Russia Is Making the Same Damn Fool Mistakes in Ukraine the United States Did in Vietnam, Insiders Say – The Daily Beast

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Former top U.S. officials told The Daily Beast that the Russians will get run out of Ukraine just like the Americans got run out of Vietnam.
WASHINGTON, D.C.—A Vietnam veteran and two-time U.S. ambassador to Ukraine sees a powerful parallel between the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the American defense of the Saigon regime in the Vietnam War. He believes the Russians today, like the Americans nearly 50 years ago, are doomed to fail.
“The Americans got run out of Vietnam, and the Russians are going to get run out of Ukraine,” William Taylor, ambassador to Ukraine from 2006 to 2009 and again, for seven months, from June 2019 to January 2020, told The Daily Beast. “The U.S. didn’t understand Vietnam, and the Russians didn’t understand Ukraine.”
Fresh out of West Point, Taylor was so gung-ho as a lieutenant leading a platoon in combat in Vietnam that he extended his one-year tour by six months, got promoted to captain and led a company. But he grew disillusioned after the North Vietnamese victory on April 30, 1975—aided by massive Russian as well as Chinese military and financial support—requested his discharge after the requisite six years for a U.S. Military Academy grad, and has worked for NATO, the Pentagon and the State Department.
With searing memories of firefights in the jungles below the old “demilitarized zone” between the two Vietnams and then the disastrous South Vietnamese foray into southern Laos in early 1971, Taylor became convinced “I could be of better use out of the army.” Reading books and papers to which he hadn’t been exposed while fighting “the enemy,” he said, “I started thinking the army wasn’t well used.”
That’s a lesson that Taylor predicts the Russians are going to learn the hard way as the war drags on. Although comparisons are inexact, he finds an eerie parallel between the American failure in Vietnam and Russia’s violent campaign in Ukraine. “We didn’t understand there’s a nationalism about the Vietnamese,” he said. “The Vietnamese pushed us out,” and “the Ukrainians will push out the Russians.”
The ghost of the American failure in Vietnam half a century ago haunts U.S. policy-making from Ukraine to the Middle East. John Negroponte, Vietnam director on the National Security Council under Henry Kissinger and a member of his negotiating team in the talks in Paris with the North Vietnamese, agrees that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin failed to understand Ukrainian nationalism when he famously expounded on “the historical unity of Russians and Ukrainians” in an article nearly a year ago. “I don’t think,” said Negroponte, whom George W. Bush as president years later named as America’s first director of national intelligence, “the international community doubts Ukraine is a separate country.”
Like Taylor, Negroponte credits the Ukrainians with galvanizing the support to stand up against the Russians. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky “has captured the political will,” he told The Daily Beast. “The difference between Ukraine and Vietnam is whether the Ukrainians have the spirit to defend themselves.”
Negroponte points to “a loss of national will” on the part of the Americans to explain the disastrous exit from Vietnam. Richard Nixon as president “didn’t want the war to continue after the end of his first term” in 1972, he said. Considering the history, “we would be right to be concerned especially as the way we left Afghanistan.”
While the U.S. faced widespread international and finally bitter domestic opposition for its protracted war in Vietnam, this time around there’s near-universal condemnation of Putin’s actions, at least from the West.
If Putin believed he could get away with invading Ukraine after Biden ordered the precipitous withdrawal from Afghanistan, Negroponte noted, “Washington has been captivated by the response of Ukraine.”
“One of the big differences between Ukraine and Vietnam,” he said, is “We didn't have international support,” whereas, “In the case of Ukraine, you have all of NATO.” Moreover, “NATO has been issuing statements and doing stuff. Biden hasn’t gotten way out in front of NATO. We are working with NATO.”
Zelensky’s pleas for NATO nations to enforce a “no fly zone” over Ukraine against Russian planes evoke memories of the U.S. in Vietnam where the South Vietnamese relied on U.S. air power.
Still, neither Taylor nor Negroponte believes the U.S. and its NATO allies should risk a much wider war by challenging the Russians directly in aerial combat. Instead, they agree NATO should pump in the weaponry Ukraine needs to stave off the Russians, just as China and Russia did for the North Vietnamese.
Like Taylor, Negroponte speaks highly of the fighting spirit of the Ukrainian forces. The Ukrainians were “putting up a spirited defense,” he said, while Biden “is doing a pretty good job” of supporting them. This time, while U.S. and other NATO forces stay away, they’re counting on the Ukrainians to ensure Russia cannot escape the quagmire into which Putin has foolishly sunk his forces—and his own reputation as a fearsome dictator.


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