Pentagon downplays Biden’s Ukraine claim
According to a top US general, US forces are not actively training the Ukrainian military in Poland.
The commander of US forces in Europe said he was unaware of any program to train Ukrainian soldiers in Poland after President Joe Biden appeared to imply such a mission was underway when addressing a prior blunder made last week.
General Tod Wolters, the chief of US European Command (EUCOM) and supreme allied commander Europe for NATO, told legislators during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday that there is no training mission in Poland "at this moment."
“I do not believe we are in the process of currently training military forces from Ukraine in Poland,” Wolters told Republican Senator Tom Cotton.
However, the general added that there have been “liaisons” with Ukrainian troops in Poland and that they are “being given advice,” but argued, “that's different than I think [what] you're referring to with respect to training.” He did not offer details on what those ‘liaisons’ include.
Wolter's words came after President Biden attempted to backtrack on previous remarks on the Ukraine conflict, telling American soldiers stationed in Poland last week that they would soon "visit" the country, implying that they would be deployed there.
US boots on Polish soil
On Monday, Biden reiterated that he was "talking about assisting train... the Ukrainian military that is in Poland," putting himself in deep water once more as White House officials scrambled to stress that US forces are not, in fact, training foreign troops on Polish soil.
Later that day, White House communications director Kate Bedingfield told reporters that "there is frequent engagement between Ukrainian forces in Poland and the US troops that the president observed on the tour," emphasizing that Biden did not divulge "compromised intelligence" by accident.
“The troops that he met with in Poland routinely interact with Ukrainians. That is something that’s known,” she continued, though also declined to get into specifics about what interactions the troops have had.
Last month, Poland announced that an advanced group of additional US forces, which the administration of US President Joe Biden recently decided to deploy to Eastern Europe, have arrived in the country.
The Polish Ministry of Defense confirmed on its Twitter account Friday that preparations are underway to receive the basic forces within a brigade-sized combat group of the US 82nd Airborne Division.
US forces in Europe
When asked about US forces now stationed in Europe, Wolters stated that the number of American troops has increased from 60,000 to 100,000 since Russia launched its military action in Ukraine in late February.
Nearly half of those troops are in Germany, and the general emphasized that 70% of them would be in direct combat if activated, referring to them as the "tooth" of the US deployment. Some of the troops might be stationed on the continent indefinitely, according to Wolters, who added that European defense contributions in the coming months would determine EUCOM's future steps.
While Washington and other NATO members have tried to strengthen Kiev's defenses with weaponry shipments, the allies have consistently maintained that they will not become directly involved in the Ukrainian conflict, instead committed to defending the territory of member nations solely.
Despite previous US administrations' declarations that Ukraine will ultimately be accepted by NATO, the country remains outside the alliance, and the Biden administration has cautioned that American engagement may spark an armed conflict with Moscow, or perhaps World War III.