US plans to support insurgency in Ukraine

Administration officials interviewed this week said plans to help Ukrainian insurgents could include training in neighboring countries on NATO’s eastern flank: Poland, Romania and Slovakia, which could allow insurgents to enter and leave Ukraine. Beyond logistical support and weapons, the United States and NATO allies could also provide medical equipment, services and even shelter during Russian offensives. The United States would almost certainly supply weapons, the officials said.

Since Russia invaded Crimea in 2014, successive US administrations have worked to limit military support to Ukraine largely to defensive armaments. The United States has provided about $2.5 billion in military aid to Kiev, including anti-tank missiles and radars that allow the Ukrainian military to better spot sources of artillery fire. Assistance also included patrol boats and communications equipment.

The United States is also working to provide Ukraine with battlefield intelligence that could help the country respond more quickly to an invasion, senior administration officials said.

But all that aid has been calibrated not to provoke Mr Putin, officials said. If Russian troops crossed the border, officials said, the United States could offer offensive weapons and training.

“With the right equipment and the right tactics, Ukraine can significantly reduce the chances of a successful invasion,” former Ukrainian defense minister Andriy P. Zagorodnyuk wrote in an op-ed for the Defense Council on Sunday. Atlantic that reads like an instruction manual for how the United States can sustain an insurgency. “By combining serving military units with veterans, reservists, territorial defense units and large numbers of volunteers, Ukraine can create tens of thousands of highly mobile small groups capable of attacking Russian forces. This will make it virtually impossible for the Kremlin to establish any administration over the occupied areas or to secure its supply lines.

But it’s unclear whether the Ukrainians would be ready to launch an insurgency campaign that could drag on for years or even decades. Some Ukrainian experts point to Crimea, where there has been little armed resistance since the Russian invasion. And Mr. Putin could limit his seat to the eastern parts of Ukraine, which are more pro-Russian than the west.

A Western military adviser to the Ukrainians said details of a specific resistance remained a closely guarded secret. But already, especially in the west, Ukrainians are joining the territorial defense forces which are training in guerrilla tactics.

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