OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author’s opinion.
The Defense Department has ordered a division with a famed history to Europe for the first time in almost 80 years to train with allies near NATO’s perimeter.
The Pentagon’s decision to send the 101st Airborne Division to conduct exercises just a few miles from Ukraine’s border with Romania comes amid heightened tensions with Russia following its February invasion of its eastern neighbor.
CBS News added:
From the moment Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, his forces have advanced northward from the Crimean Peninsula, a Ukrainian region that Moscow illegally seized control of in 2014. For more than seven months, Russian troops have tried to push along the Black Sea coast into the Kherson region, aiming to capture the key Ukrainian port cities of Mykolaiv and Odesa.
Their goal is to cut off all Ukrainian access to the sea, leaving the country and its military forces landlocked. That threat, so close to NATO territory in Romania, is why one of America’s most elite air assault divisions has been sent in, with some heavy equipment.
“We’re ready to defend every inch of NATO soil,” the division’s deputy commander, Brig. Gen. John Lubas, told CBS News. “We bring a unique capability, from our air assault capability… We’re a light infantry force, but again, we bring that mobility with us, for our aircraft and air assaults.”
The report noted that both U.S. and Romanian forces have been conducting live-fire drills designed to simulate actual combat conditions in Ukraine. “The war games so close to that border are a clear message to Russia and to America’s NATO allies, that the U.S. Army is hear,” the report added.
“The real meaning for me, to have the American troops here, is like if you were to have allies in Normandy before any enemy was there,” Romanian Maj. Gen. Lulian Berdila told the outlet, making reference to the historic invasion of Europe via France’s northern coast in June 1944.
Col. Edwin Matthaidess, Commander of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, told the network that his forces are the closest American troops to the fighting in Ukraine. From where they are deployed, his troops have been “closely watching” the Russian military, “building objectives to practice against” and conducting war games that “replicate exactly what’s going on” in the conflict.
“It keeps us on our toes,” he said.
Meanwhile, a former Russian diplomat is warning that Russian President Vladimir Putin may be willing to sacrifice 20 million soldiers to take Ukraine.
Boris Bondarev, in an interview with Sky News, said that Putin “understands that if he loses the war with Ukraine, it will be the end of him,” which is why he is willing to order such a sacrifice.
“You should have no doubt about it. He may sacrifice 10 or 20 million Russians just to win this war just to slaughter all Ukrainians because it’s a matter of principle. It’s a matter of political survival to him,” he said.
Business Insider added that Bondarev quit Russia’s permanent mission at the United Nations in Geneva in May over the war. The report also said that the West should be willing to meet Putin’s threats without hesitation.
In response to a question from Rigby about President Joe Biden’s somewhat cautious responses to Putin, Bondarev noted: “When you say that you don’t want to provoke a bully, it gives him the wrong signal. It shows him you are afraid of him, and he will escalate further. You must show Putin a clear signal that if he wants escalation, he will get it. You must show that his threats are not working.”
He added that Putin is using the potential of nuclear escalation to “compel other countries to do whatever he wants.”
Initially, Bondarev said Putin “planned it to be very short, very easy war for one or two weeks. Now he has to win it at all costs.”
“I think the 20 years of him in power have been very lucky for him. He is not smart. He is just lucky. Now I think his luck is over,” the former diplomat added.