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The Stage Is Set For US Combat Troops In Ukraine – OpEd

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There’s no doubt that the retreat from Kherson was a black-eye for the Russian Army. There’s also no doubt that the general who ordered the evacuation made the right decision. True, the optics are terrible, but optics don’t win wars. Strategy, valor and firepower wins wars. Russian General Sergey Surovikin appears to grasp that fact which is why he made the unpopular decision to retreat.

Surovikin could have made the more politically acceptable choice and defended Kherson to the end, but the risks far outweighed the benefits. By all accounts, the 25,000 Russian troops in the city could have easily been encircled and annihilated by Ukrainian artillery. Additionally, Surovikin would have been forced to commit more troops to a rescue mission that would not have advanced Russia’s overall military strategy in the slightest. Russia’s immediate goal is to complete the liberation of the Donbas, a task that is not yet finished and which requires more of the troops that had been pinned-down in Kherson.

For all intents and purposes, the retreat from Kherson was a no-brainer. If the nightmare scenario had unfolded –as many had expected– and thousands of Russian soldiers wound up surrounded and slaughtered in defense of a city that holds little strategic value, then popular support for the war in Russia would have vanished overnight. Neither Putin nor Surovikin could afford to take that risk. So, instead, they opted to pack-it-in and evacuate while they still could, which of course, incited the fury of their critics who are still hopping mad. The good news, however, is that the Kherson public relations disaster will have no meaningful impact on the outcome of the war. Russia is still on-track to achieve all of its strategic objectives despite the pitfalls it has encountered along the way. Here’s a brief recap of the Russian withdrawal from an interview with Colonel Douglas MacGregor:

“When General Surovikin took command… it was decided that Russia was going to wait for a decisive operation to end the war. In other words, no more simply defending southern Ukraine and the territory we’ve annexed, no more expectations of negotiations with anyone– those are over– we have to end the war. 

How do you end the war? Well, you launch operations that are so devastating in their destructiveness that the enemy cannot resist them. However, if you are going to do that you’re going to have to scale back current activities. (like Kherson) In other words, you have to make changes on the ground, shuffle troops, change resource commitments because you are now building up for forces that are not yet in southern Ukraine … but are being prepared with this mobilization of 300,000 troops integrated into this new force for future operations… which will come this winter once the ground freezes…. So, I would regard (the withdrawal) as an operational decision with short-term benefit in support of the long-term strategy of building this enormous striking power…The Russians no longer place any confidence in negotiations. I don’t think we could say anything to the Russians at this point that would persuade them to stop.” (“EVERYTHING changes in 4 weeks: Interview with Colonel Douglas MacGregor”, youtube; Start at 50 seconds) 

So, according to MacGregor, the repositioning of troops is key to the overall strategy which has changed under Surovikin. Under the new commander, the primary focus of military operations is the annihilation of all forces and assets that allow the enemy to continue to wage war. I suspect that means the removal of the Zelensky regime and his security services, but I could be wrong. In any event, the upcoming Russian offensive is going to be much more in-line with a conventional combined-arms ground war than with the Special Military Operation we’ve seen up to this point. Moscow is determined settle the issue as quickly as possible and as forcefully as necessary. There won’t be any more messing around.

That said, recent reports (see below) suggest that the Biden administration may deploy US combat troops to the theatre in response to any Russian escalation that could threaten to alter the course of the war. If these reports prove to be accurate, then the greatly-anticipated winter offensive could trigger a direct conflagration between the United States and Russia. Given the trajectory of the war to this point, we think it’s only a matter of time before Washington emerges from behind its proxies and engages Russian troops on the battlefield. There are many indications that the Pentagon is already preparing for that eventuality.

Secret communications between national security advisor Jake Sullivan and the former Russian ambassador to Washington, Yuri Yushakov, and the former head of the FSB, Nikolai Patrushev, suggest that Sullivan warned his Russian counterparts that the US would not allow Russia to settle the conflict on its own terms, but would take whatever steps were needed to prevent a decisive Russian victory. Check out this excerpt from another interview with Colonel Douglas MacGregor:

MacGregor– “Jake Sullivan talked about the dangers of escalation… He simply said that ‘We see evidence that you, Russia, are preparing to escalate this conflict.’ Which is true; we have been talking about this (impending Russian winter) offensive. ‘And we are warning you against that’ (said Sullivan) The unspoken implication at this point, is that we’re prepared to jump into this conflict in some way because we will not allow you to partition Ukraine. We will not allow you to fight and win this war on your terms……

Napolitano– Do you know whether Sullivan mentioned the presence of the 40,000 US troops (101st Airborne) in Poland?

