Follow us on social

Us-military-scaled

Biden taps US reserves for NATO mission in Europe

This is what happens when the alliance promises Zelensky 300,000 response troops for the war.

Analysis | Washington Politics

The question over how "involved" the U.S. is in the Ukraine War is becoming increasingly rhetorical, as President Biden quietly signed an executive order on Thursday authorizing the call up of "the reserve and selected members of the individual ready reserve" for "the effective conduct of Operation Atlantic Resolve in and around the United States European Command’s area of responsibility."

The E.O. is brief and notes that no more than 3,000 reserves may be called up under the measure.

The question is, why? The military spin was on full display in Military.com yesterday: "This new designation benefits troops and families with increases in authorities, entitlements and access to the reserve component forces and personnel," said Lt. Gen. Douglas Sims, Joint Staff Director for Operations, who assured reporters the order would not result in higher U.S. troop levels in Europe.

The Pentagon's top spokesman Big. Gen. Pat Ryder put it more plainly: "It's unlocking additional forces for use in support of this operation."

After the invasion Washington increased its troop presence on the continent to 20,000. There were big headlines late last year when it was reported that members of the Army's 101st Airborne Division were "practicing for war with Russia just miles from the Ukraine border." We know from the Discord leaks there is a minimal number of U.S. Special Forces working with even more European military counterparts on the ground in Ukraine. There are at least 100 CIA officers on the ground there, too, according to reports, in non-combat roles.

A POLITICO article on yesterday's announcement gets right to the point: "the move suggests that the U.S. military’s training mission in Europe, along with the deployment of several new brigades after the invasion, has stretched active-duty forces."

Especially since NATO assured this week — as a consolation to Ukrainian President Zelensky, who wanted NATO member assurances — that the alliance would be upping its high readiness forces (ready to deploy in 30 days or less) to 300,000 strong. Right now the number of NATO troops on the continent is 100,000.

"It’s a tall order for the 31-member alliance whose individual members struggle with equipment and troop readiness after decades of skimping on military funding," said POLITICO writers Lara Seligman and Paul McLeary.

It's also a tall order for an American military that is struggling with the worst recruitment numbers in recent history. The Army experienced a shortfall of 25 percent in enlistments in the last fiscal year, and the other forces — Marines, Navy and Air Force — barely made their quotas. By all reports, it’s supposed to be worse this year.

Meanwhile, there are plenty of complaints that our European partners in "Operation Atlantic Resolve," are still not pulling their weight. As CATO's Justin Logan has charged many times, there is a dependency on the U.S. crutch and the war in Ukraine has more than encouraged that. At a time when it could be moving toward autonomy, Europe is hurtling faster into Uncle Sam's arms. From Logan:

It’s reasonable that our allies would like to use the U.S. economy and the U.S. military to their own ends. It’s unreasonable when American elites choose to indulge them. In multiple meetings with Biden administration officials after the war began, I was told that the United States would like Europe to do more for itself, but as one official put it, “we aren’t willing to put an ‘or else’ at the end of that sentence.”

Unfortunately, it now looks like Washington is stretching itself to accommodate, calling up reserves to meet a massive goal of 300,000 NATO troops on "high-readiness" ready to fight on the continent. Given the recruitment crisis and domestic needs at home, not to mention tensions with another great power in Asia, maybe it's time Biden take a moment to explain his strategy for ending this war, or short of that, asking directly for a greater commitment from the American people.

Update: Defense Priorities fellow and RS contributor Daniel Davis sent along these comments on the E.O.:

"If there's anything Russia has proven after 17 months of all-out warfare, is that the most they have been able to accomplish is to hang on to 17% of one neighboring state, 1/4th its size, which has no air force to speak of an no navy at all — and we believe we need to ramp up to a ground force of 300,000 "at a high state of readiness" to protect a 32 member alliance, with a population five times larger than Russia, an economy that dwarfs it, and an especially powerful and large air force and navy? I wholeheartedly agree with my colleague Raj Menon in today's New York Times: it's time for Europe to defend itself (based on reality of Western military and economic superiority, not on the fiction of a massive Russian conventional giant)."

(Bumble Dee/Shutterstock)
Analysis | Washington Politics
Yes, we can reconcile absurd Russian & Ukrainian peace plans

Review News and Aynur Mammadov via Shutterstock.com

Yes, we can reconcile absurd Russian & Ukrainian peace plans

Europe

The international community has before it two official proposals — Ukrainian and Russian — for a peace settlement to end the war in Ukraine. Both as they stand, and in present circumstances, are absurd. Diplomats and analysts should however give thought to whether they could nonetheless in the future provide the starting point for negotiations leading to an eventual compromise.

The Ukrainian government’s Ten-Point “peace plan” demands complete withdrawal of Russian forces from all the Ukrainian territory that Russia has occupied since 2014 as a precondition for holding talks at all. Presumably those talks would then deal with other Ukrainian points, including war crimes trials for the Russian leadership, and Russian compensation for the damage caused by the Russian invasion.

keep readingShow less
Putin and Kim in Pyongyang, making it 'strategic'

Russia's President Vladimir Putin meets with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un upon his arrival in Pyongyang, North Korea June 19, 2024. Sputnik/Gavriil Grigorov/Pool via REUTERS

Putin and Kim in Pyongyang, making it 'strategic'

Asia-Pacific

Russian President Vladimir Putin is currently in Pyongyang for a summit with the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, marking their second visit in just nine months and Putin’s first trip to North Korea in 24 years.

Not just symbolic, the summit is anticipated to bring noteworthy advancements in Russia-North Korea strategic cooperation.

keep readingShow less
Top Dems sign off on biggest weapons sale to Israel to date

Ranking Member Gregory Meeks (D-NY) speaks during a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee hosts a roundtable with families of Americans held hostage by Hamas since October 7, 2023. (Photo by Allison Bailey/NurPhoto)NO USE FRANCE

Top Dems sign off on biggest weapons sale to Israel to date

QiOSK

The Washington Post this morning has reported that the top Democrats on the Armed Services Committees — Rep. Gregory Meeks (N.Y.), and Senator Ben Cardin (Md.) — have finally given their nod on the biggest arms sale to Israel since Oct. 7.

In fact, after holding it up for months they gave their approval "weeks ago." Now Congress will be formally notified.

keep readingShow less

Israel-Gaza Crisis

Latest