General Philip Breedlove, who serves as Commander of the US Command in Europe and NATO's top general in Europe, is a good example of what happens when the division between a military and the civilians who in a democratic society should control that military breaks down. While there have been plenty of "political" general officers in the past, Breedlove has shown a particular predilection for infusing his policy preferences -- and even fantasies -- into what should be objective assessments of military capabilities and threats. Thus he has taken every opportunity to report to the media dozens of scare stories of Russian invasions of eastern Ukraine. But thus far he has presented no evidence of these "invasions."
US partners in NATO have been increasingly alarmed by Breedlove's bellicose pronouncements about Ukraine, which seem to have little basis in fact. As the major German news magazine Spiegel reported in March:
[F]or months now, many in the Chancellery simply shake their heads each time NATO, under Breedlove's leadership, goes public with striking announcements about Russian troop or tank movements. ... False claims and exaggerated accounts, warned a top German official during a recent meeting on Ukraine, have put NATO — and by extension, the entire West — in danger of losing its credibility.According to the same article, US intelligence is similarly perplexed over the pronouncements of General Breedlove.
But the US general is unchastened over criticism of his bombast. Just yesterday Breedlove told the Senate Armed Services Committee (Chaired by Sen. John McCain), that:
Russia is blatantly challenging the rules and principles that have been the bedrock of European security for decades. The challenge is global. not regional. and enduring. not temporary. Russian aggression is clearly visible in its illegal occupation of Crimea, and in its continued operations in eastern Ukraine. (sic)And just as the US has begun training its proxies in west Ukraine and supplying them with military equipment, General Breedlove accused:
In Ukraine, Russia has supplied their proxies with heavy weapons, training and mentoring, command and control, artillery fire support, and tactical-and operational-level air defense,. Russia has transferred many pieces of military equipment into Ukraine, including tanks, armored personnel carriers, heavy artillery pieces, and other military vehicles.He has not provided evidence that Russia is doing covertly what we know the US is doing openly. But even if he had, does it not seem like double standards for the US to criticize in others what it is openly and enthusiastically doing itself?
As NATO moves troops and military equipment literally up to the Russian border, increasing military activity on the Russian border by some 80 percent, the US general blames Russia for, well, being in Russia:
Russia's illegal actions are pushing instability closer to the boundaries of NATO.NATO pushing its boundaries closer to Russia has nothing to do with it, presumably.
What is General Breedlove's solution? War!
I am often asked, 'Should the United States and others provide weapons to Ukraine?' What we see is a Russia that is aggressively applying all elements of national power - diplomatic, informational, and economic, as well as military. So my view,.is it would not make sense to unnecessarily take any of our own tools off the table.(sic)When US generals are allowed to shape policy to the degree that Breedlove has been afforded, there is a particular danger of every problem becoming a nail. The hammers may be thrilled, but the nation under such military rule suffers from limited inputs and often unsophisticated analysis that leads to policy mistakes -- in this case potentially catastrophic.
Were President Obama truly the Commander in Chief of the US Military, he would do well to consider pulling a Truman with his increasingly McArthur-ite General Philip Breedlove. Before it's too late.