it will see fighting in ukraine Hundreds, if not thousands, of troops are training together in Grafenwohr, Germany, where the U.S. military has been training smaller Ukrainian troops for years. Austin is keen to improve Ukraine’s mobility on the battlefield through more modern methods of warfare that reduce reliance on Russian forces firing thousands of rounds a day in what has become a bloody war of attrition.
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Austin is known to support a significantly expanded U.S. training program, as well as similar programs for tens of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers in other countries, including the U.K., EU countries and Norway. Germany alone plans to train 5,000 soldiers at German military combat simulation centers and battalion command posts by June, according to the European Union’s initiative.
Since the start of the war, President Biden has said that the United States and NATO are not at war with Russia but have a responsibility to assist democracies in defending themselves against unprovoked aggression. Moscow dismissed the statements, accusing the United States and its allies of using Ukraine as a one-time proxy for their goals against Russia.
Russia has upgraded the wording of the European training announcement. “Don’t say that the US and NATO are not involved in this war,” Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters on Thursday. “You are directly involved, not only in the supply of arms, but also in the training of personnel. … You are on the territory of the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and other countries, training their troops on your territory.”
Ukraine has called for new training as the tempo of the war is expected to slow, though not stop, as the allies grapple with how best to use the time amid Ukraine’s frigid winter months. Counteroffensives south of the strategic Black Sea city of Kherson, which Russian forces abandoned last month, and into separatist strongholds in the east, are expected to be difficult as the Russians use the time to strengthen their defenses.
Ukraine has been able to keep Russian forces out of battle at many points, but with heavy casualties on both sides. Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, estimated last month that more than 100,000 Russian soldiers had been killed or injured since Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion, with “probably” a significant number of Ukrainian military casualties.
According to Western intelligence assessments, the Russians are expected to continue to outgun the Ukrainian military, firing tens of thousands of rounds a day in addition to salvos of missiles and other munitions. Meanwhile, the Russian army has grown in numbers with the “mobilization” of thousands of additional troops, whose effectiveness has so far been limited by inadequate training, low morale and logistical difficulties.
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Even if training on specific weapons systems for the Ukrainian military will continue, Western supplies are not unlimited. The goal of the new training is to teach the Ukrainians tactics to increase the effectiveness of the weapons they have and to use on a larger scale the agility and adaptability they have shown in small units.
Many Ukrainian cadets are expected to become recruits as the Kyiv government continues to mobilize nearly all available resources, according to U.S. and European officials.
It is unclear whether the expansion of U.S. training will significantly increase the cost of aid to Ukraine, which has been challenged by some lawmakers, mainly Republicans. While aid to Ukraine still enjoys broad bipartisan support, Republican lawmakers who will take over the House of Representatives next month have vowed to step up oversight.
Austin’s vision is in some ways similar to what the U.S. military receives at its major training centers, such as the Army National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, and the Marine Corps Air-Ground Warfare Center at Twentynine Palms, California. Before deploying, troops spend weeks proving their readiness to participate in joint operations, in which infantry, mechanized units, artillery units and other units work together to find, surround and destroy enemy forces. CNN earlier reported discussions about expanding U.S. training of Ukrainian troops.
After Russia invaded and seized Crimea in 2014, the U.S. military began mass training Ukrainian troops. However, much of the directive was focused on special operations and resistance rather than an all-out attack against a formidable enemy in ambush. Since the invasion last winter, trainers have focused on teaching small numbers of soldiers at a time how to perform specific tasks, such as firing and maintaining the howitzers provided to them.
Pentagon spokesman, Air Force Brigadier General. General Patrick Ryder said Thursday that the Department of Defense, along with Western allies and partner nations, “is continually exploring ways to support Ukraine through various security assistance efforts, including training.” He added that the department had no new announcements to make.
Loveday Morris in Berlin contributed to this report.