Pentagon steps up training for Ukrainian troops – media
US Department of Defense reportedly said hundreds of Ukrainian service members are being trained in Europe by American instructors
The US is stepping up its training program aimed at familiarizing more Ukrainian troops with American-made weapons being supplied to Kiev by Washington, The Hill reported on Thursday, citing unnamed Pentagon officials.
According to the US media outlet, hundreds of Ukrainian service members are currently being trained by American instructors in a number of European countries, and getting acquainted with US-made artillery systems, drones and radars.
The Hill report pointed out that the latest numbers revealed by US defense officials indicate a major increase compared to just “about a dozen such troops” in early April.
Over 220 Ukrainian troops have now been trained in the use of US-manufactured artillery, including the 155-mm M777 Howitzer – 90 of which Washington has pledged to provide to Kiev, the outlet said.
Twenty more Ukrainian service members on Sunday completed their training program on the state-of-the-art Phoenix Ghost loitering munition.
A senior US defense official cited by The Hill reportedly said on Monday that another fifty-plus Ukrainian troops were going to embark on a training course later this week.
US Army Brigadier General Joseph E. Hilbert, the head of the 7th Army Training Command in Europe, told journalists on Tuesday that the US instructors were “running them through a streamlined course here on the new equipment that they’ll be receiving.” He noted that the “goal in all of this is to get them back as soon as possible, so that then they can train others within their army on the equipment.”
Hilbert also confirmed that since 2015 the US has trained as many as 23,000 Ukrainian service members inside the country – a program which has so far cost $126 million. American instructors continued to provide training to Ukrainian troops in the country up until early this year, when the threat of a Russian invasion forced the Pentagon to withdraw its personnel from Ukraine.
On top of that, Ukrainian forces have participated in over a dozen large military exercises alongside American troops over the past seven years, the US general revealed.
Since the start of Russia’s offensive against Ukraine on February 24, Washington has had to relocate the training program outside of Ukraine to Germany and some other locations, which US defense officials have refused to disclose.
General Hilbert characterized the Ukrainian soldiers receiving training as “absolutely motivated, incredibly professional.” He added that the troops showed a clear understanding of how to operate the US-supplied weapons systems “as effectively as they can on their own and in accordance with their own tactics and their own doctrine.”
The US general acknowledged that a language barrier posed a challenge at times, especially when US instructors had to describe some technical pieces of weapons and equipment. The training course is also constantly being adapted to the current developments on the ground in Ukraine, “incorporating the lessons observed and the lessons that we learned in a part of training that we do,” Hilbert said.
Since the military conflict between Kiev and Moscow broke out more than two months ago, the US has ramped up its weapons deliveries to Ukraine dramatically.
In late April, US President Joe Biden urged Congress to pass his $33-billion Ukraine aid package, which would see some $20 billion going toward providing Kiev with military support.
Last Thursday, the US House of Representatives backed a bill reviving the famous “Lend-Lease Act,” which was previously used to help the allies during WWII. The legislation makes it easier for the US to export military equipment to Ukraine.
Moscow, for its part, has repeatedly condemned NATO arms supplies to Kiev, insisting that they only serve to hamper the prospect for peace. The Kremlin also made it clear that any military equipment deliveries would be considered a legitimate military target for Russian forces once they crossed into Ukrainian territory.
Russia attacked the neighboring state in late February, following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German- and French-brokered protocols were designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.