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Why Deploying Western Special Forces to Ukraine may Help Prevent Global Conflicts

With conflicts simmering across the globe, NATO should help Ukraine more and introduce special operations forces and intelligence assets in preparation for future wars

A person removes possessions from a bombed house during the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Photo: Synel / Alamy
NATO is being urged to send special operations forces to Ukraine as Russia gains momentum. Photo: Synel / Alamy

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Going into the second half of 2024, various regional conflicts continue to brew, with many of them being intertwined in a potential outcome of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Vladimir Putin, the two-decade autocrat of Russia, is preparing for a longtime war with imperial ambitions beyond Ukraine. Xi Jinping, the Chinese premier, is watching events unfold, pondering what kind of response the West could potentially give to Taiwan.

Events and response times in the Middle East, Africa, South Caucasus, and the Korean Peninsula could also come to blows as the geopolitical quagmire escalates.

Given the tensions, especially towards foes with conventional militaries, NATO should help Ukraine more and introduce special operations capable forces and intelligence assets to prepare for global conflicts.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine

The first initial Russian invasion of Ukraine occurred during the illegal seizure and annexation of Crimea in 2014 by the Kremlin’s “little green men,” which happened to be GRU Spetznaz. A few months later, Russian FSB operatives led by Igor Strelkov ignited a war in Ukraine’s Donbas region.

The United Kingdom and its highly capable special forces, such as the Royal Marines and SAS, would become some of the first Western forces to provide enhanced training to the Ukrainian military, who, in the early days of the war, were more disorganised and corrupted due to negligence.

Putin would later declare a total war, and the biggest full-scale invasion on the European continent would ensue. Western countries rushed to Ukraine’s aid and continued the training program the British had sponsored for several years.

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Both Ukraine and Russia have suffered heavy military casualties in the past two years, with Moscow amassing the worst battlefield casualties not seen in the country since World War Two.

Despite not reaching any of their primary objectives, such as the dismantling of Ukraine’s government in Kyiv, demilitarisation, and enacting the Novorossiya project by attempting to make Ukraine landlocked, Russian forces have recently gained momentum.

Seven months of political gridlock in the United States that hungered military aid, slow European shell allocations, and Ukrainian shortfalls in defensive fortifications and mobilisation allowed Russia a window of opportunity to take advantage of mishaps, as seen in recent offensives.

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Growing Concerns Putin May Not Stop

Outside of Ukraine, the Russian Federation is making it clear that they view the collapse of the Soviet Union and Russian Empire as their greatest tragedies as various nations gained independence from the boot of Moscow.

Akin to Ukraine, nations such as Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Finland, Moldova, and Romania are all facing hybrid and vocal threats of war directly from Russian state officials.

Eastern Europe, particularly the Baltics, Moldova, Finland, and Poland, have raised the alarm over Russia’s aggressive posture and hybrid warfare against them. One of NATO’s weak points is the Suwalki Gap between Poland and Lithuania, and the Kremlin has always wanted to physically unite Kaliningrad with Russia proper—especially as the oblast is now more isolated than ever after Sweden and Finland joined NATO.

Demonstrators in New York protesting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Photo: Adam Stoltman / Alamy

A major policy in the war allowed Russia to adapt and gain the initiative, which was the restriction of Western weaponry on Russian territory.

The Kremlin, knowing Western indecision is impeding the Ukrainian military from striking key targets across the border, is using such advantages to amass forces near the border and use Russian airspace to bomb Ukraine unabated.

Ultimately wanting to enact the Novorossiya project, the Russian Federation would be in direct conflict with Moldova, Romania, and Poland and the Baltic states. If Odesa were to be forcibly taken and annexed by Russia, the Russian military could link with the illegitimate breakaway state of Transnistria in Moldova, which would bring a new war to the country along with a potential Romanian intervention.