MacGregor– We don’t (know that) But we think– based on the language that has leaked-out in the paragraph I received from another source, that he (Sullivan) did imply that they have 90,000 troops in Poland and Romania, and that, potentially, if Russia escalated, presumably– on the scale that we think the Russians will escalate– that we (the US) might be prepared to jump in. And we would jump in with 40,000 US troops, 30,000 Polish troops and 20,000 Romanian troops….. Sullivan made it clear that we are in a position to intervene.”

…”What we don’t know is what the Russians said in response, because if you are Russian, the red line is clear: ‘If you move into Ukraine, you’re going to be at war with Russia.’ We seem to be in denial about that.”

Napolitano– “Let me get this straight: Are you of the belief, …that Jake Sullivan…threatened the Russians that if they crossed these red lines, they would meet with US military resistance in Ukraine?”

MacGregor– I think that implication was made. That is the impression I am getting and I don’t think we should be surprised about that because Ukraine’s position is deteriorating very rapidly… And we are very concerned about a Ukrainian collapse. Some estimates indicate that the entire economy and social structure will collapse within 60 days. Some say they are going to general mobilization in Ukraine right now, which may include women, because their manpower base is exhausted. And, remember, people continue to leave Ukraine as much as possible because nobody wants to be stuck in a country that shortly will have no power, no electricity, and where there will be trouble getting water, and trouble getting food. The situation in Ukraine is dire.”

Napolitano– What are 40,000 US troops in the 101st Airborne doing in Poland?

MacGregor– They are preparing for combat operations….

Napolitano– Has the Department of Defense given the President of the United States plans for the entry of US troops into Ukraine? Is that done?

MacGregor– I think those plans have certainly been discussed if not briefed to Jake Sullivan. Certainly, the Secretary of State (Anthony Blinken) is aware. I don’t know what they’ve told the president. My hope is that he received some briefing. Again, this is all very serious because we are in the middle of an election and this could happen without any consultation with Congress whatsoever.

Napolitano– What is the status of the 300,000 reservists that Putin called up a month ago?

MacGregor– The majority of them have already been integrated into formations and units –alot of them have gone into units that were under-strength that are now back to ‘full strength’. Some have gone into new units. (Note: I think MacGregor could be wrong about this. Other analysts suggest that only 80,000 reservists have been sent to Ukraine so far. The process could take a few months before the entire deployment is concluded.) It’s almost complete but, the bottom line is, the low temperature in Ukraine has been 37 degrees. which means you’re still going to be stuck in the mud whether you are attacking or defending. Until the ground freezes, I don’t think alot going to happen…But when the winter arrives and the ground freezes, that is when the Russians will attack. And we see evidence of this from at least three different directions including the east, the southeast and the north. And, judging from the (military) buildup and the weapons systems that are in place and supplies that are available, this is an offensive that is designed to end the war.Whether it will or not, we don’t know. But I think that is the idea.

MacGregor– There’s one last thing I’d like to leave you with: When General Surovikin, the commander of the western theatre accepted his appointment, he made these brief remarks. He said “A Syrian solution for Ukraine is unacceptable.” In other words, we will not allow Ukraine to fall under the influence of various actors that maintain Ukraine in a state of permanent turmoil and war. That’s a very clear signal, that when they launch (the winter offensive) they plan to put an end to the conflict. So, it would be very unwise for us to get in the way of this…..We simply do not have the level of support to guarantee success.” (“This is a Red Line in Ukraine”, Colonel Douglas MacGregor, Judging Freedom) 

Russia is now prepared to do whatever it takes to win the war quickly and roll-up the hostile army that poses a threat to its national security. If US forces join the fighting, the calculus for winning could change dramatically, but the strategic objectives would remain the same. No nation can be expected to live at peace when a gun is pointed at its head. That is why Putin opposed NATO membership for Ukraine, and that is why the current war is being fought.

