“This is no ordinary rotation,” Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said of the program. “It’s one of those times when if you want to make a difference, that’s it.”
The general’s visit marked his first trip to the facility in the muddy Bavarian countryside since Russia invaded Ukraine nearly a year ago. The base, covering around 90 square miles, began hosting Ukrainian forces in 2014, when Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula. It is now the site of a newly expanded regime for the Ukrainian military, which sent a battalion of more than 600 soldiers to spend up to six weeks learning how to stack tanks, artillery and other weapons to maximize their effects ahead of an expected counter-offensive against Russia. forces entrenched in Ukrainian territory.
While in Grafenwoehr, the Ukrainians are quartered at Camp Kherson, named in apparent homage to the town that Ukrainian forces liberated in November.
Three American journalists were allowed to follow Milley as he interacted with Ukrainian troops on the condition that no photos or videos be taken and that his specific conversations with them not be disclosed. The United States and its allies continue to increase military support for the government in Kyiv, but officials remain deeply concerned about how aid is perceived in Russia. The Kremlin accused the United States and NATO of using the Ukrainians to wage a proxy war with Moscow.
Later Monday, the US military released a single photo from the excursion showing Milley observing the training while flanked by a coterie of U.S. military officials, including Brig. Gen. Joseph E. Hilbert, commanding general of the 7th Army Training Command based at the installation.
Milley also visited another army headquarters in Wiesbaden, west of Frankfurt, where a planning conference with Ukrainian military officials was underway. Journalists were not allowed to observe the meeting and details about it were not disclosed.
The general’s trips to Germany came as senior civilian officials from the Biden administration visited Kyiv itself. Wendy Sherman, the Under Secretary of State; Colin Kahl, the undersecretary of defense for policy; and Jon Finer, the White House deputy national security adviser, met with President Volodymyr Zelensky and other senior Ukrainian officials.
Ukrainian soldiers began arriving in Grafenwoehr late last week and began training on Sunday. Milley observed them on a range and familiarized himself with U.S.-supplied Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, advanced weapons that President Biden approved for transfer to Ukraine earlier this month. the Pentagon having declared that they were intended to help Ukraine regain the territory from Russian control.
In temperatures below 40 degrees, Milley joked with the Ukrainian soldiers and asked questions about their background and combat experience, sometimes in English and sometimes through an interpreter. Their mission is urgent, Milley noted, and enjoys international support. Conversations were punctuated by occasional gunfire, as nearby Ukrainian soldiers honed their skills with rifles and the M240B machine gun.
A Milley spokesman, Col. David Butler, said the training is an extension of what the United States has provided since 2014. It’s part of the international effort, Butler said, to help Ukrainian forces to repel the Russian invaders.
“The urgency was clear,” Butler said. “These soldiers are going to defend their country in battle.”
Milley, speaking on Sunday as he flew from Washington to Europe, stressed the timeliness of the effort while acknowledging that it is not yet clear how quickly the Ukrainian unit brought to Germany will be ready to use the new weapons in battle.
“It will take a little while,” Milley said. “Five, six, seven, eight weeks, who knows. We’ll see what happens here. But in terms of criticality, the need is now.
Milley is expected to spend the week in Europe, also visiting a facility used as a staging station to ship weapons to Ukraine and meeting with senior Allied military officials. On Friday, he will join Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at Ramstein Air Base in Germany for the final meeting of the Ukraine Contact Group, a regular gathering of international defense officials who are open to assisting Ukraine militarily. and to consider the types of equipment they can supply.
The general said that while Ukraine insists on its desire for tanks and other armored vehicles, its main need is more air defense, a persistent challenge underscored by Russia’s launch of a missile attack this weekend -end on an apartment complex in the city of Dnipro that killed dozens of people.
“They get hit every few weeks with really big attacks, and those are attacks on civilian infrastructure,” the general said. “The Russians are consciously, politically attacking civilians and civilian infrastructure. This in itself is a war crime.
War in Ukraine: what you need to know
The last: Russia claimed on Friday it had taken control of Soledar, a hotly contested mining town in eastern Ukraine where fighting has raged in recent days, but a Ukrainian military official argued the battle was not yet over. finished.
Russia’s bet: The Post examined the path to war in Ukraine and Western efforts to unite to thwart the Kremlin’s plans, through in-depth interviews with more than three dozen senior US, Ukrainian, European and NATO officials.
Pictures: Washington Post photographers have been in the field since the start of the war. Here are some of their most powerful works.
How you can help: Here’s how those in the United States can support the people of Ukraine as well as what people around the world have donated.
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