President Biden appeared to reveal on Monday that the US is training Ukrainian troops in Poland.
Biden made the comments when trying to explain a recent gaffe. In Poland on Friday, President Biden told members of the 82nd Airborne Division that Ukrainians were “stepping up” against the Russian assault and said, “You’re going to see when you’re there,” suggesting that the US soldiers would be entering the war zone.
Explaining his comments on Monday, Biden said, “We were talking about helping train the troops in — that are — the Ukrainian troops that are in Poland. That’s what the context.”
“I was referring to with — being with and talking with the Ukrainian troops who are in Poland,” he added.
When asked about Biden’s comments, a White House official told Politico that US troops are “interacting” with Ukrainian soldiers in Poland. “There are Ukrainian soldiers in Poland interacting on a regular basis with US troops, and that’s what the President was referring to,” the official said.
Since 2014, the US has trained Ukrainian forces, both openly and covertly. But since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, it hasn’t been clear if any training programs were still taking place. If the US is training Ukrainian troops now, it means they are being trained to kill Russian soldiers in the current conflict.
Before Russia’s invasion, the US pulled National Guard troops out of Ukraine and reportedly ordered CIA paramilitaries to leave the country. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin reportedly told House lawmakers in February that the Biden administration was considering training Ukrainian forces remotely.
Biden had to explain other recent comments he made, including what appeared to be a call for regime change in Russia. On Saturday, Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power.” The White House appeared to walk back his threat, but Biden doubled down on Monday while claiming the US is not following a policy of regime change in Russia.
“I’m not walking anything back. The fact of the matter is I was expressing the moral outrage I felt toward the way Putin is dealing, and the actions of this man … but I want to make it clear: I wasn’t then, nor am I now, articulating a policy change. I was expressing the moral outrage that I feel, and I make no apologies for it,” Biden said.
The Kremlin responded to Biden’s call for Putin to no longer be in power, calling it “alarming.” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia will “continue to track” statements from Biden. Russia had recently summoned the US ambassador in Moscow after Biden called Putin a “war criminal.”