But to date, the Biden administration has painstakingly argued that this is as far as it will go. On March 22, Jake Sullivan denied that the Americans were “currently” training Ukrainians. “We have, of course, American troops defending NATO territory,” he continued.
That’s not what Biden said on Monday. After delivering remarks on the White House’s new budget request, Biden responded to a reporter’s question about comments he made during his meeting with the 82nd Airborne in Poland, in which he implied that US forces would move into Ukraine. Biden denied that was what he meant, adding, “We’re talking about helping to train Ukrainian troops who are in Poland.”
Pressed again, Biden said, “I was referring to being with and talking with Ukrainian troops who are in Poland.”
It’s possible Biden meant ‘American’ when he said ‘Ukrainian’ in second instance, or he overstated the extent to which US soldiers advise Ukrainian forces on how to use the security aid provided. by the administration.
A recent ad-lib from the Polish president regarding Vladimir Putin — ‘For the love of God, this man can’t stay in power’ — sparked a flurry of speculation and a subsequent White House cleanup that Biden was not calling not a regime change.
A Pentagon spokesman did not immediately respond to requests for comment, nor did Ukrainian government officials. A Polish official did not confirm any interaction between US and Ukrainian troops.
“There are Ukrainian soldiers in Poland who regularly interact with American troops, and that’s what the president was referring to,” a White House official said.
Several members of Congress on key national security committees said they were unaware of such a training mission. One said the training would be classified and therefore could not confirm it was taking place.
American and British officials said privately in the early days of the war that Ukrainian troops could eventually be drawn outside Ukraine if the conflict dragged on for an extended period and became a crushing insurgency.
Poland has already become the main hub for countries to send their arms shipments to Ukraine. The United Kingdom and the United States European Command have coordinated flights to Polish military airfields from several European countries, from which Ukrainian troops load anti-aircraft and armored missiles, military rations, ammunition and bulletproof vests on trucks and bring them back across the border to sites in Ukraine.
Specifically, the Ukrainians might need training on certain weapons like the Stinger surface-to-air missiles, which they did not have before the invasion but were sent by the US, Germans and Latvians. , among other countries.
The US-UK-led training effort in Ukraine from 2015-2022 took place inside Ukraine, but Ukrainian troops regularly participated in NATO drills across the continent until the Russian invasion in February. A former US military officer who has made several trips to Ukraine tells POLITICO that Ukrainians’ ability to organize and fight improved quickly and dramatically after starting to work with NATO forces .
“Their infantry, their artillery, their innovative skills and their ability to use drones and synchronize them were quite impressive,” said the former officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity to speak about the training mission. “Their special forces and their airborne forces were excellent. There was a part of me that when I got there made me think they were more Soviet than even the Russian army. But over time, you could see the change.
When asked directly on Monday whether the United States was training Ukrainian troops on these new weapons, a senior defense official told reporters that the United States was focused on providing weapons that Ukrainians already know use, “so nothing has changed from our perspective on those kinds of security assistance details.”
These weapons continue to flow into Ukraine, the official said. “We continue to deliver every day, not only from the United States, but from other countries that we help coordinate [with]and that includes additional shipments over the $800 million announced by the president a few days ago.