Russia does not care what Americans are doing in Ukraine, and officially have so far only released a few words of rhetoric in opposition to their presence in Ukraine. This is in contrast to a recent report by The Daily Beast titled “American Paratroopers in Ukraine Have Putin Rattled.” In reality, Putin does not care about the American paratroopers in Ukraine, and has been going about his daily affairs of topless fishing, horseback riding, and judo without a care in the world. After all, he has an estimated 34,765,736 men in his country (directly next door to Ukraine) available for military service, while the contingent of American paratroopers consists of only 600 trainers.
Operation Fearless Guardian, also known as Saber Guardian/Rapid Trident, has been funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Global Security Contingency Fund (GSCF). The GSCF-Ukraine is a provider of training, equipment, and supplies to Ukraine. Currently, a contingent of Sky Soldiers from the Vicenza, Italy-based 173rd Airborne Brigade are deployed to the Yavoriv NATO Training Centre just outside of Lviv, Ukraine, with approximately 1,200 other NATO soldiers in support of the GSCF-U. From this location, our highly outnumbered training contingent is situated at a straight-line distance of 1,381 kilometers or 858 miles from the border of the Russian Federation. This threat distance is significantly higher than the shared U.S./Russian border near Alaska. The two countries are separated by a mere 53 miles.
Although numbers such as these at a great distance are not a cause for concern to Russia, perhaps Senate Simple Resolution 72 has been. The defensive provision for non-lethal aid has recently delivered 230 High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV) and $75,000,000 of the $350,000,000 promised under Senate Act 282, or the Ukraine Freedom Support Act of 2014. The military aid has thus far included communications technologies, counter-artillery radar systems, fire control and guidance equipment, night vision goggles, and surveillance drones among other operational-support items.
Despite the deliveries, this is not likely to be a concern for Russia considering the state of the Ukrainian military. Ukraine has been rebuilding its military infrastructure, undertaking massive cuts since the 1990s. They were left with a standing total military of only 130,000 troops in 2014, which has multiplied in 2015 to an approximate total of 250,000. In the mix of a swiftly expanding force, the equipment will also have to make it through some of the most corrupt channels in Europe before it can be deployed by rapidly trained national guardsmen and volunteers. Even if all of the equipment was to make it to well-trained soldiers, the threat to Russia and its forces is miniscule. (See graphic below.)
Maybe Moscow is in fear of the training being conducted in Yavoriv. Yet the training being conducted is core to a peacekeeping mission. In fact, NATO has deemed the mission a partnership for peace (PfP) effort, and the training reflects it. Units in the field on display with guns, tanks, soldiers, and staff lead by distinguished generals on these glorious training exercises are focusing on tactics, techniques, and procedures closely resembling a Balkans peacekeeping operation. The units are focusing on the efforts listed below.
The most realistic assessment of this situation is that NATO and Russia are simply playing Cold War chess. NATO is striving not to repeat their losses in Georgia, Crimea, or Moldavia. NATO forces are now following suit with Russian troop movements along its own borders, squaring off at a distance in a “Bro Down.” Forces on both sides are simply posturing for now, as smaller contingents fight the proximity battles along the territorial lines of the area known as Novorossiya in Eastern Ukraine.
Putin is not rattled by any of these developments. If there was any fear from Russia, there most certainly would not be 54,000 pro-Russian separatist troops massing in Donbass, an escalation of force, or open violations of the ceasefire in Eastern Ukraine. The situation in Ukraine would be deescalating, but a quick glimpse at the 17 August, 2015 situation map (below) depicts a very active and unafraid Putin.
(Featured image courtesy of vosizneias.com)