The New York Times spoke to several retired American special operators who say they are providing training to Ukrainian troops near the battlefield and even planning missions against Russian soldiers.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, the US has transferred nearly $7 billion in weapons to Kiev’s military. However, American forces that were training Ukrainian soldiers shortly before the Russian attack have since withdrawn.
Many of the weapons systems Washington provided to Kiev are unfamiliar to its soldiers. To cover the training gaps, the US and its allies are bringing Ukrainian soldiers to other European countries to learn the new weapons.
The US has also reportedly deployed CIA officers to Kiev to gather intelligence for the Ukrainian military, while other Western allies have placed special operators on the ground to facilitate weapons transfers to troops on the battlefield.
The vets cited by the Times say they have used their personal savings and crowdfunding to bankroll their paramilitary work in Ukraine, though the outlet did not say whether the former soldiers are coordinating with the Pentagon.
While a long line of countries initially allowed their citizens to travel to Ukraine to fight as volunteers, President Joe Biden has since urged Americans to stay home, as several US nationals have gone missing after arriving. A number of foreigners fighting for Kiev have been captured, some even sentenced to death by separatist forces in Donetsk and Lugansk, while Moscow has repeatedly stated that mercenaries will not enjoy the protections usually granted to regular uniformed combatants.