U.S. troops are now on the ground in Ukraine, where they are monitoring NATO arms deliveries to the country, an anonymous Pentagon official told several U.S. media outlets on Monday. It is unclear how many personnel are involved, or where they are located.
While Americans have fought and died in Ukraine of their own accord, Monday’s announcement marks the first time since February that Washington has acknowledged the presence of uniformed troops in Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin has cautioned the U.S. and its NATO allies against getting involved in the conflict, and even before the announcement, he stated that the Kremlin views itself as fighting the “entire Western military machine” in Ukraine.
Speaking to reporters from the AP, NBC News, and other members of the Pentagon press pool, the official said that the contingent of troops is led by Brigadier General Garrick Harmon, the U.S. defense attache to Kiev.
“There have been several of these inspections,” the official told reporters, without revealing where the examinations have taken place. He added that the checks are not happening “close to the front lines,” but where security conditions allow.
The U.S. inspected its arms shipments to Ukraine before Russia launched its military operation in February, but pulled its personnel out of the country days before it began. It is unclear how many troops have returned or when the checks restarted.
The Pentagon official would only say that a “small” number of troops are involved.
The US State Department announced last week that it would allocate “personnel to assist the government of Ukraine with handling of U.S. security assistance,” although it did not mention that these personnel would be drawn from the ranks of the military. The plan was announced after media reports, citing US intelligence agencies, claimed that Washington could not trace the weapons it sends to Ukraine. One intelligence source told CNN in April that these weapons disappear “into a big black hole” once they enter the country.
The anonymous Pentagon official told journalists that Kiev has been “transparent,” and has cooperated with inspectors thus far.
WWIII Has Effectively Begun, Says Economist Roubini
A new world war is practically underway, “certainly in Ukraine and cyberspace,” economist Nouriel Roubini explained.
Last week, the New York University professor was interviewed by Der Spiegel and listed some of the world’s most acute problems.
Recalling a recent event hosted by the International Monetary Fund, he referred to historian Niall Ferguson who “sais in a speech there that we would be lucky if we got an economic crisis like in the 1970s – and not a war like in the 1940s.”
When speaking about major global threats, Roubini mentioned the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, adding that Iran and Israel are “on a collision course” as well.
“I read that the Biden administration expects China attack Taiwan sooner rather than later,” the economist said, summarizing that “World War III has already effectively begun.”
The rivalry between Washington and Beijing is driving tension to a large degree, Roubini noted, adding that the U.S has banned the export of certain semiconductors to China and is pressuring European nations into cutting trade ties with the country on national security grounds. He believes that a breakup of the globalized world is looming.
“Trade, finance, technology, internet: Everything will split into two,” he predicted.
It was not clear if non-allied nations would pick the U.S. side in the confrontation, he said. “I asked the president of an African country why he gets 5g technology from China and not from the West. He told me, we are a small country, so someone will spy on us anyway. Then, I might as well take the Chinese technology, it is cheaper,” the economist revealed to Der Spiegel.
The professor is concerned that the political systems in the U.S. and Europe may not be able to deal with the problems, leading to a rise of right-wing governments.
Nouriel Roubini came to prominence for predicting the financial crisis of 2008-09 and was dubbed ‘Doctor Doom’ by Wall Street.
U.S. Air Defense Systems To Arrive In Ukraine Soon
The U.S. will send the first two NASAMS air defense systems to Ukraine “in the very near future,” a Pentagon official said on Monday. With Russia targeting Ukrainian power infrastructure with missiles and drones, Kiev has lobbied the West for better air defense weaponry.
In a briefing to reporters, the defense official said the U.S. has “committed eight NASAMS and associated munitions, and two of those will be in Ukraine in the very near future.”
The official also said that Washington would send spare parts for Ukraine’s Soviet-era air defense systems, as well as various counter-unmanned aerial systems.
The National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (NASAMS) is manufactured by U.S. defense contractor Raytheon Technologies, and fires AIM-120 or AMRAAM missiles at short ranges to bring down drones, missiles, and aircraft. The U.S. announced in September that it would provide these systems to Ukraine, with National Security Council Spokesman John Kirby stating last month that deliveries would be expedited after Russia began nationwide drone and missile strikes on Ukrainian military and infrastructure targets.
Russia has made effective use of inexpensive ‘kamikaze’ drones to cripple Ukraine’s infrastructure, with Kiev’s Soviet and NATO-supplied air defense systems unable to stop the unmanned aircraft. It is unclear whether the NASAMS will prove more effective against the drones than the German IRIS-T systems already fielded by the Ukrainian military.
