The deployment of U.S. troops to Poland and the Baltics is causing alarm among U.S. military veterans, who fear that ratcheting up military tensions near conflicted Ukraine could lead to a war between the U.S. and Russia, two nuclear-armed powers. Veterans For Peace is warning against further escalation of the conflict.
“Wars are all too easy to start, even by accident, but they are very hard to stop,” said Michael McPhearson, Executive Director of Veterans For Peace.* “It is time for cooler heads to prevail, and for honest diplomacy leading to a just and nonviolent outcome for the Ukrainian people.”
The veterans are reacting to a decision by the Obama administration to send US troops to Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania as the crisis in Ukraine heats up and Russia conducts military exercises on its border with Ukraine.
Only six hundred U.S. troops are being deployed at this time. But NATO’s top military commander, U.S. General Philip M. Breedlove, said a 4,500-member American combat brigade from Fort Hood, Texas could be deployed to Europe.
The first contingent of U.S. troops to arrive in Poland last week were 150 soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team based in Vicenza, Italy. The 173rd Airborne is a rapid response team that played a key role in the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 and saw major combat in Afghanistan.
“Ukraine is not a member of NATO but that could change if the U.S. has its way,” said Michael Prysner, a member of the Board of Directors of Veterans For Peace who participated in the invasion of Iraq with the 173rd Airborne Brigade. “The U.S. media is portraying Russia as the aggressor in Ukraine, while ignoring the major role the U.S. government has played in overthrowing the elected government of Ukraine and installing a government more to its liking.”
“Clearly the U.S. government has a dog in this fight,” said Gerry Condon, Vice President of Veterans For Peace. “The State Department was involved in February’s regime change in Ukraine and the CIA Director made a ‘secret’ visit there two weeks ago, followed by Vice President Joe Biden last week. Billions of U.S. tax dollars are being promised to prop up a shaky government that came to power via a violent coup. And now U.S. troops are being deployed to the region.
“Some political forces in the U.S. are irresponsibly pressing President Obama to be more aggressive with Russia,” said Condon. “Veterans who have experienced the horror and futility of war have a different message for the president: scale down the rhetoric and pursue a diplomatic outcome.
“Veterans For Peace understands that Russia has reason to feel threatened by aggressive NATO expansion right up to its borders,” said Condon. “Even so, we urge Russia also to take steps to ease tensions and avoid war.”
In a statement released today, Veterans For Peace called for diplomacy and a nonviolent resolution to the crisis in Ukraine:
“We will work to understand the varying interests of different national groups and regions within Ukraine, and encourage a nonviolent, diplomatic outcome to this dangerous crisis.
“Washington and its European allies ought to reverse course and turn Ukraine into a field of cooperation with Russia through a jointly supported bailout devoid of geopolitical motivation.
“Good relations with both Russia and the European Union are in the best interests of all the Ukrainian people. A just and peaceful resolution that averts the threat of war is in the interests of all the world’s people.”