could not manage to have a lasting impact on the relentless Taliban insurgency.
About the author:
Nauman Sadiq is an Islamabad-based geopolitical and analyst .