Russia-Ukraine War: U.S. to Expand Training for Ukrainian Forces

Credit…Brendan Hoffman for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The United States plans a sharp increase in the number of Ukrainian troops it instructs at a base in Germany, with a new focus on advanced battlefield tactics, the Pentagon announced on Thursday.

The expanded training would emphasize “combined arms” warfare — tight coordination among infantry, artillery, armored vehicles and, when it is available, air support, so that each group is strengthened and protected by the others.

The training is expected to begin in January and would enable American instructors to train a Ukrainian battalion, or about 500 troops, each month, and the numbers could grow, Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, a Pentagon spokesman, said at a news briefing. Other U.S. officials said the battalions could range up to 800 soldiers each.

American forces are training about 300 Ukrainians per month — 3,100 since the war began — with a focus on teaching them to use specific advanced U.S. weapons systems. That includes 610 soldiers who have learned to use the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS, that Ukraine has used to devastating effect against Russian forces, hitting targets far behind the front lines, including ammunition depots, command posts and bridges.

Allied nations have instructed 12,000 Ukrainian troops, the Pentagon said, primarily new recruits who have gone to Britain for basic infantry training.

Combined arms tactics are skills that are not familiar to many Ukrainian troops, though Ukraine used them to a degree in successful counteroffensives in the last few months in the northeast and south.

Colin H. Kahl, the under secretary of defense for policy, said in a statement: “Training is important to Ukraine’s continued success on the battlefield by ensuring that Ukraine has the skilled forces necessary to sustain its efforts to push back on Russian aggression.”

The new training is set to take place at a U.S. Army base in Grafenwoehr, Germany, where the Pentagon conducts its own combined arms training. The base is also home to the Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine.

Ukrainian officials have been wary of pulling too many troops off the front lines at any given time for specialized weapons training. But with winter slowing the tempo of fighting in many parts of the combat zone, officials said the coming months would provide a window.

From 2015 to early this year, American military instructors trained more than 27,000 Ukrainian soldiers at the Yavoriv Combat Training Center in western Ukraine, near the city of Lviv, Pentagon officials said. The United States withdrew 150 military instructors before the war began.

Months after the war began, the United States and other Western countries began training Ukrainian forces in Germany and Poland.

In addition, Britain started a program to provide military training in Britain to 10,000 Ukrainian Army recruits and staff members, an effort that aims to help bolster local resistance to the Russian invasion. The initiative, announced in June by Boris Johnson, the prime minister at the time, began with more than 1,000 British soldiers from the 11th Security Force Assistance Brigade, which specializes in foreign training.

Other nations, including Canada, Denmark, Finland, Lithuania, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden, joined in after Britain requested help.

Adm. Sir Tony Radakin, Britain’s chief of defense, said on Wednesday that the initial goal of training 10,000 Ukrainian recruits had nearly been met.

“This is significant,” he said in a speech in London.

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