Are US Troops Still Training Ukrainians?
The military’s top officials did not clear things up on Tuesday.
The Defense Department has provided several conflicting answers in recent days regarding whether or not U.S. personnel are training Ukrainians. On Tuesday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley added their voices, but no particular clarity, to the discussion.
Last Wednesday, Gen. Tod Wolters told lawmakers that he did not “believe that we are in the process of currently training military forces from Ukraine in Poland.” The head of U.S. European Command and NATO’s supreme allied commander was testifying to the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The next day, Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville appeared to confirm that. “We are not training Ukrainians right now,” McConville told reporters at a Defense Writers Group event in Washington, D.C. “We don’t have teams over there showing how to use the equipment. They have people there that know how it works and they’re doing that themselves.”
Even though the U.S. is providing the equipment, McConville said, the “ship comes in and then goes out.”
On Tuesday, Rep. Mike Waltz, R-Fla., wanted to know: why aren’t U.S. troops training Ukrainians?
“My concern is that the NATO commander, General Wolters, testified that as a policy matter, we're not conducting any training on this new equipment. So, my question is, why not?,” Waltz asked Austin and Milley during a House Armed Services Committee hearing into the 2023 budget request.
Milley said he needed to “dig into that” and made a note on the notepad in front of him.
Austin suggested that Wolters might have meant the United States is not conducting any training in Ukraine.
Waltz responded that the general had testified that the U.S. was not training Ukrainians anywhere.
Replied Austin: “To use some of this gear, you certainly have to have training. And we’re doing that.”
As of mid-March, the U.S. had 8,750 troops in Poland. More than half were sent to the region in recent weeks in response to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.
California National Guardsmen have trained with Ukrainian service members, both in California and in Ukraine, for the last 29 years. All U.S. troops were pulled out of Ukraine shortly before Russia’s invasion.