• Are There Saboteurs Operating In The United States?

    June 16, 2024
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    Guest post by Colonel George R. K. Acree, U.S. Army, Retired

    The views are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, The Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.

    “Preventing War is Much Better than Protesting War. Protesting war is too late.”

    - Nhat Hanh

    Is the United States sleepwalking its way into a hot war with Russia? Over the last three years the United States has provided over $175 billion in military assistance to the Ukraine1. This military assistance prolongs a war on Russia’s border which has killed over 50,000 Russian Soldiers2. Has Russia passively accepted this military assistance to its enemy on the battlefield or are they doing anything about this? Over the last three years there have been many explosions, train derailments, bridge collapses and other incidents within American infrastructure which point to an organized effort to disrupt American production and the export of important material overseas.

    A Motive for Sabotage and Some Recent Examples

    There is a rich history of the use of saboteurs to disrupt a nation's ability to produce materials which support war. Prior to the U.S. entry into World War II, the Germans inserted saboteurs in the United States to disrupt American transportation, manufacturing and electrical distribution systems3 in a clandestine operation code named Pastorious. Please don’t be fooled into believing that the dastardly Nazis are the only nation to employ these techniques. As another example, in Iran over the last two decades numerous nuclear scientists have been assassinated4 and the digital malware Stuxnet was utilized to retard the Iranian pursuit of nuclear weapons. The clandestine techniques of sabotage are widespread and often occur as a precursor to open warfare. It is only logical to believe that if a nation wants to prevent another nation from having a military advantage it would strike at those technological or logistic sites which provide this advantage. This technique has been used throughout history, and I suspect is occurring in our homeland today.

    Over the last three years there have been numerous train derailments, fires and explosions at food production sites and factories which produce ammunition and other materials. Within the last month there have also been well publicized incidents on our riverways and ports that have disrupted transportation networks. Of interest these incidents are occurring in both the United States and in other NATO countries. Specifically, these incidents include a fire at the Scranton Pennsylvania ammunition plant on the 15th of April and a fire at another ammunition factory on the 17th of April in Monmouth England5. What is interesting is both these ammunition plants produce 155-millimeter howitzer rounds which are in great demand in the Ukraine. In mid-April 26 barges became unmoored and created havoc to shipping on the Ohio river6. Most recently another barge struck a bridge and caused a collapse of the bridge connecting Galveston and Pelican Island7.

    While all of these incidents may not be acts of sabotage, it is interesting to note that alleged Russian saboteurs have been apprehended in Germany and are awaiting trial for plotting to undermine aid to the Ukraine8. If Russian saboteurs have been apprehended in Germany, is it paranoia to suspect that other Russian agents could be causing similar mayhem here in the United States? Taking into account our porous borders and the number of incidents that have occurred over the last two years, I believe that there may be something to this.

    Can This Lead to a Wider War and What Should We Do About It

    I have heard it argued and I agree with the opinion that the United States is engaged in a proxy war with Russia. Military doctrine speaks of the instruments of national power. This is commonly referred to in the acronym of the DIME, Diplomacy, Information, Military and Economics. The United States is currently using the DIME - Diplomacy through various initiatives in the United Nations, Information publicized throughout the west and Economic sanctions to damage the Russians. As previously mentioned, the United States is also providing substantial military assistance to the Ukraine. Certainly, the leader of Russia with his earlier training in the KGB is familiar with the acts of sabotage. I argue that these acts of sabotage are a more recent escalation to this conflict and should sober us to the possibility that this war could widen. Sabotage lies between the military and other instruments of national power and could quite easily act as a catalyst to open warfare.

    The realization that sabotage is being used against the United States should lead us to ask two questions. #1. Is our current foreign policy towards the Ukraine and Russia worth the acts of sabotage occurring in Europe and America? #2. Is our current foreign policy towards the Ukraine and Russia leading us on a path to open war with Russia and is this in the best interests of American citizens?I will attempt to tackle the first question for myself. Are the lives of people who I do not know in the Ukraine worth the damage to equipment and goods here in the United States. With some reservation I say yes because these goods and equipment are not mine. In other words, I do not have a stake in the game. If my business was ruined by an act of sabotage, or if my sons or daughter worked in a factory which may be a target of Russian sabotage, it may change my opinion. It is for this reason that I believe we should recognize these threats as a nation and actively work to deter them by closing our border and providing significant scrutiny to these incidents when they occur.

    Now for the second question. Is our current foreign policy leading us to a path of open war with Russia? Yes, I believe it is. Is this potential war with Russia in the best interests of American Citizens? No, I do not believe this potential war is in our best interests. I do have a stake in this game. I subscribe to the criteria laid out in the Weinberger doctrine where he stated that America should only go to war when its vital national interests are threatened. I have yet to hear a cogent argument about any vital national interest the United States has in the Ukraine. Having seen firsthand the horrors of war, I believe engaging in war for reasons that are not tied directly to American vital national interests is foolhardy. Making this prospect worse is Russia is not a second-rate adversary. Russia has the most nuclear weapons in the world and has the ability to deliver these weapons to our homeland. From launch to impact it takes 26 minutes and 40 seconds for a Russian nuclear missile to leave Russia and hit the eastern coast of the United States unleashing unthinkable destruction9. It is for this simple reason that the cost to benefit equation of open war with Russia is not in American Citizens best interests. Simply put, I have worked for forty years to achieve the American dream of having a modest house, a little bit of land, a loving family and great friends. Is it worth the destruction of everything that is valuable to me; my family, my friends and my home, for people I don’t know, that live over 5,000 miles away, and in a country that was previously part of the former Soviet Union? As previously stated, this answer is a resounding no.

    Some may argue that not supporting a war against the Russians is an isolationist stance and leads to a peace in our time moment as Prime Minister Chamberlin sought. I counter this with the wisdom that President Eisenhower demonstrated in the face of Soviet aggression during the 1950’s when the Soviet Union put down the Hungarian revolution. President Eisenhower weighed the risks and made the determination that Hungarian freedom was not worth the risk of another world war. President Eisenhower was right, and a semblance of peace prevailed.

    The use of saboteurs from one nation state against another is a dangerous step on the road from a disguised conflict to open warfare. Open warfare between NATO countries, and certainly the United States against Russia is something we should all be against. Russia has significant military power to include thousands of nuclear weapons and the means to deliver these nuclear bombs to the United States. Because of this threat to our lives and all that we hold dear, we should demand that our elected representatives close our borders, take the sabotage to our infrastructure seriously, only engage the military as an instrument of national power when our vital national interests are at risk, and find pathways to a peaceful coexistence like we did during the four plus decades of the cold war.



    Colonel George R. K. Acree, U.S. Army, Retired earned a bachelor’s degree from Lincoln University (Cum Laude), and he has earned two master’s degrees, one from Webster University in leadership and the second from the Army War College in strategic studies.  COL Acree also earned a graduate certificate from the Naval Post Graduate School in homeland defense and security. COL Acree served in the U.S. Army for over thirty-three years, where he spent eight years in the Enlisted ranks and then spent the remainder of his service in the Officer ranks. His service spanned both combat arms and combat service support and he served in the Active Service, the Reserves and in the National Guard. COL Acree successfully served in various assignments in the United States, Germany, South Korea, and Iraq. 

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