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As Russia advances, NATO plans to send trainers to Ukraine

NATO allies are set to send troops to Ukraine to train Ukrainian forces, a move that would once again blur the previous red line and could draw the United States and Europe more directly into the conflict. war.

Ukraine’s labor shortage has reached crisis point and its battlefield position has seriously deteriorated in recent weeks as Russia accelerates its advance to take advantage of delays in US arms shipments . As a result, Ukrainian officials have asked their U.S. and NATO counterparts to help them train 150,000 new recruits closer to the front line for faster deployment.

So far the United States has said no, but Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Thursday that a NATO deployment of the trainers seemed inevitable. “We will get there eventually, with time,” he said.

For now, he said, an effort in Ukraine would “endanger a group of NATO trainers” and would most likely involve deciding whether to use valuable air defenses to protect the trainers instead of critical Ukrainian infrastructure near the battlefield. General Brown briefed reporters aboard his plane en route to a NATO meeting in Brussels.

As a member of NATO, the United States would be obligated under the alliance’s treaty to assist in the defense against any attack on the trainers, potentially drawing America into the war.

The White House has insisted it will not send U.S. troops, including trainers, on the ground in Ukraine, a position an administration official reiterated Thursday. The administration also urged NATO allies not to send their troops.

But in February, French President Emmanuel Macron said “nothing should be excluded” when it came to sending Western troops to Ukraine. Since then, Mr. Macron has doubled down on his comments, particularly after senior American diplomats asked him to stop.

The Estonian government has not ruled out the possibility of sending troops to western Ukraine to assume rear duties, which could allow Ukrainian troops to go to the front, the country’s adviser said this week. national security of Estonia.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis backed Mr Macron’s position in an interview with the Guardian last week. “Our troops were training Ukrainians in Ukraine before the war,” he said, adding: “So a return to this tradition could be entirely feasible.” »

The U.S. military has trained Ukrainian troops in Poland, Germany and the United States, but withdrawing troops from Ukraine takes time. U.S. officials now recognize that current training of Ukrainian forces is not enough and that they need better and faster training to repel an expected Russian offensive this summer.

The United States helped implement a NATO training program at Yavoriv in western Ukraine, but American troops were withdrawn there early in the war.

American and allied training has not always been successful. Ahead of a Ukrainian counteroffensive last summer, U.S. soldiers in Germany trained Ukrainian units in maneuver warfare, mine clearance and other tasks. But learning to use tanks, artillery and infantry troops in a coordinated manner is difficult, especially in a short 12-week period. The problem is compounded by the fact that the Ukrainians face a much different and more intense battlefield than the one U.S. forces have fought on in recent years.

Moving training to Ukraine, military officials acknowledge, would allow U.S. trainers to more quickly gather information about innovations happening on Ukraine’s front lines, potentially allowing them to tailor their training.

NATO last month asked Gen. Christopher G. Cavoli, supreme allied commander for Europe, to find a way for the alliance to do more to help Ukraine that would mitigate risks. A U.S. official said Wednesday that one possibility could be to train Ukrainian troops in Lviv, near the country’s western border with Poland.

But Russia has bombed Lviv before, including a few weeks ago when Russian cruise missiles struck critical infrastructure.

Some officials say large numbers of new Ukrainian recruits could still be sent to vast training ranges in Germany and Poland.

But logistically, it requires transporting the troops to the U.S. Army training grounds in Grafenwoehr, Germany, putting them through complex maneuvers designed to teach them combined arms warfare, and then sending the troops over nearly 1,600 miles through Lviv then kyiv to be deployed on the front lines.

“Remember that when Russia first invaded Crimea in 2014, we sent more troops to Ukraine to train Ukrainian forces in western Ukraine, and we continued to rotate them until ‘in 2022, when we got scared and took them out,’ Evelyn Farkas said. , former senior Pentagon official for Ukraine during the Obama administration. “It should come as no surprise, at a time when troops are running low on the Ukrainian front, that NATO members and alliance leaders are considering how to provide further aid from behind .”

Other NATO allies, including Britain, Germany and France, are working to base defense contractors in Ukraine to help build and repair weapons systems closer from the combat zone – what military officials have described as a “repair” approach. Current and former U.S. defense officials said the White House is reviewing its ban on allowing U.S. defense contractors into Ukraine, even though a small number have already been allowed under the authorities. of the State Department, to work on specific weapons systems such as Patriot air defenses.

“There is an element of bad practice by our allies in the fact that we are providing masses of Western equipment to Ukraine, without giving them the resources to maintain it,” said Alexander S. Vindman, Lt. Col. retired from the army and a man of Ukrainian origin. American veteran.

News Source : www.nytimes.com
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