The U.S. recently announced it will be sending 31 M-1 Abrams tanks into the war in Ukraine. This is merely the latest in a series of war material and funding the U.S. has provided to Ukraine over the past eleven months. Since the start of this conflict in February 2022, the U.S. has sent some $110 billion of air defense, armor, long-range artillery, close and long-range precision-guided rockets, and an assortment of other military and humanitarian aid. Since the new year, president Biden agreed to send Patriot air defense systems, precision-guided munitions, and Javelin anti-tank weapons. The U.S. is providing consequential armaments to a battle command in Ukraine that is at war with Russia.
The Abrams tank deal was no sooner announced, than the Ukrainian defense minister, Oleksii Reznikov was publicly requesting “fighter jets, aircraft and rockets...long-hand options to hit the Russians’ fuel depots, ammunition depots and their commanders.” We don’t know if Joe Biden will acquiesce to this request, but if the consistent incrementalism of the past year is a guide, it remains a distinct possibility. Military experts who would know, have indicated that the tanks, any prospective jets, and other weapons systems will require U.S. personnel to make them effective on the battlefield. It is not a stretch to posit that from the perspective of Russian commanders, they are already at war with an arm of the U.S. military. Add U.S. “advisors” to the mix and later this year that perspective could well become reality.
In addition to the weapons escalation, the inevitable and dreaded drum-beat of “mission creep” is now in the air. Though no Biden official has yet to say so on the record, the New York Times and The Hill report that White House sources advise that the Administration is currently discussing supporting Ukraine’s expressed goal of re-taking Crimea. That acceleration seemed to be trial-ballooned in a Farid Zakaria interview with former Commanding General US Army Europe, Ben Hodges, who advances the idea that the U.S. should help take back Crimea. Britain’s foreign secretary, James Cleverly was quoted last month on a visit to Washington, “We think now is the right time to intensify our support for Ukraine...we can’t allow this to drag on and become a kind of First World War attritional-type stalemate.” He went on to address an existing British assessment of the feasibility of aiding Ukraine in attacking the “land-bridge” between Russia and Crimea.
In the face of the West’s meeting and seemingly upping the ante in the Ukrainian war, Vladimir Putin has publicly intimated that the threat of nuclear retaliation by Russia remains in the realm of possibility. Naturally, the potential casus belli for such a momentous act remain unknown. But former Russian president and current Russian Security Council Deputy Chairman Dmitry Medvedev posted on his social media in late January, "Firstly, defending Ukraine, which nobody needs in Europe, will not save the senile Old World from retribution if anything occurs. Secondly, once the Third World War breaks out, unfortunately it will not be on tanks or even on fighter jets. Then everything will definitely be turned to dust...the loss by a nuclear power in a conventional war could provoke a nuclear war. Nuclear powers have not lost major conflicts on which their fate depends. And this should be obvious to anyone.”
Numerous ex-military commentators in the West believe such talk from the Kremlin is merely a grand bluff designed to halt the West’s military supply line into the conflict and stall out the Ukrainian war effort. But do we really want to test this thesis by going all-in with a Ukrainian push to retake Crimea from Russia? Who could be so sure Putin would not deploy a tactical nuclear device in order to hold Crimea? In light of our military leadership’s judgement in the past couple years, how much confidence are we to have in such an assessment? A miscalculation here could well be the most catastrophic our military has made in generations...if ever. Many astute observers have written over the past year that the United States’ behavior in the Ukraine war is tantamount to ‘sleep-walking into World War III.’
Which puts into focus – don’t the American people’s representatives get a vote on such monumental and consequential war-making matters anymore? To date the U.S. Congress has voted for the Ukraine Sovereignty Act of 2022, which “authorizes security assistance for Ukraine and requires sanctions against Russia if it escalates hostilities in or against Ukraine.” Congress also passed The Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act of 2022, which facilitates the supply of material to the Ukrainian government in a manner similar to the Lend-Lease bill of the WWII era. Under the requirements of the War Powers Resolution of 1973, Congress voted on the Gulf, Afghanistan, and Iraq wars before committing the U.S. armed forces to those conflicts.
In each of those cases American troops were clearly part of the “armed forces” committed to the conflict. Over the decades, in the absence of the commitment of troops, presidents have managed to skirt the requirement of congressional approval. But in the case of Ukraine, the Russians have taken the unprecedented action of insinuating the possibility of the use of a nuclear weapon. So far, the Administration has given no indication of interest in a congressional vote as it escalates the stakes in the conflict. Anyone even casually acquainted with this war in Europe, should recognize that the dynamics and implications of this conflict vary greatly from those of the proxy wars fought in the middle east over the past three decades. Yet curiously, in tandem with the Administration’s silence, neither is there a congressional chorus calling for a vote on the escalation. Nor is our leadership calling for negotiations which could lead to peace.
Congressman Gaetz has just introduced a bill calling for a halt to additional military aid and funding for the Ukraine war. The bill has ten co-sponsors and represents a start, but events may well eclipse this effort. Indeed, on Feb. 13th the U.S. government recommended that all U.S. citizens in Russia should leave the country. This is an ominous turn of events. In a now familiar pattern, likely a strategy, of incrementalism our national leadership has again marched us into a war with much wider and more dire implications than any in perhaps a half century. In just the time it has taken to assemble the information and write this article, its purpose may have shifted from a call to action to a frustrating profession of indignation at the irresponsibility of those we have entrusted with the security of the United States of America. In a Constitutional Republic the citizens are owed, and deserve, the respect of a real seat at the table when facing such a consequential hinge of history as what amounts to World War III. We need to contact our representatives today – we want them on record. We demand a vote on our future.
Bob MacGuffie is co-author of the book ‘The Seventh Crisis – Why Millennials Must Re-establish Ordered Liberty,’ Seventh Crisis which examines and illuminates the historic crisis we currently endure.