Obama admin moves battle tanks back into Europe as Russian troops invade Ukraine

On April 4, 2014, Star and Stripes reported that the Obama administration was removing the remainder of U.S. battle tanks from Germany and, thus, from Europe.

Nearly five months later, the administration is reversing that decision.

NATO satellite image of Russian artillery in Ukraine NATO satellite image, taken on August 23, shows Russian artillery units in firing position near Krasnodon, Ukraine.

Joseph Trevithick reports for Medium.com, Aug. 28, 2014, that as the Ukraine crisis deepens — the latest being Russian troops reportedly having crossed the border into Uraine (see satellite image above) — U.S. Army troops from the 1st Cavalry Division are headed for NATO’s eastern border bringing Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles all the way from Fort Hood in Texas.

Bradley Fighting Vehicle

Bradley (armored) Fighting Vehicle

Detachments from 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry, a so-called “combined arms battalion” with tanks and fighting vehicles, will spend the next few months training with U.S.’s friends and allies in the region. The force will also take over from U.S. paratroopers who have been in Eastern Europe since April. The Pentagon has been rotating troops through the region since Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region earlier this year.

But the M-1 tanks and M-2 Bradley fighting vehicles are a new twist. This relatively small shipment of heavy gear from the States to Europe is probably a first in over 20 years. Previous troops from the 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team had no heavy armor.

Last year, the ground combat branch pulled out the last permanent tank units in Europe. A pool of Abrams and Bradleys—the European Activity Set—in storage in Germany are the only such vehicles on the continent at present.

Until 1993, the Pentagon had prepared to blunt a Russian-led invasion by rushing thousands of troops across the Atlantic. During the Cold War, the Army planned to send large units to fight in Germany. Now, smaller company-sized elements from 2–8 Cav—between 100 and 200 people each—are on their way to Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Germany.

Washington hopes these training exercises will reassure its European allies as the crisis in Ukraine simmers. The Pentagon says pro-Russia insurgents fighting Kiev are getting “tanks, armored personnel carriers, rocket launchers, air defense equipment and other heavy weapons” from Russia.

~StMA

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21 responses to “Obama admin moves battle tanks back into Europe as Russian troops invade Ukraine

  1. Reblogged this on Fellowship of the Minds and commented:
    This administration can’t make up its mind: After having removed all remaining U.S. battle tanks from Europe 5 months ago, the military is now bringing them back in, transported to Eastern Europe all the way from Fort Hood in Texas. Meanwhile, on another battle front, the POS admitted in a press conference today that he doesn’t have a “strategy” on dealing with ISIS/IS. God help us.

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  2. These are what I call “tripwire” units. They are not big enough to fight the Russian Army, but big enough to inflict casualties and force the Russians to essentially declare war on the USA by engaging US troops. I have been advocating this for over a year, and Obama has finally seen the light.

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    • How do Bradley battle tanks work as “tripwire”?

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      • Small tank force can impede movement of invading troops. It forces the Russian ground commanders to kill significant numbers of Americans or other NATO troops early on in the invasion of Estonia or other former Soviet republics. It gives the message to Putin, “If you invade this country, you will have declared war on NATO and the USA.” When you have somebody as wishy-washy as Barack Obama in the White House, it is important to have tangible forces on the ground, even if those troops are just “speed bumps” for the Russian Army. The image of American tanks being blown up by Russian troops will arouse American popular sentiment even more than the killing of the journalist by ISIL did.

        If Britain and France had sent a couple of tank battalions to Czechoslovakia in 1938, instead of surrendering at Munich, things might have worked out very differently. By making a lot of noise about Ukraine and doing nothing tangible, Obama risks becoming the Neville Chamberlain of the 21st Century. Those who do not read history are doomed to repeat it.

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        • Thank you! Since the American troops & battle tanks are sent to Eastern Europe bordering on Ukraine, but not to Ukraine itself, whatever tripwire effect would be to protect countries like Poland and Estonia, NOT Ukraine. I don’t think anyone seriously thinks Russia will invade Eastern Europe. In effect, then, the troops & tanks are not really for Ukraine, but are more for show.

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  3. A. James Gregor, Ph.D. & Professor

    It is difficult to understand the purpose of the transfer of these few armored assets to “the eastern borders of NATO.” Certainly they are too few to block a determined Russian invasion. Our objection to Russia is its aggression against Ukraine — and the proposed force, given its deployment, could not immediately respond to that. Moreover, the President said most emphatically that there is no military solution to Russia’s depredations. Our response would be in terms of sanctions and declamations. Given all that, it is hard to understand what purpose this particular transfer serves — unless it is intended to convey the appearance of “doing something.”

