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Citing Biden’s Weak Leadership, Americans Join the War Against Putin

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The war in Ukraine and the withdrawal of troops in Afghanistan set a historical precedent that could change the history of war conflicts: an independent army of American and world veterans willing to take up arms on their own is being born.

When Joe Biden announced the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, dozens of veterans decided to travel to that country to rescue their fellow citizens and Afghan allies, who had been abandoned by Biden in the midst of the Taliban takeover.

Although the exact number of private teams of military veterans is unknown, it became known that there were dozens of specialists and former soldiers who traveled to Afghanistan to complete the job that the Biden administration did only half-heartedly.

Now, with the war in Ukraine, something similar is happening, but much bigger than we could ever imagine: veterans from all over the world took up arms and joined a legion full of foreigners willing to support Volodymyr Zelensky’s government in the fight against Russia and in the defense of freedom. They are motivated by that sense of injustice in the face of the arbitrary and violent invasion initiated by Russia.

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“There are no official figures, but there is talk of 15,000 to 20,000 foreigners who came to fight,” José David Chaparro, a Venezuelan who stayed in Ukraine to fight against the Russian Army, told El American.

“I received South American volunteers, some have military experience and others do not. The civilians I received have experience with weaponry; they decide to join because they believe in Ukraine and have seen with their own eyes the disasters we are going through (…) if there was international leadership, they would not be here,” Chaparro said.

Chaparro’s data match those of Ed Arnold, a European Security researcher at the Royal United Services Institute in London who was interviewed by DW news agency.

American veterans
A group of volunteers waiting to attend a training camp in the vicinity of Kyiv (Image: EFE)

“Most of them are Europeans and North Americans. There are 500 from Belarus and also some Japanese volunteers,” he said.

“I have reports from veterans on the ground who say they have fired more ammunition in four days than in four full tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is not the same kind of conflict they are used to,” he added.

As this independent army grows, questions also arise about whether it is legal for any citizen of the world to go to war without belonging to the country of conflict. However, countries such as Lithuania and Latvia have passed emergency legal measures allowing people to join the war, while Kyiv passed, a couple of years ago, a regulation allowing foreign fighters to become citizens within a few months of applying, and thus officially join the Ukrainian side.

UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss went so far as to say recently that “people can make up their own minds,” but former prosecutor Dominic Grieve stated that it is illegal for Britons under the Overseas Enlistment Act of 1870.

For his part, Russia’s Defense Ministry spokesman said foreign fighters would be treated as mercenaries, which would leave them without humanitarian prisoner-of-war protection.

American veterans unite

Traditionally, the United States has been known as a proactive military nation, and above all, a leading country because of its powerful military; however, as the days go by and the war in Ukraine continues the number of American veterans joining the fight against Russia is increasing citing Biden’s “lack of leadership.”

“We are witnessing in Ukraine something that is completely interesting, powerful and potentially dangerous. The self-deployment of people can alter the landscape of the war,” David Grantham, an Air Force veteran and specialist in areas of intelligence and international affairs, told El American.

Over 6,000 Americans have volunteered to participate on the Ukrainian side of the war, Ukrainian Gen. Borys Kremenestkiy said in an interview with Military Times. Kremenestkiy is now in Washington D.C. handling veterans’ applications.

Of those more than 6,000 applicants, the Ukrainian Embassy in the U.S. rejected more than half outright for different reasons. In general, profiles with criminal records, membership in extremist groups, or simply too old, according to the article.

With approximately 3,000 applicants remaining, the embassy had only approved 100 of them to be able to fight in Ukraine officially; but, some foreign volunteers are opting for unofficial alternatives to be able to fight on the front lines.

There are also cases such as Aerial Recovery, a team of American military veterans who are working with Ukrainian authorities to evacuate orphaned children from conflict zones.

“One group we brought in was in a shelter for a week, and it took us two attempts to rescue them. On the first one, the shelling was too intense, and we had to leave them there and return in 48 hours. In that time three of their masters died, and they were in pretty bad shape. They were hungry, cold, tired, and looked very calm. They were in shock,” explained Jeremy Locke, a former Green Beret, in an interview in Poland with Voice of America.

From MSNBC commentator to military war volunteer

Malcolm Wrightson Nance, MSNBC commentator and expert on terrorism, intelligence, insurgency, and torture, has reportedly left the media outlet to join the legion of military foreigners in Ukraine.

Nance appeared on Monday’s episode of Joy Reid’s nightly show The ReidOut in military uniform and combat gear and said he has joined the International Legion of Territorial Defense in Ukraine.

“About a month ago, I joined the International Legion here in Ukraine and I’m here to help this country fight what is essentially a war of extermination,” he said.

“Let me say something to the President of the United States. Give them long-range counter-battery artillery… Something that can overcome their artillery range. If you do that, you stop the attacks on civilians,” he sentenced.

Afghanistan, the “tipping point” for lack of leadership

“This phenomenon of self-deployment appears to be largely driven by a vacuum in leadership. And, at least through American eyes, we can look back and say that the tipping point came with the withdrawal from Afghanistan,” he explained.

Grantham said in an article that “a mass movement to self-deploy to war zones speaks to a diminishing reliance on modern governments to get the job done.”

“Former American military, NGOs and others trickled in and then flooded Afghanistan. Most, it seemed, were trying to save former colleagues, help defend against the Taliban invasion or stop the country’s imminent collapse. But there seemed to be a shared sense that the U.S. government was not up to the task,” he explained.

“As in Afghanistan, some good things will happen in and around Ukraine from self-deployment. Mixed results will arise from well-intentioned actions, no doubt. Opportunists will also exploit it all for their own glory (…) But I think the mere act of self-deployment is a consequence of an absence of leadership. It speaks of a perceived vacuum in government, a feeling of emptiness in the words of the leaders. This reality may be changing the landscape of the war,” he said.

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