Split between White House and NATO commander on Ukraine?

posted at 12:41 pm on April 11, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

Last month, four-star Air Force General Philip Breedlove arrived in Washington to brief Congress on Russia’s mobilization on its border with Ukraine and the options available for the US and NATO — the latter of which Breedlove leads as Supreme Allied Commander. Breedlove, who is also the head of European Command for the Pentagon, got sent back early in order to consult with allies. However, a new exclusive from Eli Lake suggests his abrupt return to Europe may have been driven by a split with the White House over aid to Ukraine:

During classified briefings on March 26 and March 27, Gen. Philip Breedlove painted for members of the House Armed Services Committee a bleak picture of Russia’s actions—and warned that the United States was not taking steps it could to help Ukraine better defend itself. On several points—from estimates of Moscow’s troops to intelligence-sharing with Russia’s likely adversaries—Breedlove’s briefing directly contradicted the message coming from other branches of the Obama administration.

Breedlove, a four star Air Force general, was careful not to tell members of Congress anything that directly undermined the authority of the Commander-in-Chief during his March briefings. But lawmakers and Congressional staff members who attended these sessions say it was clear that Breedlove felt he was stifled to respond adequately to the crisis in Ukraine.

The quiet protests from one of Obama’s most important generals at the moment reveal an important policy rift inside the administration. While President Obama, the joint chiefs of staff and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel have hesitated to provide too much assistance to the interim government in Ukraine, Breedlove has wanted to do more.

In a statement for The Daily Beast, Breedlove acknowledged that he met with members of both parties in Congress in the last week in March. “I provided my estimation of Russian capabilities and that estimation was well-received by the Members. As these sessions were classified, I can only get into generalities.” Breedlove added that he discussed a number of issues including the U.S. consideration of non-lethal aid to Ukraine. “I was clear that our efforts were aimed at reassuring our NATO Allies and European partners of our commitment and resolve,” he said.

Members of Congress, Congressional staff and U.S. defense officials say Breedlove has wanted to brief Ukraine’s military on the detailed intelligence U.S. spy agencies had gathered on Russia’s troop movements and analysis of Russian war plans.

This puts quite a different spin on the earlier news about satellite photos released by NATO. Breedlove was the one who released them, and made it clear why on his Twitter feed:

Here is a report on Breedlove’s return from two weeks ago:

Breedlove’s abrupt departure looks like it was motivated by other interests than just getting a closer look at the Russian threat. It prevented his scheduled testimony last week to the House Armed Services Committee about the specifics of that threat, and Breedlove’s input on how best to respond to it. Mike Rogers, who chairs the committee, has a bill that would authorize specific areas of intelligence sharing with the interim Ukraine government, at which the White House has balked so far. Rogers told Eli Lake that the bill intended to respond to Breedlove’s recommendations, but that legislation is really too slow — and that the White House should be taking Breedlove’s advice directly.

Until now, Breedlove appears to have carefully picked his modes of dissent from the administration’s Ukraine strategy. Ironically, today is the 63rd anniversary of the firing of Douglas MacArthur for his attempt to publicly take control over war policy from Harry Truman, which was deeply unpopular at the time but served as a strong precedent for civilian control over the American military. The President has control of foreign policy, including military and intelligence strategy, and for good reasons — even when we don’t necessarily agree with the previous election’s results or the policies. If this is truly a split that’s going public, then both Breedlove and the White House will face some difficult choices, and soon.

Update: Someone’s a fan of this story …


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

Bark is preparing another strong speech, what more does Breedmore want, a nookyaler exchange with the Reds? Dial it back, general, Steel Spine has everything well in hand.

Bishop on April 11, 2014 at 12:46 PM

I predict a planted hooker in his future.

faraway on April 11, 2014 at 12:47 PM

How soon until Breedlove decides to spend some time with his family? At least, I hope he gets that opportunity. With Obama’s fetish of all things fascist, Breedlove might get sent to manage Antartica–sans arctic clothing.

Vanceone on April 11, 2014 at 12:48 PM

The wheels of the bus go ’round and ’round…

Wanderlust on April 11, 2014 at 12:49 PM

Obama doesn’t Want to upset Putin… And Biden thinks Illegal immigrant are American citizens… Does that mean…?
Hillary/Putin 2016?

Varchild on April 11, 2014 at 12:49 PM

Wait, weren’t we told during our peaceful attack on Libya that NATO wasn’t the U.S.?

rogerb on April 11, 2014 at 12:51 PM

Varchild on April 11, 2014 at 12:49 PM

Nah, it’ll be more like Putin will have a position in the US the same way he did when Medvedev pretended to be the Russian President: Putin will be pulling the strings of Hillary or whatever leftist wins in 2016, regardless of party designation.

Wanderlust on April 11, 2014 at 12:51 PM

Members of Congress, Congressional staff and U.S. defense officials say Breedlove has wanted to brief Ukraine’s military on the detailed intelligence U.S. spy agencies had gathered on Russia’s troop movements and analysis of Russian war plans.

