WH denies report that plan to train Ukrainians in guerrilla warfare was axed over fear of provoking Putin

Senior U.S. military officials’ efforts to train Ukrainians in December were reportedly dismissed by the White House amid concerns of escalating tension in Russia.

At the time, Russia had situated nearly 100,000 troops along the Ukrainian border and senior military officials were communicating with members of Congress on the potential to add a “few hundred” special operations personnel to forces deployed in Ukraine, Politico reported. These forces would have participated in guerrilla warfare training, but they were never sent.

The officials’ claims go as far as stating that the Senate Armed Services Committee had been briefed on the proposed deployment of additional troops and that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin intended to push President Joe Biden for approval.

A spokesperson for the White House categorically denied ever having been presented with such plans. The Defense Department also stated that the White House did not “cancel any planned training activities for Ukraine” prior to February. These denials left open the possibility that an informal plan may have been presented making the report false at the level of a technicality.

The decision to deny aid to Ukraine due to fears of Russian escalation falls in line with earlier actions by the administration. Politico had also reported on a $100 million military aid package that was stalled in June 2021 because of the promise Russians would withdraw the near 100,000 troops they had on the Ukrainian border at the time.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki claimed, “The idea that we have held back security assistance to Ukraine is nonsense. Just last week – in the run-up to the U.S.-Russia Summit – we provided a $150 million package of security assistance, including lethal assistance.”

The assistance Psaki spoke of was mandated by Congress. However, it did not have lethal aid as it was comprised of radar systems to track artillery and drones. This was shortly after Biden had waived the sanctions on Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

American Foreign Policy Council Senior Vice President Ilan Berman also recognized a pattern of behavior by the Biden administration. “This is part of a larger story in which the White House pulled its punches in the lead-up to the conflict,” Berman said, “when we already saw that the Russians were amassing troops.”

Berman went on to suggest the evidence proved Russian President Vladimir Putin “didn’t need any provoking” and the result was an overly passive approach to arrive at the same end. At the time when the special operations forces would have been sent to Ukraine, 160 members of the Florida National Guard were already stationed there.

Known as Task Force Gator the members of the Army National Guard’s 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team had been deployed in November 2021 to train “Ukrainian forces in reconnaissance, on shoulder-fired weapons systems with bunker-busting munitions that can pierce hardened structures or lightly armored vehicles, and on how to prepare their less experienced fighters who have never handled a rifle before.”

Austin had ordered those forces to leave Ukraine “out of an abundance of caution” nearly two weeks prior to the Russian invasion. Now, more than two weeks into the invasion, Biden has cancelled another plan for military aid after shutting down the plans for a fighter jet transfer over fears of escalation.


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