In the fight against the Russian invaders, the Ukrainian military is increasingly dependent on help from the US and Western allies. It’s about arms deliveries, intelligence information and training of Kiev’s soldiers. According to a New York Times (NYT) report, all of this is controlled by a secret international command network that also includes US special forces and intelligence agencies.
According to the report, much of this work will take place outside of Ukraine, for example at bases in Germany, France and the UK. However, the network is also active in Ukraine.
Like the other Western heads of state and government, US President Joe Biden has always emphasized that no US or NATO troops will be stationed in Ukraine since the beginning of the Russian war of aggression.
There is also officially Western help: German soldiers trained Ukrainian colleagues on weapons that are then to be delivered to the war zone. In May, 60 soldiers from Kyiv learned from the Bundeswehr in Idar-Oberstein how to use the Panzerhaubitze 2000. Great Britain also conducts such training courses, sometimes even in Poland. 60 Ukrainian soldiers were recently trained on modern US multiple rocket launchers at the US base in Ramstein.
But, according to the NYT, some employees of the US foreign intelligence service CIA are still working secretly in Ukraine – especially in the capital Kyiv. They would direct and coordinate much of the vast amounts of information that the US exchanged with the Ukrainian armed forces.
Commando units from other NATO countries, including Great Britain, France, Canada and Lithuania, are also said to be active in Ukraine. The US withdrew its own 150 military trainers before the war began in February. But these allies’ commandos have either remained in the country or have flown in and out since then to train, advise and deliver weapons and other supplies to Ukrainian troops on the ground, the NYT writes, citing three US administration officials.
“Few details have emerged of the activities of the CIA operatives or commandos, but their presence in the country — in addition to the diplomatic operatives who returned after Russia lifted the siege of Kyiv — indicates the scale of the clandestine support effort in Ukraine that is underway and the risks Washington and its allies are taking,” writes the US newspaper.
Shortly after the invasion ordered by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, the US Army’s 10th Special Forces Unit, which trained Ukrainian commandos at a base in the west of the country before the war, quietly set up a planning cell in Germany to provide military support for Ukrainian commandos and other units to coordinate. 20 nations are said to be involved in this cell.
Army Secretary of State Christine E. Wormuth provided insight into the operation at an Atlantic Council event last month, the NYT said. The special operations cell helps to control the delivery of arms and equipment to Ukraine. “While the Ukrainians are trying to transport these and dodging the Russians who may be trying to target convoys, we’re trying to help coordinate the transportation of all these different types of supplies,” she said. “Another thing we can help with is information on where the threats to these convoys might lie.”
The cell, the report said, is part of a broader package of operational and intelligence coordination units led by the Pentagon’s European Command to expedite Allied support to Ukrainian troops. At Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany, for example, a US Air Force/National Guard team dubbed “Grey Wolf” is advising the Ukrainian air force on tactical and technical issues, among other things, a military spokesman said.
The commandos are not on the frontline with Ukrainian troops, the NYT continues, citing American and other Western officials. They advise the Ukrainian military on encrypted communications from locations in other parts of the country or remotely. “However, signs of the clandestine logistical, training and intelligence support are being felt on the battlefield,” the paper said. The activities of the CIA and the international command network in Ukraine have not been officially confirmed.
Although those responsible in the USA describe the international cooperation of the special forces of the NYT as “an incredible story”, there are also major problems with the training efforts. Former US military personnel who have worked with Ukrainian troops have expressed frustration that there are still difficulties in removing wounded soldiers from the front lines.
The US should step up first-aid training for the front lines and advise Ukrainians on setting up a network of mobile field clinics to stabilize and transport the wounded, the former US military said. A US military official said that the Green Berets – the US Army’s oldest special forces unit – recently began medical training for Ukrainian soldiers in Germany.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the general staff had recently complained about the high losses of the Ukrainian troops. “They lose 100 soldiers every day. It’s almost as bad as it was for us during the Vietnam War. It’s terrible,” the NYT quoted a former Trump administration official as saying. “And they’re losing a lot of experienced people.”