US weighs sending additional military advisers to Ukraine as Russia gains momentum

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

The U.S. is considering sending additional military advisers to the embassy in Kyiv, the latest show of American commitment to Ukraine as Russia appears to be gaining momentum in the two-year conflict.

The advisers would not be in a combat role, but rather would advise and support the Ukrainian government and military, according to Pentagon spokesperson Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder.

"Throughout this conflict, the DOD has reviewed and adjusted our presence in-country, as security conditions have evolved. Currently, we are considering sending several additional advisers to augment the Office of Defense Cooperation (ODC) at the Embassy," Ryder said in a statement to POLITICO, noting that "personnel are subject to the same travel restrictions as all embassy employees.

The ODC “performs a variety of advisory and support missions (non-combat), and while it is staffed exclusively by DOD personnel, it is embedded within the U.S. Embassy, under Chief of Mission authority like the rest of the Embassy,” Ryder added.

Ryder declined to discuss specific numbers of personnel “for operational security and force protection reasons.”

The additional troops will support logistics and oversight efforts for the weapons the U.S. is sending Ukraine, according to four U.S. officials and a person familiar with the plans, who were granted anonymity to speak about a sensitive topic.

The new contingent will also help the Ukrainian military with weapons maintenance, according to one of the U.S. officials and the person familiar.

A handful of U.S. troops have already deployed for short rotations attached to the embassy in Kyiv, two of the U.S. officials said, with the second official describing the numbers as “onesies and twosies.” Those personnel are helping with oversight and embassy security.

It was not clear how many additional U.S. troops would ultimately be sent to Ukraine, but two of the U.S. officials said the number would be up to 60.

The additional troops, even in a non-combat role, would expand the U.S. military presence in the country, just as the House passed billions in military aid for Ukraine. Congress had stalled for months on greenlighting additional assistance for Kyiv, as former President Donald Trump repeatedly expressed skepticism about the effort.

President Joe Biden has long vowed U.S. troops wouldn’t participate in the war on Ukraine’s behalf, as doing so would increase the risk of a direct confrontation between American and Russian forces.

One of the tasks the advisers will tackle is helping the Ukrainians plan sustainment of complex equipment donated by the U.S. as the summer fighting is expected to ramp up, according to the person familiar. They’ll also buttress what is a relatively small contingent at the U.S. embassy in Kyiv and coordinate new weapons shipments when the current supplemental bill in Congress becomes law and allows more weapons and equipment to flow to Ukrainian front lines.

Ukraine has struggled to regain the initiative against Russia since its counteroffensive last summer failed and Congress stalled in providing billions of dollars in military aid the president requested. The Pentagon has only sent one new tranche of new weapons since December, when it ran out of funding to provide additional aid.

The House on Saturday approved $60.8 billion of long-delayed aid for Ukraine, and the Senate could vote on it early next week. The White House has said it supports the legislation.

Ukraine has clamored for more artillery, air defenses, long-range missiles and fighter jets, which frontline troops and leading politicians insist would help the Ukrainians break through Russian lines and hold their positions.

The news that the U.S. is sending additional forces to Ukraine comes as senior officials warned last week that Russia has been gaining momentum.

CIA Director Bill Burns said Ukraine could lose the war this year if Congress didn’t approve the assistance package.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, speaking to lawmakers, said, “We’re already seeing things on the battlefield begin to shift a bit in Russia’s favor. We are seeing them make incremental gains. We’re seeing the Ukrainians be challenged in terms of holding the line.”