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  6. I hope that Obama does not make a big mistake in antagonizing Putin when he should be destroying the real treat to American safety: ISIS. Putin has no designs on Eastern Europe nor does he intend to annex the entire Ukraine only that portion with native Russians. If Obama presses Putin unnecessarily he will put our now diminished and demoralized forces at risk.

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    • Those of us who have read history, John, know that a certain ambitious dictator told the Western Powers at Munich that he was only interested in the welfare of the Sudeten Germans. Maybe it’s time to start referring to the Russo-Ukrainian rebels as “the Sudeten Russians” in case anybody skipped history class.

      Remember the statement “This is my last territorial claim in Europe/” How did that work out?

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      • rthurs,

        You’re presuming John Molloy, a member of CODA and Chairman of the National Vietnam & Gulf War Veterans Coalition, hasn’t “read history.” Just because the Nazis had territorial ambitions for the Third Reich doesn’t mean Putin’s Russia is another Nazi Germany. Hitler had amply telegraphed his intentions in Mein Kampf. There were also preconditions that gave rise to Nazi Germany — Germans’ sense of humiliation from the Versailles Treaty; the economic turmoil of post-WWI Weimar Republic; and Nazi ideologues’ Norse racial and racist mythos. For you to make a convincing and responsible case for Russia being Nazi Germany redux, you should cite literature on Russia’s territorial ambitions beyond its irredentist resolve to “take back” those parts of Ukraine populated with ethnic Russians.

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        • The parallels are more than superficial. Russia in 2014, like Germany in 1938 has a long history of racism and anti-Semitism, going back to the days of the Czars. Many ethic minorities have suffered under Kremlin rule from Czarist days to the present. Russia has been and remains a highly racist society. If you don’t believe that, talk to African students who have attended Soviet era schools in Moscow and ask about what happened when the black males attempted to date white women.

          Ukraine has chafed under Russian rule, in one form or another since 1654. It’s brief independence after 1918 was crushed by the Red Army. During World War II, Ukrainians fought for their independence from both the USSR and Germany. After WW II, ethnic Russians were settled in the eastern part of Ukraine by order of Moscow. The Crimea, on the other hand, was and remains mostly ethnic Russian. It was attached to the Ukraine only for administrative purposes in the 1960’s.

          Like 1920-1938 Germany, Russia has felt itself humiliated by the dissolution of the USSR and the loss of vast amounts of territory including Ukraine and the Baltic States. Putin has made no secret of his desire to restore the old Soviet Union and, indeed, the Russian Empire. He has demonstrated this in his occupation of parts of Georgia.

          In parallel with Germany’s economic difficulties during the 1920’s, you have Russia’s economic problems before and after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989. Putin is appealing to the desire for a Greater Russia in direct parallel with Hitler’s call for a Greater Reich. The fall of Communism was as significant an emotional trauma for Russia as the fall of the Kaiser was a significant trauma for the German psyche.

          No, Putin is not Hitler. But he is playing the same game in the 2010’s against the Western Powers as Hitler did in the 1930’s. Don’t just think about the events of the past two years in isolation, consider them in context of what has happened before at other times and in other places. Once again we have a dictator with strong domestic political support attempting to take over parts of a neighboring country, using an ethnic minority as an excuse for aggression.

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          • rthurs,

            Historians and political scientists who specialize in totalitarianism (myself included) and specifically the Nazi German totalitarian state (Professor Gregor is both) include among their criterial attributes for such polities and political movements those of:

            (1) A single-party state; (2) Mass mobilization; and in the case of the Nazis, (3) Racism of specifically the anti-Semitic variety.

            None of the above 3 attributes characterizes the post-Soviet Russian state, esp. #3. Jews are prominent among the new corporate entrepreneurs who have become multimillionaires in post-Soviet Russia. In fact, there are complaints that Putin is surrounded by too many Jews.

            The danger of a facile analogy of Putin and Russia as Hitler and Nazi Germany redux is that it plays into the hands of those who agitate for yet another war, in Ukraine against Russia. As if the U.S. doesn’t have enough wars to fight; isn’t broke, more than $16 TRILLION in debt (official figure); and our soldiers don’t already have high rates of suicide and PTSD.

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          • I am talking about nationalism and not the internal workings of a totalitarian state. The two issues are quite different. You are defining totalitarianism as an aspect of internal politics. Putin is certainly not Hitler or Stalin or Mao in that regard. Ukrainians are not Jews. But they are not Russians either.

