The Pentagon is considering a significant expansion of military training for Ukrainian forces.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Thursday that the Pentagon, alongside Western allies and partner nations, is constantly exploring ways to assist Ukraine through security assistance efforts, including training.

Senior Pentagon officials are considering a major increase in Ukrainian military training, which would significantly boost its capacity to expel Russian troops from occupied areas while deepening US involvement in the conflict.

Senior US defense officials have discussed the plan for weeks, according to sources familiar with the discussions, which would build on the billions of dollars in weapons and other assistance Washington has provided Ukraine by teaching its military how to confront the beleaguered Russian army.

Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers could train together in Grafenwoehr, Germany, where the US military has instructed Ukrainian forces in smaller numbers for years. Austin wants to increase Ukraine’s ability to maneuver on the battlefield with a more modern type of warfare that relies less on firing thousands of artillery rounds each day at Russian troops in a bloody, grinding war of attrition.

Lloyd Austin
(Source: U.S. Secretary of Defense/Flickr)

According to Austin, the United States substantially increased military training programs and similar programs for training tens of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers, which will be conducted by Britain, the European Union, and Norway, among others, is favored. By June, Germany will have trained 5,000 troops at military combat simulation centers and battalion command posts under the EU initiative alone.

Since the beginning of the conflict, President Biden has maintained that the United States and NATO are not at war with Russia but are responsible for assisting a fellow democracy in defending itself against unprovoked aggression. However, Moscow has dismissed those statements, claiming that the United States and its allies are using Ukraine as a disposable proxy for their own interests against Russia.

Russia has already increased the volume of its words in response to the European training announcements. On Thursday, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated, “Don’t say that the US and NATO are not participants in this war.”

“You are directly participating, including not only with the supply of weapons, but also with the training of personnel. … You are training their military on your territory, on the territories of Britain, Germany, Italy and other countries.”

The allies believe that the tempo of the war in Ukraine will slow, if not stop, as the country experiences its cold winter months, and they want to know how to best take advantage of the situation. To the south of Kherson, a strategic coastal city that Russian soldiers abandoned last month, and in the eastern regions controlled by separatists, counteroffensives are expected to be challenging because the Russians will use the time to reinforce their positions.

Despite numerous losses on the battlefield, Russian forces have suffered heavy casualties; Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last month that over 100,000 Russian soldiers have died or been wounded since the invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 and “probably” an equal number of Ukrainian troops.
Western intelligence assessments expect the Russians to continue to outgun the Ukrainian military, firing tens of thousands of shells daily in addition to salvos of missiles and other munitions. At the same time, Russian forces have been bolstered with the “mobilization” of thousands of additional troops whose effectiveness has thus far been limited due to limited training, low morale, and logistics difficulties.

Even though the Western supply of specific weapon systems is limited, training for Ukrainian forces will continue. The new training aims to teach the Ukrainians tactics that will enhance the effectiveness of the armaments they already have, as well as the nimbleness and flexibility they have demonstrated with small units.

US and European officials say many Ukrainian trainees are expected to be recruits as the Kyiv government continues to mobilize virtually every available resource.

The cost of aid to Ukraine, which has grown dramatically due to US training, is currently being questioned by some lawmakers, predominantly Republicans. Despite the fact that assistance to Ukraine is still popular among both parties, future House Republicans who take over next month have promised increased scrutiny.

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According to Austin, training for military units at Fort Irwin in California or the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms would be similar to his vision. Before leaving for a mission, military units undergo weeks of combined-arms training to certify that they are ready to fight, with infantrymen, mechanized forces, artillery units, and other troops cooperating to locate, envelope and eliminate enemy troops. CNN reported earlier that the United States might train Ukrainian forces more extensively.

The US military began delivering wide-scale instruction to Ukrainian forces after Russia’s 2014 seizure of Crimea. Despite this, most instruction focused on special operations and resistance rather than full-scale offensives against a dug-in and powerful enemy. Trainers have recently focused on teaching small numbers of soldiers how to perform specific tasks, such as operating and maintaining the artillery pieces they have been supplied, since the invasion last winter.

In addition, Defense Department spokesman Air Force Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said that the Western allies and partner nations and the Defense Department are constantly looking for ways to assist Ukraine through security assistance efforts, including training.