After the US Embassy in Ukraine had reopened after three months of the war, talk of sending US Special Forces to Kyiv to guard the US Embassy was reported to be in the works as protection is necessary for US diplomats and US citizens while balancing concerns that the deployment might be seen as an act of war by Russia.
As of writing, no official proposal had been sent to the White House yet. However, reports claim that the Pentagon had been planning to present a plan to the President out of concern for American diplomats in Ukraine, as Kyiv may very well be attacked by long-range Russian missiles.
Preliminary planning is reported to be underway in the Pentagon and the State Department, with the Wall Street Journal reporting that a dozen Special Forces troops could be sent to the US Embassy in Kyiv. Furthermore, the Marines are also being deployed to Ukraine to further bolster security, something that is normal for other US embassies in other parts of the world.
“We are in close touch with our colleagues at the State Department about potential security requirements now that they have resumed operations at the embassy in Kyiv,” Pentagon Spokesperson John Kirby said. “But no decisions have been made, and no specific proposals have been debated at senior levels of the department about the return of US military members to Ukraine for that or any other purpose.”
The US Embassy in Ukraine closed last February 14, exactly ten days before Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine. Diplomats and other US personnel had evacuated to Lviv, a city close to the Polish border in the west. It only reopened on May 18th after it was deemed safe for operations to continue. Biden also nominated US Ambassador to Slovakia Bridget Brink as the new US Ambassador to Ukraine, who was just recently confirmed to the post on May 18th.
Great meeting with Ambassador Bridget Brink today, our newly confirmed @USEmbassyKyiv Ambassador to Ukraine. Her experience and understanding of the region will be a tremendous asset to the U.S.-Ukraine relationship during this unprecedented time. We stand #UnitedWithUkraine. pic.twitter.com/Pj80W7MC5a
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) May 20, 2022
However, the US is currently balancing on a diplomatic tight rope as the Pentagon also considers that Russia might interpret the deployment of Special Forces to Ukraine as an act of war or an escalation, believing that the Special Forces would be used directly against Russian soldiers. However, it is important to note that the deployment of US military personnel to any US Embassy is normal and legal under international law, and Russia is aware of this as they are not new to these standard practices. They will probably still call the move a “provocation” and an “escalation” as they tend to characterize any assistance to Ukraine with these terms.
NATO and the US have given away any benefit of a Strategic Ambiguity it might have used by taking direct involvement by US or NATO forces off the table,
“Let me say it again: Our forces are not — and will not — be engaged in the conflict with Russia in Ukraine,” Biden said last February.
This leaves Russia in the position to continuously escalate the conflict secure in the knowledge that no act committed by Russia will provoke an armed response by the US or NATO.
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, has downplayed any significant developments to the plan and that the Special Forces potentially being deployed to Ukraine remains at a “relatively low level.”
“Some of the things that may have been out there in the media, those are planning efforts that are underway at a relatively low level,” Milley said. “We’re a ways away from anything like that. We’re still developing courses of action, and none of that has been presented yet to the secretary,” he further explained, adding that the deployment of US forces to Ukraine would be President Biden’s decision.
Currently, there is no word that the US will provide the US Embassy in Kyiv aircraft such as helicopters or any fixed wing transport for the US personnel and for the Special Forces. These would potentially be needed in the unlikely case that Kyiv comes directly under attack by the Russians or it becomes the target of Russian shelling. If, in the hypothetical case that Russia ‘accidentally’ bombs the US Embassy in Kyiv due to their widespread usage of unguided bombs, it would be considered an act of war on the United States soil, and risks bringing the US into the conflict directly.