            Russia was a territorially aggressive state under the Czars, under Stalin and under Putin. Domestic politics was quite different in each era, but the fundamental pattern of expansionism was the same. In the 19th century, Britain, France, Belgium, Italy and the Netherlands were engaged in aggressive expansionism despite having relatively democratic domestic policies.

            Cambodia under Pol Pot, Burma under the military dictatorship, the Dominican republic under Trujillo and Cuba under Batista were totalitarian states, but not expansionist. Much the same is true of a number of Latin American and African nations between 1900 and the present.

            Being anti-Semitic is NOT a qualification for being totalitarian. You can compare Hitler’s foreign policy with Putin’s without bringing religion into the matter. Saying Putin is not like Hitler because he is not anti-Semitic is like saying Pol Pot was not totalitarian because he wasn’t anti-Semitic either.

            I am asking that you compare the expansionist foreign policy techniques of Hitler and Putin, divorced from their domestic politics.

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          • rthurs,

            You wrote: “Being anti-Semitic is NOT a qualification for being totalitarian.”

            Please re-read my comment in which I specifically and clearly stated that an attribute of Nazi German totalitarianism was anti-Semitic racism:

            in the case of the Nazis, (3) Racism of specifically the anti-Semitic variety.”

            I brought that up because you had drawn a parallel — that contemporary Russia is racist, as Nazi Germany was racist.

            It was you who first made the claim that Putin’s Russia is like Hitler’s Germany, WITHOUT clarifying where the similarities end. If territorial expansionism is your concern with Russia, there is no need to appeal to the Nazi boogeyman which just inflames the discourse. As I had requested in an earlier comment to you, what you need to do is to CITE SOURCES that Putin’s Russia has expansionist territorial goals beyond the irridentist retrieval of portions of Ukraine which are populated with ethnic Russians. But you, instead of citing sources, made the analogical leap with Hitler’s Germany, thereby implying that Russia has designs on Eastern Europe, beyond Ukraine. More than implying, you clearly stated that in your condescending remark to John Molloy.

            I once again ask that you make your case for Russia having Hitlerlike expansionist designs by citing actual source evidence, instead of resorting to an analogy with Nazi Germany — an analogy that, when challenged, you keep changing the what and how of the analogy.

            That’s why analogy as a cognitive tool is not useful when one is dealing with a serious matter, instead of in casual conversations. Analogies, being vague and imprecise, can be misleading and confusing. As Professor Gregor pointed out in his comment above, when one casually compares something (A) to another (B), it is not clear exactly how A and B are similar or dissimilar, where the similarities begin and where they end. This, of course, can be very useful to the one making the analogy because when one is questioned or challenged as to the similarities, one can always say “But that’s not what I mean! I don’t mean X,Y,Z (totalitarianism; domestic policies). What I really mean is A,B,C (territorial expansionism; foreign policy).” And so, the person who appeals to analogies is never wrong and always right.

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          • Once again, I never said that Putin’s Russia is the same as Hitler’s Germany; there are very significant differences. But it is a valid point of discussion to compare Putin’s ACTIONS in Ukraine, with Hitler’s ACTIONS in Austria and Czechoslovakia. And there is ample precedent for comparison. In 2008, Putin invaded Georgia in support of an insurrection by ethnic Russians in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. They continue to occupy both areas to this day. The Baltic States, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have significant ethnic Russian minorities and fear Russian invasion. This is why Obama is sending token armored forces there, Other NATO countries are also furnishing assistance and pledging more.

            I repeat, you do not have to be racist to be a nationalist aggressor. Mussolini had no special racial prejudices, but he committed aggression in Albania, Greece, Ethiopia and elsewhere in furtherance of nationalistic goals.
            Pol Pot was not, AFAIK, a racist, but he murdered something between 20 and 30% of the whole population of Cambodia.

            A fox is not the same as a weasel, but either can devastate a henhouse.

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          • Good grief, PLEASE STOP PUTTING WORDS IN MY MOUTH. I never said one must be racist to be a nationalist aggressor!!!!!!

            And what does “Pol Pot was not, AFAIK, a racist, but he murdered something between 20 and 30% of the whole population of Cambodia” have to do with anything?

            And you STILL have not responded to my specific request for SOURCES on Russia’s territorial ambitions.

            I will no longer continue in this argument, which has become fruitless and pointless and an utter waste of my time.