Emmanuel Macron, the President of France, stated a fall of Odesa or Kyiv to Russia could bring a French-led military intervention, and recently, it has been reported by the German outlet Spiegel that Eastern Europe (Poland and the Baltics) could also intervene if Russian forces overwhelm the eastern regions of Ukraine and push westward towards them.

Growing Worldwide Tensions of Conventional Threats

Rising global tensions in various regions are displaying a need for a new rapprochement, diplomatic policy, and contingencies by the West to be ready for all scenarios if regional conflicts become global.

In the backdrop of the Israeli-Hamas War, the Islamic Republic of Iran and Israel nearly came to full-scale war after a strike next to the Iranian embassy in Damascus killed senior IRGC commanders. In return, Iran launched the largest combined ballistic missile and drone attack against Israel, in which most missiles were shot down by the combined efforts of the US, UK, France, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Israel.

In West Africa, the rise of pro-Russian military juntas has forced out French influence and America’s counterterrorism efforts in the ‘coup belt.’ The Wagner group and Russian GRU have taken the place of the powder keg, along with extremist organisations, and threats of continued migration from Africa into Europe could overwhelm the social systems in the continent.

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The South Caucasus is seeing wide-scale Georgian protests over a recently-passed Russian-backed law by the pro-Russian government, and Armenia’s and Azerbaijan’s tensions still have not simmered. US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken warned that Azerbaijan could potentially invade Armenia, and France is sending major military aid packages to the region.

East Asia’s tensions may be the most tumultuous as various regional tensions could bring a large-scale conflict that could potentially ignite World War Three.

In the South China Sea, aggressive maritime posturing by the Chinese navy towards the Philippines and Vietnam is putting the region on edge. Vietnam has reassessed its security and recently signed a strategic partnership with the United States—something Ho Chi Minh always wanted before his death.

East Asia is also seeing renewed hostilities between North and South Korea, especially as Kim Jong Un withdrew from peace and unification talks and Pyongyang continues to build up its military. Both Seoul and Pyongyang are some of the top suppliers of Kyiv and Moscow, turning their armistice into a proxy conflict in Ukraine.

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North Korea’s missiles are also a threat to Japan and one of the major reasons why Japan is remilitarizing. Japan also sees Chinese aggression and Russia’s paranoia over the Kuril Islands as other threats to their national security, and NATO is preparing a liaison office to the region.

China is also eyeing Taiwan, causing major concern with America and Japan. Recent drills have only heightened tensions, and Taiwan has become a major backer of Ukraine. NATO is finding ways to support the island nation, though most member states do not have force projection into Asia.

Now Needing Experience for Conventional Opponents, Ukraine Could be the Catalyst

Considering numerous threats and the growing tensions that Russia may not stop, and that Western intervention could be a reality, now is the time to deploy special operations forces to Ukraine in advisory and training roles.

France and Estonia are preparing to send troops to train Ukrainian military personnel. Estonia has flaunted the idea of putting troops in Ukraine to relieve other Ukrainian forces held up in different regions so they can become reserves in hardened frontlines in Donetsk and Kharkiv.

Estonia’s premise makes the most sense as much of Ukraine’s reserves are still held up in the north around Kyiv due to Russian troops in Belarus and the Southwest near Transnistria due to the threat of the breakaway state. The strategy would not only free up tens of thousands of troops but also call Putin’s bluff that his threats towards fighting NATO would just be empty words.


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Special forces can also collect critical conventional warfare data from Ukraine, which now has the most battle-hardened military and is intertwined with traditional warfare throughout all allied countries. If they arise, the valuable lessons and data from Ukraine can be applied to future conflicts in Eastern Europe, East Asia, and the Middle East.

While sending troops to direct frontline roles is currently out of the question in Ukraine, the role of special forces collecting intelligence and combat data and advising and assisting should not be out of the question. As various tensions worldwide seemingly veering towards a global conflict, it is better to prepare for war to maintain peace and deterrence than be caught off guard with complacency.

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