Pentagon Confirms US Soldiers to Train Ukraine on Howitzers

The training of Ukrainian soldiers on American heavy weapons is one of the most aggressive moves against Russia to date by the Biden administration.
10th Mountain Division soldiers run after hooking their 105mm Howitzers to Blackhawk helicopters on a training mission on May 18, 2016 at Fort Drum, New York.
10th Mountain Division soldiers run after hooking their 105mm Howitzers to Blackhawk helicopters on a training mission on May 18, 2016 at Fort Drum, New York.  (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

The Pentagon has confirmed its soldiers will be training elements of the Ukrainian military on how to use the heavy weapons the U.S. is providing.  

“It is true that we will be able to begin a process of training Ukrainian armed forces on the howitzers that will be shortly heading over,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Monday afternoon. Howitzers—artillery weapons vital to Ukraine for the future of the conflict in the contested Donbas region—are a key part of a new U.S. lethal aid package announced by the Biden administration. 

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Kirby was clear the training will not occur on Ukrainian soil, avoiding any deployment of American soldiers into the theatre of combat, a red line that Russia has warned would necessitate an escalation against NATO.  

“That training will occur outside of Ukraine,” said Kirby. “It'll be a small number of Ukrainians that will be trained on howitzers and then they will be reintroduced back into their country to train their colleagues.”

Since Russia’s invasion began, it was suspected that any U.S. security assistance to Ukraine would involve training soldiers in allied, neighboring countries like Poland and Romania. It was already reported that during weapons handovers between American soldiers and their Ukrainian counterparts in Poland, there was a degree of training going on, which the Pentagon downplayed at the time.

But in the latest announcement, the U.S. will not only deliver howitzers to Ukraine via a bordering country but will also provide training. The artillery is part of a broader, $800 million package with attack helicopters and other equipment, showing the Biden administration is willing to provide weapons to Ukraine it previously considered infeasible and a provocation toward Russia.