Tension has been mounting in Eastern Europe as Russia and Ukraine, as the latter has already sent in troops in what Russian President Vladimir Putin called a peacekeeping mission.
The United States has issued sanctions against Russia, but has largely stayed the course of diplomacy. However, America’s military is on high alert and preparing for engagement scenarios, including the 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the Florida Army National Guard. Well, sort of.
According to Department of Defense News, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III indicated last week that the Florida National Guard would temporarily relocate from Ukraine to another European nation.
The 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team is training Ukraine’s military and “currently serving there in an advisory or ‘train-the-trainer’ role with the Ukrainian Armed Forces at the Combat Training Center-Yavoriv,” U.S. Army Europe and Africa Public Affairs said in a statement to Reserve & National Guard Magazine.
Guardsmen have been in Ukraine since November.
On Jan. 27, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said there weren’t any plans to move the 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, but the fluid situation necessitated a change in status.
In January, the U.S. had intelligence signifying Russia is actively forming a pretext for a possible invasion of Ukraine, Kirby said.
Though the Florida Guard has now left Ukraine, 3,000 troops from the 82nd Airborne Division out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, have since deployed to Europe, along with thousands of others.
“In terms of the U.S. forces that have been put on heightened readiness to be deployed in the event of a NATO decision to deploy them… No decisions have been taken in that regard, but those forces standby should a decision be taken by the North Atlantic Council to call up the NATO Response Force, and a request comes in for American forces to be a part of that,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said in a press briefing on Feb. 11.
While the origin of the hostilities goes back several years, a rigged presidential election in 2004 that forced pro-Russian leader Viktor Yanukovych to leave office has played a role in recent events. Yanukovych legitimately returned as president in 2010 and promised the Ukrainian people he would sign a free trade agreement with the European Union – the first step in bringing much-needed economic reform and relief to Ukraine.
But he pivoted, aligning himself with Russian President Vladimir Putin, outraging the Ukraine populace and sparking massive protests and discord between the government and the people. Yanukovych eventually abandoned his presidency and fled Kyiv.
Since then, a tide of public corruption has engulfed the government along with fractious politics. The emergence of pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine has also contributed greatly to the conflict.
In 2014, Russia annexed a part of Ukraine (Crimea) and has now amassed more than 100,000 troops along the Ukraine-Russian border, inflaming an already volatile situation.
Around 150 U.S. soldiers from the Florida Army National Guard’s 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team are engaged in a Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine mission, U.S. Army Europe and Africa Public Affairs stated.
Reserve and National Guard Magazine sought to interview members of the 53rd Infantry Brigade but was informed the Army isn’t facilitating interviews from the combat team.
U.S. Army Europe said the 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team began advising Ukrainian security forces in western Ukraine in 2015. The American advisors instruct the Ukrainian core forces, who guide the training of troops.
“This initiative… contributes to Ukraine’s internal defense capabilities and training capacity while providing realistic training under a NATO interoperable framework,” U.S. Army Europe and Africa reported.
The train-and-advise Florida Guard mission centers around a brigade-level partnership that develops units to defend the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country.
The Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine is a component of a long-standing defense cooperation program devised to strengthen relationships and demonstrate U.S. commitment to the stability and freedom of Ukraine.
The 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team-Florida Army National Guard sent more than 1,200 guardsmen to Afghanistan in 2005, where they helped train the Afghan National Army for one year. The brigade was established in 1963, comprising 32 units with more than 4,000 members.Read comments