The army chief general stressed on Thursday that no American soldiers in Poland were training Ukrainian forces, contrary to reports this week and a statement by the president that appeared to suggest otherwise.
“The US Army is not training Ukrainian soldiers or units at this time,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville told reporters at a Defense Writers breakfast. Group in Washington, DC, Thursday morning. “There are materials that are supplied to the Ukrainians, but it’s just a ship – it comes in and it goes. We are not training Ukrainians at the moment.
Thousands of American troops have been deployed or repositioned in Europe, both before the Russian invasion of Ukraine began in February and since it began, in an effort to deter Russia from pushing its invasion on NATO territory. Forces have been mainly in Poland – where the 82nd Airborne Division has been sent – and Romania, with some support elements in Germany. But since those deployments were announced, there has been relatively little information available about what the troops are actually doing outside of training with NATO allies.
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Politico first reported the tentative news about U.S. troops training Ukrainians in Poland on Monday, after President Joe Biden mentioned the U.S. “is with and talking with Ukrainian troops who are in Poland.” A day later, CNN reported that the troops were “providing Ukrainians with instructions on how to use the weapons the West was shipping” to help them defend against Russia.
A White House official reportedly told CNN that there are “Ukrainian troops in Poland who regularly interact with American troops and that’s what the president was referring to.”
But Army Chief of Staff General James McConville on Thursday denied that any training had taken place between US soldiers and Ukrainian troops, including teaching Ukrainians how to use military equipment provided by the United States.
The United States has sent about $2 billion worth of military equipment and assistance to Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion of the neighboring country. This security assistance includes body armor, small arms ammunition, grenade launchers, unmanned aerial systems, and anti-armour and anti-aircraft systems.
McConville said Thursday that the Army “doesn’t have teams there to show them how to use the [equipment]they have people who know how to… use the equipment, and they do it themselves.
Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander, was also asked about potential training on Tuesday and said he didn’t believe “we’re currently in the process of training Ukrainian military forces in Poland”, but there are “liaison officers” who “receive advice, and that is different”.
Although US troops are not actively training Ukrainian forces in Poland, the two armies have worked together in the past. As Task & Purpose recently reported, F-15 pilots from the California Air National Guard’s 144th Fighter Wing have conducted joint training operations with Ukrainian airmen for nearly three decades.
Since Russia began massing troops on the Ukrainian border before launching its invasion earlier this month, the Biden administration has been careful about how it supported Ukraine militarily. Biden was adamant from the start that US troops would not fight Russia in Ukraine and engage Russia militarily unless they entered NATO territory.
The administration has also rejected the idea of establishing a no-fly zone in Ukraine, despite calls from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to do so, as it would likely lead to the downing of Russian planes, forcing the United States to enter. in war.
And while the US military may not be doing much in Poland beyond its role as a deterrent to Russia, that doesn’t mean it will be leaving anytime soon. McConville said Thursday there were “no plans” to bring paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division home “in the immediate future.”
“They’re staying until the mission is complete… Their presence matters,” he said. “Their presence is there to reassure our allies and partners, and for me it’s incredible what they do with their presence. They do just that. And many of these countries want to see American soldiers standing shoulder to shoulder with the President’s commitment that we will defend every square inch of NATO, and that’s what they’re here to do.
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