Moscow concerned about U.S. training Ukrainian forces 700 miles from front lines

Lt. Col. Emily Perry, a member of the California Army National Guard, and a Ukrainian soldier cross rolled up posters at Euro-Atlantic Day in Kiev, Ukraine, July 14, 2007.

Moscow is concerned about the fact that Ukrainian troops are being trained by approximately 300 American paratroopers. The training is part of a six month mission.

Captain Nick Salimbene spoke about training Ukrainian forces: “From what we saw at day one to where they are at right now, they’ve proven their willingness to learn. They’re getting better on a day-to-day basis,” NBC News reports.

These counter-insurgency exercises and live-fire drills are something new. The U.S.  Military has used Ukrainian soldiers in various exercises, but it has never before directly trained Ukrainian military personnel.

The Ukrainian government asked the U.S. military for this type of training because they are desperately trying to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of their military operations.

Moscow, however, opposes the United States’ intervention.  When the training began in April, Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for the Kremlin, said, “The participation of instructors or specialists from third countries on Ukrainian territory, where the domestic Ukrainian conflict is unresolved, could destabilize the situation.”

The soldiers that were being trained claimed that they would go back to the frontlines. They also said that the training they received from the U.S. troops would help them immensely.

The training included such aspects like dealing with propaganda, counter-insurgency operations, and urban warfare tactics and strategies.

Officials in the U.S. military insist that the training being given to the Ukrainian forces is completely limited to defensive operations inside Ukrainian territory. U.S. officials also claim that only medical kits and protective gear have been delivered.

Only soldiers of the Ukraine’s National Guard have been trained. This element of Ukraine’s military forces is limited to missions that are within its borders.

However, Russian officials feel that this sort of activity by the West is indicative of the U.S. military’s stance, which suggests that the United States will support Ukraine.

Maxim Shepovalenko, a military analyst in Moscow, said, “It demonstrates that the U.S. is there to stay.”

Although American support for Ukraine will probably not alter the overall conditions to a great degree, Shepovalenko pointed out similarities between the current actions of the United States military and its previous actions from another war.

Shepovalenko stated, “This all is very reminiscent of the 50-year-old story with Vietnam. The U.S.-Vietnam involvement started with instructors as well and then it developed into a full-scale military involvement.”

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