Ukraine barely has a military. Other than handing the Russians (via the Ukrainians) the exact details of US knowledge of Russian movements, what purpose would this serve?

sharrukin on April 11, 2014 at 12:51 PM

But lawmakers and Congressional staff members who attended these sessions say it was clear that Breedlove felt he was stifled to respond adequately to the crisis in Ukraine.

It’s becoming more and more clear what Dear Liar meant when he said he’d “have more flexibility” after the election: the flexibility to scuttle American power and allow an anti-Western Putin to gain power.

rbj on April 11, 2014 at 12:51 PM

McCain is getting a little restless. Needs something to bomb. Breedlove neeeds to be careful. I’ve gotten the impression The Lightworker is pruning the military brass till it fits his idea of what a military should be willing to do should civil unrest break out in the U.S.

butch on April 11, 2014 at 12:55 PM

Teh SCOAMT’s refusal to defend Ukraine is evidence of his “flexibility” on the reconsitution of the Soviet Russian Empire circa 1914 (when there was no independent Ukraine, Latvia, Finland or Poland).

Steve Eggleston on April 11, 2014 at 12:55 PM

I see a retirement ceremony/parade in the General’s not too distant future.

ColBubba on April 11, 2014 at 1:04 PM

Breedlove soon to join Sebelius as new inspectors of the undercarriage of Obama’s bus.

Bitter Clinger on April 11, 2014 at 1:05 PM

The President has control of foreign policy, including military and intelligence strategy

The problem here is this is not a question of POTUS wants to do X and SAC wants to do Y. In this case, POTUS wants to close his eyes and hope it all goes away. He does NOT have control in the sense that there is no policy to control. What POTUS will find out soon is that no policy is a policy in its own way and almost always the worst one, especially if he finds himself being outmaneuvered by a general with a sense of what he wants to do (he who is convinced is master of he who doubts) and a political chorus to back him up.

When I was a student at the Naval War College, the instructors would always remind us that we needed to understand policy implications beyond our own parochial service concerns and that is why we had to be broadly knowledgeable about history and the world. My counter was always “And what about our elected officials?” Do you think Patty Murray could find Kiev on a map? Could Barack Obama give a one-paragraph distillation of Putin’s worldview? Any chance that John McCain knows the least bit about Russia’s love-hate relationship with the West?

We are completely rudderless in the foreign sphere, and ships without rudders end up grounding on lee shores, usually with heavy loss of life.

dreadnought62 on April 11, 2014 at 1:09 PM

The President has control of foreign policy, including military and intelligence strategy, and for good reasons — even when we don’t necessarily agree with the previous election’s results or the policies.

Well this was true in Nazi Germany, but it’s not suppose to be true in America, and for good reasons.

VorDaj on April 11, 2014 at 1:16 PM

Almost as important, I guess.

Akzed on April 11, 2014 at 1:17 PM

Bishop on April 11, 2014 at 12:46 PM

Goldie, how many times have I told you guys that I don’t want no horsing around on the airplane?

Roy Rogers on April 11, 2014 at 1:20 PM

Dread’s right. “Doing nothing” is always a policy option and of which The One is Master. O’s knowledge of history is taken directly from Das Kapital and The Communist Manifesto. The ‘nothing policy’ plays right into P’s hands gives The One another reason to plead, “Peace in Out Time”, played to Putin’s toon of, “Another Piece In My Time”…

vnvet on April 11, 2014 at 1:26 PM

Oops – “Our” time…xien loi.

vnvet on April 11, 2014 at 1:27 PM

Ukraine barely has a military. Other than handing the Russians (via the Ukrainians) the exact details of US knowledge of Russian movements, what purpose would this serve?

[sharrukin on April 11, 2014 at 12:51 PM]

It will give the Ukrainians time to move the trebuchets into place. They aren’t motorized, you know.

Dusty on April 11, 2014 at 1:35 PM

Ukraine barely has a military. Other than handing the Russians (via the Ukrainians) the exact details of US knowledge of Russian movements, what purpose would this serve?

sharrukin on April 11, 2014 at 12:51 PM

Agreed.

Kaffa on April 11, 2014 at 1:39 PM

It will give the Ukrainians time to move the trebuchets into place. They aren’t motorized, you know.

Dusty on April 11, 2014 at 1:35 PM

LOL

This same guy (Breedlove) said it would take the Russians about 3-5 days to overrun the south and east Ukraine. They would barely need to shift gears. Both Obama and this general are out to lunch.

sharrukin on April 11, 2014 at 1:41 PM

Dread’s right.

vnvet on April 11, 2014 at 1:26 PM

Words never once uttered by my wife.

I think the interesting horserace within the horserace is which ongoing humiliation will spur Obama more: being embarassed internationally by Putin or domestically by the likes of a General Breedlove.