Views expressed are the author’s own

Mike Whitney

Mike Whitney writes on politics and finances and lives in Washington state. He can be reached at [email protected]

21 thoughts on “The Stage Is Set For US Combat Troops In Ukraine – OpEd

  • November 15, 2022 at 2:51 am
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    McGregor has been wrong before and is at it again. This ex-Pentagon warrior, back-bencher, with no strtagic creds argues illogically for a Russian solution. The Russian army is still a paper tiger with those questionable 300k ill-trained conscripts supported by faulty logistics. Then there’s the issue with leadership at the combat front, not to mention any air support.

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    • November 17, 2022 at 6:13 pm
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      What are your military creds to make your opinion matter? To paraphrase a great philosopher said, “Slander is the weapon of the defeated.” As well as “Great Minds talk ideas, average minds events, and weak minds people.” That is a response to all these comments.

      How about all the government genius who believed the Steele Dossier was the truth. Or that Nato blowing up Russian aircraft in Ukraine won’t lead to WWIII/ possible nuclear war. Some of the same people who have a hard on for Ukraine believed that Iraq had WMDs, how did that turn out?

      Whether or not his predication/analysis is real, is it not time to have a real debate without using political slurs like “Putin puppet” or “semi fascists”? Is it time to have an unemotional/rational public discussion how far the West should go, instead having a small group of intellectuals and corruptible politicians getting more people killed and risk escalating a horrible regional war into a civilization tragedy?

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  • November 15, 2022 at 7:33 am
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    this is a very brave opinion writer. to promote the idea that Russia is about to win the war as it runs out of ammunition to the point of begging Iran and No Korea for help…and as a manpower strategy sends unequipped/untrained men rounded up on the street to die at 500-800/day rates…to promote that victory is just around the corner really takes some balls. or a nice Kremlin paycheck. but whatever, have a nice day.

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    • November 17, 2022 at 6:15 pm
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      Conspiracy theorist or troll?

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  • November 15, 2022 at 7:58 am
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    Wrong! The war is being fought to make Putin’s anachronistic dreams of an empire built by defeating countries around it to form a physical base to oppose a world that measures power by technological and trading advances.

    The implication is that the Western allies can give Ukraine more advanced technology to defeat Russia as they see fit. Russia cannot defeat this strategy. No Western European ground forces are needed, which this author doesn’t grasp. And therefore his commentary is irrelevant.

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  • November 15, 2022 at 8:24 pm
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    This article is so obviously pro kremlin, it’s very embarrassing.

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    • November 16, 2022 at 3:28 am
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      You’re spot on. We see a cabal of pro-Russian pundits who conveniently ignore the facts. What the “writer” and McGregor conveniently omit are the facts that Putin has bullied many states and peoples and will look for a way of the pacifist West to get him out his his self-created mess. This article is eligible fr the Gleiwicz award.

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  • November 15, 2022 at 9:44 pm
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    I will go with General Ben Hodges’ analysis over that of this Colonel. Russia is going to be defeated unless it agrees to concessions involving its exit from Ukrainian territory. We are now seeing this on a weekly basis. I don’t agree with much of Col. MacGregor’s analysis. (But then again, I am only a former artillery Captain!).

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  • November 15, 2022 at 10:34 pm
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    If only the USA were not being led by a President with the IQ of a ham sandwich. If instead of Biden the USA still had our legitimately elected President Trump in office, then this war would not have ever happened since Adolf Putin knows Donald Trump has a spine and that he would have directed the US military to obliterate the Russian forces entering Ukraine, if they ever attacked Ukraine. And second, if Trump were President today, this attack on Poland would result in several large Russian warships and submarines being sunk in the Baltic and Black seas. That is how you deal with the cowardly, baby killing, rapists and drunks in the Russian Navy slinging missiles from Russian vessels into Ukraine and Poland. FJB.

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    • November 16, 2022 at 1:30 am
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      Ham Sandwich ?? While Quietly Achieving outcomes on multiple levels unlike many recent POTUS.. “Red Wave Sandwich”

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    • November 19, 2022 at 3:29 am
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      Russia wins when the west folds, they don’t need to take a single step forward.
      Ukraine is devastated and the moment the aid stops…

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  • November 16, 2022 at 1:06 am
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    If people think the Russians will tolerate a victorious American army on its borders, they are insane.

