US mulls using forces stationed in Eastern Europe to train Ukrainian troops
The Pentagon is considering ways it can train more Ukrainian forces to use Switchblade drones and other weapons given to the country, including using American troops based on NATO’s eastern flank, a senior U.S. defense official said Wednesday.
Defense officials are looking at “a range of options” for training Ukrainian troops on systems provided to Ukraine since the start of Russia’s invasion on Feb. 24, the official told reporters.
“We are looking at options for additional Switchblade training and where and when that might occur and how we would do that,” they said. “Certainly, one option that would be available to us would be to utilize troops that are closer to Ukraine, obviously troops that are on NATO’s eastern flank, and that that still remains an open option to us.”
The Pentagon has deployed thousands of American troops to bolster the easternmost areas of NATO since Russia’s war on Ukraine, now on its 49th day.
The official said those soldiers — including those based in Poland and Romania — could remotely train a small number of Ukrainian troops who would then be sent back into Ukraine and train their colleagues.
They added that no decisions had yet been made.
The U.S. military has already trained a small number of Ukrainian soldiers on how to use Switchblade drones as Washington has sent hundreds of vehicle-destroying weapons to the ex-Soviet country.
The Ukrainian troops, who were already in the United States, returned to their country earlier this month.
The Biden administration later on Wednesday announced a new $800 million weapons package for Ukraine to include several “artillery systems, artillery rounds, and armored personnel carriers” not given to the country until now.
The Pentagon anticipates that some of the items will require additional training for Ukrainian forces, but is still working through how many U.S. troops would need to be involved in it, where such training would be located and how long it would take, according to press secretary John Kirby.
“We’re still working our way through that but we believe that we can put together appropriate training for some of these systems very, very quickly,” Kirby told reporters.
Updated at 4 p.m.