U.S. troops are in Ukraine for training and the Kremlin isn’t happy about it

The United States Army announced on Friday that about 300 troops, based in Italy, had arrived in western Ukraine for a six-month training rotation for three battalions of Ukraine’s National Guard. It is the first training mission by American troops in Ukraine since the war in the southeast began. Andrew Roth of the New York Times joins Hari Sreenivasan via Skype from Moscow, to discuss.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Turning now to Europe: About 300 American military trainers have arrived in Ukraine, prompting an angry response from the Kremlin.

    For more about this, we are joined now via Skype from Moscow by Andrew Roth.

    He has reported the story for The New York Times.

    So, what are the American advisers doing on the ground?

  • ANDREW ROTH, The New York Times:

    Hi, Hari. The American advisers who came in, they're from the 173rd Airborne, which is based in Italy.

    And they have come to train Ukraine's National Guard, about 1,000 members of the National Guard who were engaged in combat in the east of the country. And they're going to be working on what they said were sort of military training, as well as specifically focusing on the officer corps.

    So, this is a very new unit in the National Guard, so their officers, a lot of them haven't had much training yet at all.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    So, this is short of supplying any arms or weapons to Ukraine. The United States has refused to do that, right?

  • ANDREW ROTH:

    So far, they have. So, the United States has supplied some what is called nonlethal aid to Ukraine.

    That involves — that includes promises to supply Humvees, both armored and unarmored, drones.

    But they haven't yet agreed to supply lethal aid, weapons, in particular anti-tank weapons that both people who are on the front lines, soldiers who are on the front lines…

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Right.

  • ANDREW ROTH:

    … as well as officials in Kiev, desperately want.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    OK. So what's the reaction been in Moscow, where are you?

  • ANDREW ROTH:

    The reaction in Moscow has been strong negative suggestions by President Putin's spokesmen that this could destabilize the situation in the country.

    We interpret that to mean new conflict or a new outbreak of violence in the southeast, although there have been a lot of terrorist acts in several cities in Ukraine as well.

    But the Kremlin has really drawn a red line at supplying lethal aid.

    So, I think that it's not absolutely certain that the arrival of these military trainers is going to change the — the situation in the southeast.

    What seems far more important to them is that countries like the United States and Europe and even Israel don't supply weapons to Ukraine. That seems to be their real red line.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    All right, Andrew Roth of The New York Times, joining us via Skype from Moscow, thanks so much.

  • ANDREW ROTH:

    Thanks.

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