US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, the highest-ranking officer in the American armed forces, met with Ukrainian soldiers undergoing Pentagon training at a base in Germany, where Washington recently stepped up efforts to prepare foreign troops for combat.
The general visited the US Army’s Grafenwoehr Training Area in the German state of Bavaria for just shy of two hours on Monday, overseeing training operations with Ukrainian soldiers and their American instructors.
Read more: NATO promises more heavy weapons for Ukraine
“This is not a run-of-the-mill rotation. This is one of those moments in time where if you want to make a difference, this is it,” Milley said during a meeting with commanders.
Though journalists were allowed access to the training site, they were reportedly barred from filming or photographing the general as he spoke with Ukrainians, or from relaying the contents of their conversations.
The trip coincided with an expansion of the US training program for Ukrainian troops at the Grafenwoehr base just one day prior, with Milley saying the Pentagon now hopes to turn out 500 combat-ready soldiers in five to eight weeks. He added that the program would focus on combined arms training – referring to battlefield cooperation between infantry, armor, artillery and aerial units.
The Ukrainian soldiers will receive instruction on a wide variety of arms and equipment over the next several weeks, including the Bradley Fighting Vehicles contained in the latest $3 billion US arms package for Kiev. Milley noted that the Pentagon has offered similar training to Ukrainian soldiers since before the current conflict erupted, but said American advisers have been more focused on instruction for certain US-supplied gear since last February.
However, despite around $25 billion in direct military aid being approved by the White House since last February, Kiev has clamored for additional supplies, specifically requesting heavy armor such as the M1 Abrams main battle tank. Washington appears unwilling to grant that wish for now.
Meanwhile in Kiev, a delegation of top US military and diplomatic officials met with their Ukrainian counterparts on Monday, also holding a sit-down with President Vladimir Zelensky. The American team included Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, Under Secretary of Defense Colin Kahl and Principal Deputy National Security Advisor Jon Finer, who said they met with Ukrainian officials to “discuss diplomatic efforts and security assistance to strengthen Ukraine’s security capabilities,” as well as US economic aid and future trade relations.
Moscow has repeatedly denounced the massive wave of foreign arms to Kiev, with President Vladimir Putin recently saying that Russia is now facing the combined “military potential and capabilities of almost all major NATO countries.” Insisting the support will have no effect on Russian military operations, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Sunday declared that Western tanks shipped to Kiev “will burn like the rest [of their weapons].”