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  7. A. James Gregor, Ph.D. & Professor

    Historians have long invoked analogies in developing historical narratives. We are all familiar with the analogies drawn between the decline of Rome and the winding down of the “American empire.” Most often such analogies serve heuristic purpose, that is to say they are suggestive, designed to call attention to features in the historical landscape overlooked, or whose significance has not been fully appreciated. In effect, analogies are preliminary to serious analysis. They are designed to arouse interest or direct inquiry. They can never be used as the basis of foreign or security policy.

    Perhaps the most popular subject serving as the antecedent for a contemporary historical analogy is Adolf Hitler’s National Socialist Germany—with Vladimir Putin’s Russian Federation serving as its current informal analogue. That generally works in the following fashion: Nazi Germany was the doleful product of a lost war, a mortifying loss of territory, a vindictive treaty, and a loss of international status. Correspondingly, Russia has been humiliated by the collapse of the Soviet Union, its subsequent loss of territory, and its loss of international status. Nazi Germany, in response to its defeat, arose with a collective passion for renewal. Similarly, after its defeat, Putin’s Russia seeks rehabilitation. They both seek or have sought that through the reconquest of what had been their respective territories—preliminary to dominating the immediately surrounding region (and perhaps the world!). Given the credibility of the analogy, Putin’s incursions in Ukraine are to be seen as the first steps in a fully predictable future course of aggression. That understanding should shape our international and security policies.

    Let us consider how useful this sort of reasoning is for making national policy. Instead of Putin’s Russia, let us substitute Israel or the People’s Republic of China. Israel (China) has suffered egregious past humiliations: its people oppressed mercilessly; its territories pillaged and alienated. It has sought redemption—and laid claim to territories it once occupied, now occupied by others. It has used force in wresting its lost territories from those others—and it is generally thought to harbor plans for a “Greater Israel” (and Beijing for a “Greater China,” as the case might be)—which involves, at least, regional dominance.

    The Jews have long entertained a conviction that they are “Chosen” of God (and the Chinese have not been timid in considering themselves superior to others). The international community (through the medium of the UN) has regularly condemned Israel for its “racism” (and China’s minority nationalities have long lamented discrimination and exploitation).

    Like the familiar history of interwar Germany, the Israelis have armed themselves with one of the most formidable military capabilities in the surrounding region (the Chinese military build-up over the last two decades has been one of the most rapid in the world). Recently the Israeli Defense Forces invaded Palestinian territory in Gaza (and the Chinese have become increasingly assertive in their irredentist claims against the Japanese—and the nations of Southeast Asia.

    What does all this counsel us to do? Should we assume that Israel, and/or China, are latter-day embodiments of Nazi Germany? Should those convictions shape our policy behaviors? Should we face Benjamin Netanyahu, and Xi Jinping as we would Adolf Hitler? If not, why not?
    If we are prepared to pretend that analogies provide serious insights into political realities — knowing what we know of Adolf Hitler, does the plausibility of the analogy we are entertaining recommend preemptive strikes against Israel and/or China? If not, why not? All of which suggests something of the dangers involved in employing historical analogies as cognitive guides to conduct.

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  8. Thank you, James. You have stated the same position I was trying to make, but in a more erudite form. Hitler was a nationalist and a racist. Putin is a nationalist but not a racist (AFAIK). The PRC appears to be both, based upon their treatment of ethnic minorities, especially the Tibetans and the Moslem minorities. Israel is nationalist, with a racist minority which has power but is not in control.

    In the context of nationalistic aggression, it is significant that Ukraine, Belarus, Estonia and Latvia all formally objected to the 2008 Russian conquest of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. They have served under Russian masters and know what it means. They also have ethnic Russian minorities and fear that that makes them vulnerable to Russian aggression. Putin’s record of aggression certainly induces fear in any neighboring nation with a significant Russian minority.

    In the context of the 1930’s, one of the justification for Germany’s attack on Poland was the alleged mistreatment of ethnic Germans in Danzig and the “Polish Corridor.” Today, with the former Soviet republics we have a very similar scenario with different players and different ideologies, but the nationalistic impulse is still very strong. Only Putin know what he is planning for the future, and he may not have made a firm decision either way. But it makes sense for NATO to take precautions to demonstrate that it will not stand by and let NATO members be subjugated without a fight.

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  9. Thank you StMA for this incredible post. The king’s “strategy” in this matter is also questionable and noteworthy, given his track record and how he treats “bumps in the road.” Dear God, please give us new leaders that are knowledgeable and holy before You.

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