How US Special Forces Can Fight Vladimir Putin Without Starting World War III
President Biden has previously said that neither US nor NATO military forces would be deployed in the conflict sparked by Russian forces crossing Ukraine’s borders. The risks of escalation are simply too great, especially given the volatile threats that Russian President Vladimir Putin has made regarding the use of nuclear weapons. Direct involvement, it is thought, is simply too risky.
But that doesn’t mean the United States won’t be indirectlyinvolved in it. From intelligence gathering on the ground to training potential civilian partisans for guerrilla warfare, it is extremely likely that the United States and NATO will seek to influence events on the battlefield. Here’s how it might work.
According to former US Army Ranger Tom Amenta, gathering operational intelligence on the ground in Ukraine has advantages that cannot be matched by remote technologies such as satellite imagery or radio signal intercepts.
“The value of boots on the pitch [in intelligence] is that you get a ‘fingertip feel’ of what’s going on,” said Amenta, co-author of the book. The twenty years war, in an interview with The Daily Beast. Such information gives U.S. military observers “an idea of the population and the battlespace and allows us to assess the situation, almost in real time, and see what is happening with the Russians and the Ukrainians to help the commanders to plan”.
Amenta co-author Dan Blakely, another former Ranger, agreed that having local operatives to gather information would be invaluable in the Ukraine conflict.
“Not only do you get real-time HUMINT (human intelligence) of what the Russians are doing, but you can get a real boost from the ongoing capabilities of the Ukrainian military. [and] learn our enemies’ weaknesses and abilities,” including “what weapons, vehicles, planes, tactics, and troop units they use.”
Blakely added that such information was vital to developing “future strategic plans should U.S. and NATO allies get involved.”
When it comes to mustering HUMINT, one option for US elite forces is the use of Special Operations Groups (SOGs). Amenta described the typical SOG as a small secret reconnaissance task force, often made up of NSA or CIA intelligence operatives paired with special forces soldiers like the Green Berets or Delta Force commandos. In order to avoid detection, SOGs may work undercover among local populations.
“They basically mobilized the whole nation.”
“These men and women are extremely adept at blending into environments, gathering intelligence and being able to work with and help guide [and] help local military forces,” Amenta said.
Because secrecy is of paramount importance, SOGs working in Ukraine would likely be limited to a few officers in each unit. But Amenta framed it as a matter of quality rather than quantity, saying “training, raw intelligence and the ability to think quickly and think strategically are what win the day here”.
But not everyone is in favor of using SOG in Ukraine.
Dr. Robert J. Bunker, director of research at security consultancy ℅ Futures LLC, said the risk that a SOG team or NATO equivalent could be killed or captured, and linked to his country of origin, means the risk far outweighs the reward.
Putting US intelligence operatives on the ground in any capacity is simply not a “viable option”, Bunker said. “In my opinion, it’s escalated too much given that the Putin regime and the United States are nuclear powers… We just don’t want NATO or United States forces and the forces Russians come into direct contact with each other.”
Lt. Col. (Retired) Hal Kempfer, who served as a US Marine Corps intelligence officer, said it was “very possible” the US had spies on the ground in Ukraine. But Kempfer also said a safer option to avoid escalation would be to use Ukrainian nationals to gather vital HUMINT information and pass it on to their counterparts in the United States and NATO.
“We don’t really need to have [U.S. or NATO spies on the ground] because we can deal directly with the Ukrainian forces, of which we already have qualifiedand trained to a level where they can provide tremendous intelligence capability,” Kempfer said.
“They basically mobilized the whole nation. Got federal law enforcement [mobilized]. They are really good at observing and reporting. And good for avoiding detection while they’re doing it. So many of them might be wearing civilian clothes and collecting intelligence,” he added.
Even if US special forces did not enter Ukrainian territory, this does not mean that they will not play a vital role. One of their most important functions may well be to train Ukrainian soldiers or ordinary citizens in the guerrilla tactics they would need to resist the occupation of their homeland. just such tactical were employed by Mujahideen fighters during the Soviet–Afghan War of the late 20th century—tactics that eventually forced the Soviets to withdraw.
Friday, the BBC reported that at least 18,000 assault rifles had been distributed to citizens of Kiev, and the international community is full of speculation that the conflict could escalate into a protracted anti-Russian insurgency.
That’s partly because Ukraine is almost the size of Texas, with a population of around 43 million. About 70% of the population is concentrated in urban areas, which means: “We could be looking at house-to-house fighting in which tens of thousands of armed defenders face off against invading forces,” the director said. Bunker research.
In the event that major cities are pacified by Russian forces, an occupation phase would then begin in which “Ukrainian civilians and relatives of insurgent fighters” would be targeted, Bunker said. “With the brutality of such an occupation, it would begin to strain the Russian economy to logistically support the deployed force.”
Former Ranger Amenta agreed with Bunker that the Russian forces could be bogged down in a potential quagmire. “Once you have taken the territory, you are no longer the aggressor. [Then] you are in static positions that restrict your freedom of movement and you are an easier target,” Amenta said. “And two hundred thousand Russian soldiers against 43 million people who don’t like you, that’s a really hard thing to accomplish.”
In the event of a protracted insurgency that could turn into a war of attrition, the United States and NATO would likely see it in their own interests to provide training and ammunition to partisan fighters, similarly to the United States did it in Europe during the Nazi war. Occupation.
“It’s all fun and games until someone drops a nuke.”
When questioned, a senior US defense official told The Daily Beast that the US would not rule out training Ukrainians. “We will continue to look for ways to support the Ukrainian Armed Forces and help them defend their country,” they said.
Former Marine Colonel Kempfer, who cited similar US-led efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, described the training of host nation personnel as “a traditional Army Special Forces mission.” Amenta agreed, calling this formation the “bread and butter” of special forces.
“They would teach [Ukrainian partisans] how to use things like Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and javelin anti-tank weapons to slow down Russian tanks and helicopters. They will also teach ambush and guerrilla warfare techniques, especially things that can destabilize or slow down Russian movement, and, if they were trying to hold territory, make it very difficult to maintain it.
A major question might be where this training would take place. If US forces are prevented from entering occupied Ukraine, close NATO allies like Poland and Romania appear as potential candidates. US troops arrived in both countries this week to help them defend against potential Russian incursions, meaning the personnel needed to set up guerrilla schools may already be in place.
The problem with the base of training camps in NATO countries, Kempfer said, is that the Kremlin might see it as an aggressive interference in its sphere of influence.
“If you train supporters in Romania or Poland and then they return to Ukraine [to engage Russian forces]- how would Putin see this? You have to consider the political volatility of that.
Kempfer also pointed to Putin’s KGB background and penchant for being ruthlessly vindictive against any perceived threat.
“He’s someone who used a nerve agent to murder dissidents on British soil… My concern would be that if we brought in [the partisans] to a NATO country, Putin could take some sort of overt military action against that NATO country and that would cause a massive escalation. The other concern is that he would use covert means against this country to destabilize the situation in and around where we are training. It’s right in his kit bag.”
Kempfer said one solution could be the use of virtual or online training. “From an operational risk perspective, it’s the safest thing we can do,” he said.
Kempfer also raised the possibility that many members of the Ukrainian diaspora in the United States and Western Europe consider themselves compelled to return to their home countries to take up arms.
“I strongly believe that’s going to happen,” Kempfer said, and also mentioned that such an influx of volunteer foreign fighters could tempt Putin to unfairly claim deliberate US or NATO interference.
“There’s reality and then there’s whatever Russia wants to say,” Kempfer said. “Everything is fun and fun until someone drops a nuke.”
Shannon Vavra contributed to this story.