Butler County veterans talk about crisis: U.S. troops don’t need to get involved yet

Butler County veterans who have served overseas say boots on the ground in the Ukrainian crisis are not warranted yet and the U.S. and its allies likely played a role in the current devastating crisis.

On Thursday, Putin’s troops shelled a training facility on the site of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, prompting concerns about this conflict rising to a truly dangerous level.

Putin’s own nuclear capabilities are a big concern for U.S. Rep. Warren Davidson. Earlier this week, the Troy Republican, who represents Butler County, told the Journal-News the monetary sanctions have “hit him harder and faster than I think he was expecting; we’ll see what his reactions are, but that’s when he threatened nukes, when he felt his county’s whole economy and all of their cash would be restricted.”

“He’s got more nuclear weapons than anyone in the world and you want to say you think he’s rational, like he can weigh cost and benefit and he’s certainly an intelligent guy,” Davidson said. “But he’s evil and you look at this action and I think he has clearly miscalculated what it’s going to cost him to do what he did.”

Despite the war escalating rapidly and civilians targeted, Davidson, an Army veteran who witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall while stationed in Germany, said “I think it’s unlikely” the U.S. will engage militarily in the war between Ukraine and Russia.

“I don’t think there is a clear position the United States will get involved in that war. My base position is Vladimir Putin declared war on Ukraine, it’s an unjust war, and frankly he’s going about it in a pretty unjust way,” Davidson told the Journal-News.

“I’m encouraged to see countries all over the world united in opposition to what Vladimir Putin is doing. I’m encouraged to see the United States is taking more aggressive steps than they initially did. Frankly I feel like it could have been prevented with a more aggressive posture from NATO, particularly Germany and from the United States.”

Putin invaded neighboring Ukraine Feb. 24 and the crisis is mounting. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, his military and civilians are fighting back as best they can, but since Ukraine is not a NATO member the U.S. and other countries have not committed troops to help with the battle. Sanctions against Russia and other aid to Ukraine has been the main vehicle for helping with the crisis.

Davidson said “we need a much more aggressive posture” because there are NATO members now who used to be part of the Soviet Union Putin could target next.

“We can continue to supply weapons and as President Zelenskyy said I don’t need a ride, I need ammunition...,” Davidson said. “They do not have military power to defeat Russia in short order but they have far more military power than the Taliban has and so I think in a long, slow insurgency I think they may in fact prevail. They are showing a very determined resistance right now I think it’s very important for NATO countries in particular to make sure Vladimir Putin stays contained inside Ukraine and eventually is driven out, because this is something that could spread.”

The majority of the Butler County Veterans Service Commission fought or served overseas and some say this could have been avoided. Commissioner Chuck Weber, a Vietnam War veteran, said if we would have stopped Putin from taking over Crimea in 2014, things would likely be different today.

“I think they think we’re very weak and it’s not a matter of I think, I’m positive that’s part of the calculation that Putin is using. We are confused and weak and we don’t have a foreign policy that’s worth a do-diddly,” Weber said. “We don’t need to carry out another land war that’s going to go on for how many years. I think had we played chess properly in the last 10, 15 years we wouldn’t be looking at checkmate right now.”

The main reason the U.S. isn’t deploying boots on the ground is Ukraine is not a North Atlantic Treaty Organization member. There are 30 countries in the alliance that offers mutual military aid and other support. BCVSC Commissioner Jim Eriksen, an Afghanistan War veteran, said while everyone sympathizes with the plight of the Ukrainian people, there is a good reason the country is not welcomed by NATO.

“They were still a highly dysfunctional and fairly corrupt country,” Eriksen said. “While they are a democracy, they did elect Zelenskyy their president; he hasn’t been there very long, and the amount of time it’s going to take for one man to clean up the amount of corruption that was going on in Ukraine is probably more than he can even get done in his lifetime.”

Vet Board President Bruce Jones, who served 10 of his 20 years in the Army stationed in Germany, said he believes this war could have been avoided if the U.S. and others imposed harsh sanctions against Russia when he began moving its military toward Ukraine. News released earlier this week indicates China asked Putin to delay his attacks until after the Beijing Winter Olympics.

Jones said the only way the U.S. will likely engage is if Putin expands the conflict into NATO countries.

“I guess if they came into NATO countries then since we’ve been a member of NATO forever, I guess we would have to join in on the fight,” Jones said. “I would hope he’s not that stupid because at point, just the threat of the nuclear thing it’s the end of everything. If he thinks he can shoot one and somebody else wouldn’t that’s exactly how something like that would start.”

According to the Associated Press, Russia has acknowledged that nearly 500 Russian troops have been killed and around 1,600 wounded. Ukraine has not released casualty figures for its armed forces but the U.N. human rights office says at least 227 civilians have been killed and 525 wounded in Ukraine since the start of the invasion.

The fact that Putin’s regime is shelling with abandon, not caring what or who they hit, is appalling to Vietnam War veteran Bob Perry, a former Vet Board member.

“I honestly do not understand Putin’s position, it’s totally uncalled for, it has to be paranoia or insanity,” Perry said. “He’s not been provoked in any way that I can see, and the fact that he’s shelling civilians is just off the wall. I just do not understand his purpose.”

While the military here isn’t actively engaged in combat now, BCVSC Executive Director Mike Farmer said their clients are on edge all the same. So the office has compiled several resources where veterans can turn if they need help dealing with their feelings.

“There is a very large feeling of uncertainty, not just for those in uniform but for our entire community and families and the veterans,” Farmer said. “Some people have served overseas and they may have served in Europe and they’re kind of thinking now how does this happen. Russia is doing this with all these years of treaties and pacts. But as a community I think there is large uncertainty and everybody is kind of on pins and needles of what could happen.”

Here are some resources the BCVSC suggests:

  • If you or a loved one are looking for someone to talk to, I encourage you to turn to www.Mentalhealth.gov.
  • For active duty, National Guard, Reserve service members, military families, and survivors, Military OneSource offers resources: www.militaryonesource.mil.
  • Veterans, service members, and their families can access counseling and services at their local Vet Centers: www.vetcenter.va.gov.
  • Veterans experiencing suicidal or harmful thoughts encourage to call 1-800-273-8255 or text 838255 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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