Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley insists that "this is a Ukrainian war. It is not a war between the United States and Russia. It’s not a war between NATO and Russia."
The top US general reaffirmed that Kiev has long been asked not to use military equipment provided by Washington to conduct attacks against Russian territory, according to Reuters. This policy is necessary because such attacks could provoke a direct clash between NATO and Russia, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley emphasized while speaking with reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday.
Milley’s comments came after a neo-Nazi group, which operates as part of Kiev’s armed forces and cooperates with Ukrainian military intelligence, carried out a cross-border raid in Russia. Denis Nikitin is the leader of the Russian Volunteer Corps, which is said to be made up of Russian citizens including some members of the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion who fought, since 2014, for Kiev during the Donbas war. Nikitin said his men were using US equipment, such as two M1224 MaxxPro armored vehicles, also known as MRAPs, during the raid. Members of another militia, the Freedom of Russia Legion, also participated in the assault.
According to Russian officials, the terrorists launched mortar and artillery attacks against civilian infrastructure and residential areas in the Belgorod region on Monday. Ukraine’s military intelligence hints that they were behind the attack, while stopping short of officially taking credit. Though, some documents included in the Discord Leaks suggest that Ukrainian President Zelensky’s regime was planning similar operations, specifically using these Russian volunteers equipped with "various qualitative types of NATO weapons."
According to the New York Times, US officials believe Kiev was behind Monday’s raid and the recent attempted drone strike on the Kremlin, which Moscow believes was an attempt to kill Russian President Vladimir Putin. The officials also believe Kiev is responsible for a series of assassinations and other covert attacks within Russia. Moreover, the deputy head of Ukraine’s main intelligence directorate admitted this week that they are actively attempting to assassinate Putin and other Russian officials.
Kiev’s position is that the Belgorod raid was carried out independently from Zelensky’s intelligence and military services. But the Freedom of Russia Legion’s special representative, Ilya Ponomarev, said the group received Kiev’s "green light" regarding the attack. Pictures and videos posted by the Russian military have confirmed Nikitin’s claims.
“It is no secret for us that more and more equipment is being delivered to Ukraine’s armed forces,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday when asked by reporters about the militias’ U.S.-made hardware.
Contrarily, Milley refused to say Washington has drawn any firm conclusions yet. “I can’t say with definitive accuracy right this minute to you whether that – and I saw the same video – whether that’s U.S. supplied equipment or not, what was the nature of the attack, who did what to whom,” Milley insisted.
He continued, "…but I can say that we have asked the Ukrainians not to use U.S.-supplied equipment for direct attacks into Russia." For its part, Reuters stated they were "able to confirm the location of damaged [U.S.-made military hardware such as Humvee military trucks] and surrounding details shown in the video, though could not verify the date it was filmed."
Kiev has ostensibly pledged not to use long-range weapons provided by Washington to attack Russia, but leaked documents also show that Zelensky does not intend to keep his word. Earlier this month, the Washington Post reported that "behind closed doors, Ukraine’s leader has proposed going in a more audacious direction – occupying Russian villages to gain leverage over Moscow, bombing a pipeline that transfers Russian oil to Hungary, a NATO member, and privately pining for long-range missiles to hit targets inside Russia’s borders, according to classified US intelligence documents detailing his internal communications with top aides and military leaders."
However, the Joe Biden administration has now greenlit their European allies’ plans to transfer F-16s to Ukraine. Biden proclaims that he has received Zelensky’s "flat assurance" that the fighter jets will not be used to attack Russia.
Though, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) told a reporter on Wednesday that he "wouldn’t care if they did," reflecting the uber hawkishness that has become acceptable within the US Congress. Furnishing Zelensky’s regime with warplanes was long ruled out over fears that it would be perceived by Moscow as the alliance directly entering the war.
"We see that Western countries are still adhering to the escalation scenario. It involves colossal risks for themselves," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko admonished the alliance after the Western plans to send F-16s to Ukraine became public. When asked about the Russian official’s warning, Biden threatened "it is for them."
Milley explained these restrictions are ostensibly implemented in hopes of avoiding a direct war with Russia. “Why is that? Because we don’t want – this is a Ukrainian war. It is not a war between the United States and Russia. It’s not a war between NATO and Russia,” Milley said.
The general’s claims fall flat given the fact that, so far, the US has pledged $113 billion backing Kiev in this proxy war. Washington’s Ukraine policy is explicitly designed to "weaken" Russia as Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin made clear last year.
The White House is shipping Bradley armored fighting vehicles, longer range rockets, Patriot missile systems, and M1 Abrams tanks to the battlefield. Concurrently, the CIA is reportedly conducting sabotage attacks on Russian infrastructure and the Pentagon has tacitly endorsed Kiev’s drone strikes hundreds of miles deep inside the Russian mainland. The UK has armed Zelensky’s regime with depleted uranium munitions, linked to cancer and birth defects, which are being fired at Russian troops by British tanks. Far exceeding the reach of any weapons system the US has pledged, London has equipped Kiev with Storm Shadow missiles with a range of more than 155 miles. The missiles can be fired by the MIG-29 warplanes NATO members Slovenia and Poland sent to Ukraine earlier this year.
Connor Freeman is the assistant editor and a writer at the Libertarian Institute, primarily covering foreign policy. He is a co-host on the Conflicts of Interest podcast. His writing has been featured in media outlets such as Antiwar.com, Counterpunch, and the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity. He has also appeared on Liberty Weekly, Around the Empire, and Parallax Views. You can follow him on Twitter@FreemansMind96.