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  • November 16, 2022 at 3:18 am
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    My five year old dog would have a better track record predicting this war based upon past prognostications from McGregor. He’s either over his head with this situation or his biases are getting in the way.

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  • November 16, 2022 at 3:21 am
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    Any nation has a history of victories and defeats. Russians and Ukrainians are historically and geographically is one nation with fewer differences than similarities. This war wouldn’t happen if not for efforts by outside powers to cause it. There’s much more at stake in this war for Russia than for anyone else. Russians defeated much stronger powers in the past despite all odds and that is likely to happen now. I hope that powerful idiots wouldn’t trigger nuclear Armageddon which will resolve all current and future problems for brain dead humans for good…

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    • November 16, 2022 at 12:15 pm
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      Russia (then the Soviet Union) managed to defeat only one 1 strong power during the last 200 years, after Napoleon. And that victory (in WWII) came with the help of US weapons and ammunition supply. Russia lost (for example) to Britain/France (Crimean War), Japan (1905), Germany (WWI). The Soviet Union even lost in Afghanistan. Not so impressive.

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  • November 16, 2022 at 4:26 am
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    Was McGregor also saying that Kiyv would fall in 3 days? That the grinding Russian summer Donbas offensive would continue to grind until the Ukraine military collapsed? That Kherson was Russian “forever”?

    Russian “combined arms” has yet to show that it can operate successfully more than about 25 miles from its railhead supply lines, or that it could coordinate the activities of more than about 3 BTGs at a time even with the professional troops with which it started the war.

    Russia has a vast pool of manpower available, but Ukraine also has a pool of 3 million or so 18-33 year-old men–it is nowhere close to having exhausted its supply of manpower. Those troops that it uses will be much better equipped than those from Russia’s mobilization.

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  • November 16, 2022 at 4:54 am
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    So someone whose only qualification (as far as I can tell from this article) is that he “writes on politics and finances” bases his claim entirely on an interview with someone whose only qualification (as far as I can tell from this article) is that he is a colonel (and perhaps not even currently, as he appears to be dressed in civvies). I can’t remember the last time I was so underwhelmed by “analysis.”

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  • November 16, 2022 at 7:30 pm
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    I literally can’t stop laughing every time we hear this stuff from Macgregor. He’s always saying Ukraine is on the verge of collapse and Russia is winning. It’s totally insane. All the evidence one can find points to the exact opposite conclusion. This guy is nuts.

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  • November 16, 2022 at 8:00 pm
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    “Good news” LOL? How much does the kremlin pay you to spew this nonsense?! This war has been a complete catastrophe for the Russians from day 1. Their best units are decimated and they have been exposed as an incompetent paper tiger. I cannot wait to fling this poorly thought out article back in your face when Russian lines in the south collapse…..

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  • November 17, 2022 at 3:12 am
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    Never underestimate the enemy. Americans are doing exactly that. They may yet be surprised and disappointed by Russian aims. Remember, to Russia, Ukraine is theirs. In the American Civil War, the aim of the Northern Union was to retain control over a vast Southern Confederate territory. Never mind that the Union ideology was changed from preserving the union to freeing the slaves. That was pure propaganda. It was all about territory. Land. Dirt. Not people. And that’s the situation in Russia vs Ukraine. It’s about territory, which Russia considers to be its own.

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  • November 20, 2022 at 8:58 pm
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    Even a cursory internet search would have told you that Douglas Macgregor is a brilliant armor commander. That he practically by himself commanded the Battle of 73 Easting, considered the largest armor battle of the US Army since WWII. That he is also is a military historian and the author of five books on military history and strategy, and a renown Army reformer, considered by many the best Army thinker today.

    Now myself, I never served in the military, either US or Soviet, except for a month of summer training in an army unit. . I am, by virtue of my military training within the framework of my civilian education, the modest Second Lieutenant (reserves) of PVO Strany troops. It is ground-to-air missiles. Nothing in my military training contradicts to what Doug Macgregor is saying, and everything confirms it. Besides, his understanding of that region, its history and its conflicts, is superb. I will not re-argue the points. You have Macgregor for that.
    Oh, and I grew up a few blocks from Put’n (those Russian names are hard).

    Reply

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