- Mark Milley said sending US troops into Ukraine was likely the only way to stop Putin from invading.
- But the general said he was against doing so, as it would “risk armed conflict with Russia.”
- NATO forces have refused to engage militarily with Russia on Ukrainian soil, distressing Zelenskyy.
The top US general said the only way to stop Russian President Vladimir Putin would be to send US troops into Ukraine — an action he and President Joe Biden have both opposed, saying it would spark a new conflict with Russia.
“Short of the commitment of US military forces into Ukraine proper, I’m not sure he was deterrable,” Gen. Mark Milley told the House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.
“The idea of deterring Putin from invading Ukraine, deterring him by the US, would have required the commitment of US military forces, and I think that would have risked armed conflict with Russia.”
Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has repeatedly asked the US and NATO to send troops and enforce a no-fly zone over Ukraine, moves that would likely bring Western forces in direct combat with Russian forces.
NATO has stayed away from direct intervention, choosing to supply military and humanitarian aid.
Biden tweeted on March 11 that a direct US or NATO military incursion into Ukraine would be unfeasible and would start a world war.
“I want to be clear: We will defend every inch of NATO territory with the full might of a united and galvanized NATO,” he said.
“But we will not fight a war against Russia in Ukraine. A direct confrontation between NATO and Russia is World War III. And something we must strive to prevent.”
On Tuesday, Milley said he “certainly wouldn’t have advised” sending US troops into Ukraine to deter Putin.
As the West announced sanctions on Russia following the invasion, Putin put Russia’s nuclear-weapons program on high alert, brandishing the threat of nuclear war to ward off military intervention. However, Western officials believe that nothing has actually changed with the readiness of Russia’s nuclear program.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has slowed in recent weeks. Ukrainian and Western officials have said they believe Putin is repositioning troops for an all-out attack on the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine.
The region is home to the pro-Russian separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. Russia recognized the Ukrainian territories as independent states days before the invasion.
As the fighting has continued across Ukraine, Russian and Ukrainian officials have held negotiations about a cease-fire.
Zelenskyy told the BBC on Monday that talks would continue despite evidence of Russian war crimes. Ukraine has accused Russia of killing at least 300 civilians, many in a gruesome fashion, in the town of Bucha, near Kyiv.