In a carefully worded answer at a press conference yesterday, the Pentagon pushed back against reports that its soldiers are training Ukrainian forces in Poland, saying they’re only “liaising” with them.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said American troops are helping Ukrainian soldiers load weapons and “lethal aid” into convoys as those troops make supply runs from Poland into Ukraine.
“It's just a general liaison with them as these shipments are handed over,” said Kirby, referring to the weapons being handed over to Ukrainian forces by the U.S. According to him, there are brief conversations, soldier to soldier, on how to use that gear, but that would not constitute official training.
“But of course, there are interactions as these Ukrainian soldiers take possession of some of this gear and this kit, and I really don't have more detail than that, ” he said.
The comments come a day after President Joe Biden seemed to have let slip that American troops were training Ukrainian soldiers in Polish territory, something that would represent an escalation in military aid the U.S. is providing Ukraine in the war with Russia. (In another gaffe days prior, the president seemed to have also suggested the Kremlin needed regime change.) In the past, as early as weeks before the Russian invasion, U.S. and NATO allies were training Ukrainian forces at bases near Lviv, less than 50 miles from the Polish border.
Weeks ago, Ukrainian Special Forces sources told VICE News they're already coordinating with American counterparts on how to resist Russian forces and if Moscow was successful in its overall invasion of Ukraine, it would expect Poland would be a training ground for a Ukrainian insurgency.
The Biden administration and the Pentagon have been walking a diplomatic tightrope, often downplaying the war drums of television news and Congress: providing maximum military assistance to Ukraine without being a direct participant in the war but making sure not to provoke a direct conflict with Russia.
Kirby downplayed the president’s remarks, saying that a brief conversation as weapons are loaded into shipments across the border wasn’t “training in the classic sense.”
So far the U.S. has already provided over a billion dollars worth of security assistance to Ukraine, which has included pivotal Javelin anti-tank weapons and Stinger anti-aircraft systems, and is considering an additional $500 million worth of weapons even as peace talks progress between Moscow and Kyiv. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said NATO is falling short and that his country needs tanks and fighter jets if its impressive resistance against Russia is to continue.