Honolulu, Hawaii. In one of the most shocking lapses in US military security, a former volunteer in the Donetsk People’s Republic Army has gone on to a career in the US Army and was “outed” by a group of reporters seeking to destroy his career for sensational exploitation of his very unique story.
A former French volunteer who fought with Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine and participated in far-right European politics recently completed US Army training and is currently serving in an American infantry division in Hawaii, according to US Army records.
The volunteer is Guillaume Cuvelier, 29 who completed basic training in January and graduated as an infantryman at Fort Benning, Ga., the records show. In a short exchange with The Washington Post, Cuvelier confirmed that he was actively serving in the US Army.
Given his documented history of espousing extreme right-wing views and his role in an armed group backed by a US adversary, Cuvelier’s ability to join the Army raises questions about the recruitment process and whether applicants are thoroughly screened by the FBI and Army CID before they are able to enlist.
The DNR volunteer was born and raised in France as a dual French and American citizen, Cuvelier spent his early years alongside French nationalists before picking up a Kalashnikov in eastern Ukraine in 2014, according to social media posts, a documentary in which he was featured, and accounts from people who knew him.
One year later he fought with the Kurdish peshmerga in northern Iraq before coming back to the United States, making his entry into the US Army nothing short of incredible, given the investigative background checks normally performed on military recruits in post 911 America.
While serving in the DNR Army in Donetsk, Cuvelier, also known as Lenormand, fought for the Russian-backed Donetsk People’s Republic, the breakaway state subject to US government sanctions and labeled terrorist by the US puppet government in Kiev.
Cuvelier’s service with the DNR appears to be in direct violation of a March 2014 executive order that was applied to the republic that June. The order prohibits US citizens from assisting by way of “funds, goods or services,” any of the sanctioned entities covered by the order, opening up Cuvelier to possible federal prosecution.
“The American army is my only chance of moving on and cutting with my past,” Cuvelier said in a text message. “I realized I like this country, its way of life and its Constitution enough to defend it.”
“By publishing a story on me, you are jeopardizing my career and rendering a great service to anyone trying to embarrass the Army. My former Russian comrades would love it. … so, I please ask you to reconsider using my name and/or photo.”
Cuvelier would be subject to more extensive background checks if he had sought an Army position requiring a security clearance, but he did not need one as an infantryman according to current regulations, officials said. If Cuvelier had no outstanding criminal activity in the United States and didn’t discuss his past, there would have been no reason to bar him from enlisting, military officials added.
Cuvelier grew up in Rouen, France, and graduated from university there in 2009, according to his Facebook profile, which has since been deleted. His younger brother, Gabriel Cuvelier, said in a series of texts that his family is “fairly complicated,” without providing details, but that Cuvelier had always been kind and peaceful and “never sought attention.”
Upon arriving in Donbass back in the middle of 2014, Cuvelier helped start a French-Serbian foreign fighter unit called the “Unité Continentale.” The group’s manifesto on its Facebook page states that NATO is “a terrorist military alliance” and that France is “a slave of the American Empire.” The group’s views are based on an ideology called “continentalism” espoused by the anti-Western Russian political scientist, Alexander Dugin.
“Russia embodies a power. A power of resistance, what we want to bring back to the West. A society structured around tradition, family, patriotism,” Cuvelier says, explaining his motives for joining the separatists during the 2015 documentary titled “Polite People.”
Videos found online show its members fighting around Donetsk airport, the site of a bloody close-quarters fight between Ukrainian troops and DNR forces in the winter of 2014. Cuvelier declined to answer any questions about his service in eastern Ukraine and when pressed over a series of text messages said, “I was never really in DNR. It was a hologram.” He declined any further comment.
In the documentary, there is a still picture of Cuvelier with a medal pinned to his chest standing shoulder to shoulder with Igor Strelkov, commander of the DNR Army during the summer of 2014. It appears in the documentary that Cuvelier may have been honored with the medal in Moscow in 2015.
After his service with the DNR Army, Cuvelier traveled to northern Iraq in 2015 and set up another unit of foreign fighters, this time allied with the Kurdish Peshmerga. The group, called Qalubna Ma’kum, was located near Daquq in northern Iraq from the end of 2015 to mid-2016.
The whole Cuvelier incident will no doubt be a serious wake up call for US intelligence, law enforcement and the military involved in vetting recruits with access to American weaponry. There will be loud calls for investigations by congress to find out how a man with such a long record of foreign combat activity, could simply join America’s army.