The Pentagon official said that “a number of countries” have agreed to provide AMRAAM missiles for the systems.
Russia shifted its military tactics in Ukraine last month and began launching attacks against energy infrastructure, after a truck bomb killed three civilians on the Crimean Bridge. While Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky denied ordering the bombing, the attack was celebrated by officials in Kiev and blamed by Russia on Ukrainian intelligence.
Ukrainian officials responded by asking the West for better air defense systems, petitioning the US, UK, Germany, France, and Israel for their surface-to-air missile technology. While the NATO members have promised to deliver, Israel has refused, and Kiev now wants the U.S. to pressure Tel Aviv. Israel has, however, offered to help Ukraine develop an alert system to warn of incoming missile attacks.
Ukraine’s military Logistics Degraded, Says Moscow
Ukraine’s military has suffered a serious degradation of capabilities due to the recent strikes by Moscow’s forces, the Russian Defense Ministry stated on Tuesday.
“Transportation of manpower and material towards the frontlines has been hampered to a large degree. Production at Ukrainian military industrial facilities has also been disrupted,” the statement said, describing the results of the long-range missile barrage launched on Monday.
Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu reported that precision strikes were continuing on key targets, which was affecting Ukraine’s military potential. Speaking during a working meeting on Tuesday, the minister also said that over the last two weeks Russian forces had destroyed 74 tanks, 235 other armored vehicles, two HIMARS multiple rocket launchers and 268 armed cars.
The Ukrainian Air Force reported detecting 50 missiles launched on Monday from Russian aircraft and claimed have to have intercepted 44 of them. Prime Minister Denis Shmigal said Russia had hit 18 targets, mostly related to the energy sector, in ten regions of the country. Ukraine’s railroad monopoly confirmed that some of its lines had suffered from a blackout and that it had to roll out backup diesel locomotives in response.
Russia shifted its military tactics in Ukraine last month and began launching attacks against energy infrastructure. President Vladimir Putin described the move as a response to the Ukrainian sabotage attacks against Russian energy facilities, including a nuclear power plant and a gas pipeline going to Türkiye.
The decision was announced days after a truck bomb hit the strategic Crimean Bridge, killing three civilians and damaging the structure. Russian investigators pinned the attack on the Ukrainian military intelligence service.
Attacks on sites such as power plants and distribution substations have caused blackouts in many parts of Ukraine, including the capital of Kiev. Ukraine has introduced electricity rationing and rolling blackouts to limit the load.
Russia Demands Black Sea Corridor Guarantees From Ukraine
Kiev should provide “real guarantees” that it would not use the Black Sea corridor created as part of an Istanbul grain deal in its military activities, Russian President Vladimir Putin told Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a phone conversation on Tuesday. The two were discussing the circumstances that could convince Moscow to return to its own commitments under the agreement.
Russia indefinitely suspended its participation in the deal last week following a massive drone attack on its naval base in the Crimean port city of Sevastopol. Some of the naval drones launched by Kiev allegedly used the Black Sea grain corridor’s security zone to close in on their targets, according to the Russian military.
“It is necessary to conduct a detailed investigation of this incident, as well as to get real guarantees from Kiev that it would rigorously abide by the Istanbul humanitarian corridor for military purposes,” the Russian president said, according to the Kremlin’s press release.
Russia would only consider re-opening this corridor if that happened, Putin added. He also pointed out that the part of the deal that involved lifting restrictions on Russia’s own agricultural and fertilizer exports had never been implemented.
The corridor was touted as a way to secure food supplies to the neediest nations as a matter of priority. But this goal has not been reached in the three months since the agreement was established, Putin noted. Moscow is now ready to supply African nations with “large volumes” of grain and fertilizers out of its own stocks for free, the president confirmed.
The Russian military closed the Black Sea grain corridor on Monday, arguing that its security could not be guaranteed while Kiev used it for military purposes. Moscow had previously blamed Ukraine and UK Navy specialists for the attack on Sevastopol. London has dismissed the accusation.
The Russian Defense Ministry said that the corridor would stay closed at least until all the circumstances of the attack were established. Russia has also repeatedly said that it has not left the deal entirely but only suspended its own commitments under the agreement.
In the wake of Moscow’s decision, the UN insisted that “food must flow” regardless of the circumstances. Civilian vessels “can never be a military target or held hostage,” the UN coordinator for the Black Sea grain initiative, Amir Abdulla, said.