Pentagon Wants to Restart Special Ops Programs Inside Ukraine

The plan could involve deploying US troops to Ukraine to employ Ukrainian operatives for the programs

The Pentagon is looking to restart special operations programs that it was conducting inside Ukraine before Russia invaded last year, The Washington Post reported on Friday.

The programs, known as surrogate operations, involve employing Ukrainian operatives to track Russian military movements and conduct information warfare. The Ukrainians involved in the programs would be overseen by US special operations troops.

The surrogate operations inside Ukraine first began in 2018 and were suspended before the invasion. The information warfare program involved using bloggers to counter so-called Russian disinformation. “We had people taking apart Russian propaganda and telling the true story on blogs,” an unnamed person involved in special operations told the Post.

The other program involved US commandos sending Ukrainians on reconnaissance missions in eastern Ukraine, where a civil war had been raging since 2014 that was sparked by a US-backed coup. “We’d train surrogates to go collect signals intelligence off a Russian radar battery … stuff like that,” a US government official told the Post.

Restarting the program would likely involve deploying US troops to Ukraine, although it’s possible they could direct the surrogates from outside the country. The Post report said there is no known US troop presence in Ukraine besides personnel based at the US Embassy in Kyiv, but The Intercept reported in October that US special operations forces were in the country, as well as CIA operatives.

The Pentagon is trying to convince Congress to authorize the resumption of the surrogate programs in Ukraine and insists they will be involved in non-combat operations, but there is skepticism among lawmakers.

“What started as a reconnaissance mission can quickly turn into combat when the surrogates start getting shot at,” a US official familiar with the talks told the Post. “I think that’s a real possibility in Ukraine, and I’m not sure how the department is going to change people in Congress’s minds about that.”

If the programs are re-authorized, it would mark another dramatic escalation of US involvement in the war and make a direct clash with Russia more likely. Whether the US troops are deployed to Ukraine or run the surrogates from another country, Moscow would view the move as a major provocation.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.