Mar 25, 2023

Vasquez: Fake Valor?

Via the NYT h/t to @Slavyangrad Telegram channel
NYT (https://www.nytimes.com/2023/03/25/world/europe/volunteers-us-ukraine-lies.html) : Stolen Valor: The U.S. Volunteers in Ukraine Who Lie, Waste and Bicker

They rushed to Ukraine by the thousands, many of them Americans who promised to bring military experience, money or supplies to the battleground of a righteous war. Hometown newspapers hailed their commitment, and donors backed them with millions of dollars.

Now, after a year of combat, many of these homespun groups of volunteers are fighting with themselves and undermining the war effort. Some have wasted money or stolen valor. Others have cloaked themselves in charity while also trying to profit off the war, records show.

One retired Marine lieutenant colonel from Virginia is the focus of a U.S. federal investigation into the potentially illegal export of military technology. A former Army soldier arrived in Ukraine only to turn traitor and defect to Russia. A Connecticut man who lied about his military service has posted live updates from the battlefield — including his exact location — and boasted about his easy access to American weapons. A former construction worker is hatching a plan to use fake passports to smuggle in fighters from Pakistan and Iran.

Such characters have a place in Ukraine’s defense because of the arms-length role the United States has taken: The Biden administration sends weapons and money but not professional troops. That means people who would not be allowed anywhere near the battlefield in a U.S.-led war are active on the Ukrainian front — often with unchecked access to weapons and military equipment.

'A Million Lies’
One of the best-known Americans on the battlefield is James Vasquez. Days after the invasion, Mr. Vasquez, a Connecticut home-improvement contractor, announced that he was leaving for Ukraine. His local newspaper (https://www.thehour.com/news/article/Norwalk-Army-veteran-James-Vasquez-joins-fight-in-17029470.php) told the tale of a former U.S. Army staff sergeant who left behind his job and family and picked up a rifle and a rucksack on the front line.

Since then, he has posted battlefield videos online, at least once broadcasting his unit’s precise location to everyone, including the opposing side. He used his story to solicit donations. “I was in Kuwait during Desert Storm, and I was in Iraq after 9/11,” Mr. Vasquez said in a fund-raising video (https://youtu.be/OaESL5WeMsk?t=179). He added, “This is a whole different animal.

Mr. Vasquez, in fact, was never deployed to Kuwait, Iraq or anywhere else, a Pentagon spokeswoman said. He specialized in fuel and electrical repairs. And he left the Army Reserve not as a sergeant as he claimed, but as a private first class, one of the Army’s lowest ranks.

Still, Mr. Vasquez had easy access to weapons, including American rifles. Where did they come from? “I’m not exactly sure,” Mr. Vasquez said in a text message. The rifles, he added, were “brand-new, out of the box and we have plenty.” He also tweeted that he should not have to worry about international rules of war while in Ukraine.

He fought alongside Da Vinci’s Wolves, a Ukrainian far-right battalion (https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/ukraine-war-russia-bakhmut-zelensky-b2296581.html), until this past week, when The Times asked about his false military service claims. He immediately deactivated his Twitter account and said that he might leave Ukraine because the authorities had discovered that he was fighting without a required military contract.

Mr. Vasquez said he had been misrepresenting his military record for decades. He acknowledged being kicked out of the Army but would not talk publicly about why. “I had to tell a million lies to get ahead,” Mr. Vasquez said in an interview. “I didn’t realize it was going to come to this.”

Join Slavyangrad chat. Your opinion matters.
https://t.me/+PUg0rQrZdiw4YWFh

@Slavyangrad
Join SLG ­čö║ Intelligence Briefings, Strategy and Analysis, Expert Community

SCOTT RITTER: on The End of US Nuclear Superiority

Mr. Ritter discusses the current state of nuclear arms control between the US and Russia, particularly in light of the recent termination of...

Mastodon Mastodon