Does the US already have special forces on the ground in Ukraine?

Someone who allegedly works on “a military base” leaked a number of classified documents on social media. The leak has alarmed many U.S. officials and created tension among our allies. 

But one of the most intriguing documents deals with the presence of NATO special forces on the ground in Ukraine. Assuming the information in the documents is accurate (which is still a big assumption, since some information clearly appears to have been altered), five NATO members, including the United States and Great Britain, have special forces working inside of Ukraine. 

Depending on what sort of “work” they are doing, this could inflame or escalate tensions with Russia at a time when concerns over the possibility of Vladimir Putin “crossing a red line” are already elevated. 

From the BBC:

According to the document, dated 23 March, the UK has the largest contingent of special forces in Ukraine (50), followed by fellow Nato states Latvia (17), France (15), the US (14) and the Netherlands (1).

The document does not say where the forces are located or what they are doing.

The numbers of personnel may be small, and will doubtless fluctuate. But special forces are by their very nature highly effective. Their presence in Ukraine is likely to be seized upon by Moscow, which has in recent months argued that it is not just confronting Ukraine, but Nato as well.

Fourteen American special forces troops on the ground in Ukraine doesn’t sound like a lot. (And it’s not, really.) But the number doesn’t matter in the larger scheme of things. The question is what they’re doing. There are people from allied nations inside of the country all of the time, including military personnel. As long as they’re working in non-combat roles such as repairing infrastructure, providing medical assistance, or delivering materials, we’re still coloring inside of the lines.

Troops might even be providing training to Ukrainian fighters on the use of the weapons systems we keep sending to them. But if they are doing so in regions where active fighting is taking place, there is always a chance that they will come under fire from the Russians and be forced to defend themselves. Therein lies the problem.

The whole idea of a proxy war is that you get someone else to do the fighting and dying for you while you pay the bills. But the moment one American soldier kills a Russian soldier, we’re no longer engaged in a proxy war. It’s a real war, and Russia could claim that as justification for taking more drastic measures. Of course, that might have already happened without anyone reporting it, but it could definitely change the landscape of what we’re dealing with.

An even worse scenario might be if the Russians overwhelm a unit including American fighters and take one of our soldiers as a prisoner. At that point, we would have a hostage situation on our hands and Putin could parade the soldier in front of the media’s cameras with proof that the United States is “at war” with his country.

We really seem to be playing with fire here. The situation is already tense enough with Putin regularly threatening to unleash some nukes, potentially even at Western European targets. We really don’t need to be giving that maniac a permission slip to do something extreme. We can only hope that our military leaders on the ground have their eyes on the ball because I doubt anyone trusts the White House to play three-dimensional chess at this stage of the game.

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