I can’t make up my mind. Obama thinks he’s the smartest dude on the planet, so being shown up by a thug like Putin has to be galling, especially since it puts the lie to his incredibly narcissistic belief that the sheer power of his words are transformative. On the other hand, he has a whole legion of water-carriers who will keep insisting that taking Crimea Ukraine the Baltics States Poland Hungary was an enormous blunder on Russia’s part. Hell, they’ll be cheering the Dog Eater as Russian tanks roll into Paris.

On the other hand, he’s a total power freak and the one arena that he can control people is internally. Guess Breedlove should be checking his bed for dead prostitutes and getting all his tax documents in order.

dreadnought62 on April 11, 2014 at 1:48 PM

dreadnought62 on April 11, 2014 at 1:48 PM

Here I thought I was pessimistic. I guess the adage that Russia is part of Europe will need to be flipped soon (i.e., Europe will soon be part of Russia).

To up the pessimism, I’m thinking Gen. Breedlove needs to read up on what happened to Ron Brown, because that may well be his future.

Steve Eggleston on April 11, 2014 at 2:00 PM

Bark is preparing another strong speech, what more does Breedmore want, a nookyaler exchange with the Reds? Dial it back, general, Steel Spine has everything well in hand.

Bishop on April 11, 2014 at 12:46 PM

No worries, Barky won’t take part in such an exchange. He’d let Putin nuke Israel and maybe a couple of US cities and then get on the tube speechifying about Vlad acting stupidly.

/SNARK

hawkeye54 on April 11, 2014 at 2:03 PM

One of my favorite Clancy novels was Red Storm Rising. Every once in a while I suspect Dear Leader is going to provoke the real life enactment of that fictional work.

freedomfirst on April 11, 2014 at 2:15 PM

The Lightworker is pruning the military brass till it fits his idea of what a military should be willing to do should civil unrest break out in the U.S.

butch on April 11, 2014 at 12:55 PM

Chilling.
The thought has crossed my mind.
Others as well, I’m certain.

We know he’s at least doing it to advance his social experiment within the armed forces. It’s not a far cry to using them domestically.

freedomfirst on April 11, 2014 at 2:20 PM

NATO, nothing after ten o’clock

Sven on April 11, 2014 at 2:21 PM

NATO, nothing after ten o’clock

Sven on April 11, 2014 at 2:21 PM

AM

Sven on April 11, 2014 at 2:22 PM

You never hear Russia whining about where the US Government stations US Soldiers on US soil. Maybe Russia should be concerned about the buildup of US soldiers on the Mexican border? This is all such a joke.

Neo Con traitors are ridiculous with their hyperbolic fear mongering. Their seizure of power will ultimately prove to be the most dangerous issue facing the American people.

Reagan expelled all the Neo Cons when they foisted the Iran Contra scandal on him, after which they were persona non grata in the halls of power until George Bush Sr. became president. These current Baby Boomer Neo Cons have definitely overstayed their welcome, proving their incompetence at every turn during these last 15 years of their fruitless warmongering “nation building”.

Control freaks will always seek to expand their control. And when they can’t do it overseas, they will do it here.

It’s time to give the Progressive Neo Cons the boot from Washington DC.

Another Libertarian on April 11, 2014 at 2:32 PM

Obama Admin officials currently busy scrubbing General Breedlove out of all photos, memos, and transcripts.

BobMbx on April 11, 2014 at 2:49 PM

I would like to know exactly what the good general and maverick would like to do?

What would be like to mobilize and where in terms of military assets?

What intelligence he would like to share (which will be leaked almost on the same day to the russians, thereby giving them knowledge of what we know)?

What would the RoE be?

uatu1878 on April 11, 2014 at 4:11 PM

Porn to be found on the general’s computer.

Mason on April 11, 2014 at 4:13 PM

‘Realpolitik’ ‘Neo Cons’ come in many flavors. Pootin comes to mind as the most ‘conservative’ of conservatives, with a Russian flavored power-politcs-popsicle all his own. At least he understands the movement of history and how it waxes and wanes regarding political power. He seems to be the master of the bluff (or, is he bluffing?) while Barky seems to be the master of the bluffed. The One seems totally unable to understand that weak leaders, when faced by real threats, don’t end well. Unfortunately, neither do their countries. He’ll go to Hell still listening in rapt exultation at the sound of his own voice.

vnvet on April 11, 2014 at 5:04 PM

I would like to know exactly what the good general and maverick would like to do?

What would be like to mobilize and where in terms of military assets?

What intelligence he would like to share (which will be leaked almost on the same day to the russians, thereby giving them knowledge of what we know)?

What would the RoE be?

uatu1878 on April 11, 2014 at 4:11 PM

All excellent questions. We are in real danger of the worst of military policy sins: we are going to have our strategy operationalized. In other words, since we have no overarching policy, our policy will become whatever operations we’re capable of.

dreadnought62 on April 11, 2014 at 6:37 PM

The Lightworker is pruning the military brass till it fits his idea of what a military should be willing to do should civil unrest break out in the U.S.

butch on April 11, 2014 at 12:55 PM

That’s the main event. Compared to determining who will be master in North America, Ukraine isn’t even a sideshow.

David Blue on April 12, 2014 at 4:48 AM