National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan speaks to Defense One in an exclusive interview as part of Outlook 2022.

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan speaks to Defense One in an exclusive interview as part of Outlook 2022.

Biden Rules Out Sending Troops to Ukraine, at Least for Now

NSA Sullivan says U.S. will limit its support for Kyiv to weapons, pressure in the face of Moscow’s buildup.

President Joe Biden said Wednesday that U.S. support for Ukraine against a worrisome buildup of Russian forces will not include additional U.S. troops, at least for now. 

“That is not on the table,” Biden told reporters Wednesday at the White House. “The idea that the United States is going to unilaterally use force to confront Russia invading Ukraine is not on, in the cards right now.” 

Ukraine is not a member of NATO and does not enjoy the collective protection of Article 5, which calls every alliance member to arms when one is attacked. Ukraine seeks to join NATO but Russia opposes its entry into the alliance. 

On Tuesday, Biden and Russia’s Vladimir Putin spoke for about two hours about Russia’s troop buildup along the border and other topics such as cyber security. 

In an exclusive interview for Defense One’s Outlook 2022, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Biden emphasized that if Russia moves against Ukraine, the United States would levy economic consequences; provide more military gear to Kyiv; and deploy an “increased U.S. troop presence and increased capabilities in countries like Poland, the Baltics, [and] Romania.”

But Sullivan reiterated that the U.S. does not intend to send more troops to Ukraine.

“That's not part of our planning,” he said. 

The Pentagon began deploying regular rotations of U.S. soldiers and special operations forces to train Ukrainian troops after Russia invaded Crimea in 2014. The U.S. troops operate as Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine.

Just last week, the Florida National Guard 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team took over for the Washington National Guard’s 81st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, marking the 11th deployment of U.S. forces since the program began, Marine Corps Lt. Col. Tony Semelroth said in a statement. 

In an interview earlier this week with Defense One, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin declined to say whether those U.S. forces would fight alongside the Ukrainian partners they are training if Russia invaded. Other Pentagon officials also said Tuesday that they had not begun any planning to evacuate U.S. personnel from Ukraine if an attack occurred. 

For now, Sullivan said, the focus is on helping Ukraine thwart a Russian attack. The U.S. recently delivered two decommissioned Coast Guard patrol boats to Ukraine’s navy. And Ukraine’s defense intelligence chief has said its ground forces have been firing U.S.-provided Javelin anti-tank missiles at Russian or Russian-backed forces. 

Sullivan disputed criticism by Congressional Republicans that Biden’s response has been insufficient.

“We have gone above and beyond what any administration has done in terms of providing the kinds of defensive support to the Ukrainian military, well in advance of any contingency that might happen,” he said.