In the West’s zeal to support Ukraine in its fight against the Russian invaders, some observers worry that Ukrainian neo-Nazi paramilitaries will benefit from U.S. support—a situation that would heighten security risks at home.
It wouldn’t the first time the U.S. government backed an armed insurgency to counter Russia, as Clinton noted.
“The Russians invaded Afghanistan back in 1980. [Afghanistan] had a lot of countries supplying arms and advice, and even some advisers, to those who were recruited to fight Russia. It didn’t end well for the Russians,” she said.
“There were other unintended consequences, as we know. But the fact is that a very motivated, and then funded and armed, insurgency drove the Russians out of Afghanistan.”
Clinton didn’t describe those “unintended consequences” of supporting the mujahideen: An empowered Taliban replaced the Russian-backed Afghan government, turning the country into a terrorist hotbed that led to 9/11 and an ensuing 20-year war for America.
Former CIA officer Douglas London suggested last week that a CIA-backed insurgency effort could already be underway.
“Supporting an insurgency is in the CIA’s DNA … The CIA’s recent experience in supporting and fighting insurgencies in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria prepares it well for opposing Russia’s modern, conventional forces.”
Some analysts predict that the coming insurgency could last a decade, or longer. Citing an unnamed U.S. official, CBS reported March 1 that U.S. lawmakers were briefed on the matter that day.
“The U.K. foreign secretary estimated it would be a 10-year war. Lawmakers at the Capitol were told [Feb. 28] it is likely to last 10, 15 or 20 years—and that ultimately, Russia will lose,” CBS said.
If the analysts’ projections hold true, one of the main insurgent groups in Ukraine would be the Azov Battalion, which has been battling Russian forces since helping overthrow Ukraine’s pro-Russian government in 2014.
“When policymakers are talking about this, they’re brushing off these concerns—saying, ‘Yeah, well there’s an emergency right now.’ And that’s understandable in some ways, but there are risks,” Hall told The Epoch Times.
“It’s safe to say that the U.S. doesn’t have a particularly good track record of tracing where weapons go, once they’re dispersed,” Hall said.
As in the Middle Eastern conflicts, Ukraine has attracted fighters from the West, said Hall. But instead of jihadists, a Ukrainian insurgency is likely to bring an influx of neo-Nazis and other right-wing extremist groups that have ties to Azov.
“The Azov Battalion … is believed to have participated in training and radicalizing United States-based white supremacy organizations,” the FBI agent said.
An influx of human and physical capital would not only strengthen Azov in Ukraine; it could also heighten the domestic terrorism risk at home, said Hall.
“To the extent that this would provide an opportunity for individuals to gain combat experience and the potential to radicalize, then you could very well see those people coming back and integrating those types of tactics and tools into their existing or new domestic extremist groups here,” Hall said.
The notion that American participation in foreign conflicts could result in domestic extremism is far from theoretical.
During the 1980s Contra War in Nicaragua, for example, Vietnam war veteran Thomas Posey started the Civilian Material Assistance (CMA) to assist the Contra rebels in their fight against the Russian-back government there.
President Ronald Reagan reportedly called Posey a “national treasure” at one point. But after the Iran-Contra scandal, Posey was indicted for weapons smuggling.
With the Russian threat looming, Hall said it’s somewhat understandable that policymakers don’t consider the complex, chain of events overseas that can lead to blowback at home—such as in the cases of the 1980s Afghan insurgency and Contra War.
“But it’s in those times of emergency that you really need the appropriate checks and balances in place to understand exactly what your policies are doing,” she said.
The State Department did not respond to questions about its policies on Americans traveling to Ukraine to participate in the conflict against Russia.