Biden administration moves toward allowing American military contractors to deploy to Ukraine

CNN — The Biden administration is moving toward lifting a de facto ban on American military contractors deploying to Ukraine, four US officials familiar with the matter told CNN, to help the country’s military maintain and repair US-provided weapons systems. The change would mark another significant shift in the Biden administration’s Ukraine policy, as the US looks for ways to give Ukraine’s military an upper hand against Russia.

The policy is still being worked on by administration officials and has not received final sign-off yet from President Joe Biden, officials said. “We have not made any decisions and any discussion of this is premature,” said one administration official. “The president is absolutely firm that he will not be sending US troops to Ukraine.” Once approved, the change would likely be enacted this year, officials said, and would allow the Pentagon to provide contracts to American companies for work inside Ukraine for the first time since Russia invaded in 2022. Officials said they hope it will speed up the maintenance and repairs of weapons systems being used by the Ukrainian military.

Over the last two years, Biden has insisted that all Americans, and particularly US troops, stay far away from the Ukrainian frontlines. The White House has been determined to limit both the danger to Americans and the perception, particularly by Russia, that the US military is engaged in combat there. The State Department has explicitly warned Americans against traveling to Ukraine since 2022. As a result, US-provided military equipment that has sustained significant damage in combat has had to be transported out of the country to Poland, Romania, or other NATO countries for repairs, a process which takes time.  US troops are also available to help the Ukrainians with more routine maintenance and logistics, but only from afar via video chat or secure phone—an arrangement that has come with inherent limitations, since US troops and contractors are not able to work directly on the systems.

Administration officials began to seriously reconsider those restrictions over the last several months, officials said, as Russia continued to make gains on the battlefield and US funding for Ukraine stalled in Congress. Allowing experienced, US government-funded American contractors to maintain a presence in Ukraine means they will be able to help fix damaged, high-value equipment much faster, officials said. One advanced system that officials say will likely require regular maintenance is the F-16 fighter jet, which Ukraine is set to receive later this year. Companies bidding for the contracts would be required to develop robust risk mitigation plans to mitigate threats to their employees, an official said.

Comment: This is far more than I thought the Biden administration would do. I could see them turning a blind eye to Ukraine hiring US experts and maintenance people on Ukrainian contracts, but this move provides for US contractors on DoD contracts operating in Ukraine. Of course, those contractors will be targets, but the money will be good. Good God! What happened to the timid concept of escalation management?

How far is this from Colonel Lang’s idea of an AVG flying A-10s instead of P-40s? I bet there are plenty of F-16 pilots just chomping at the bit to have a real go at the Ivans.


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23 Responses to Biden administration moves toward allowing American military contractors to deploy to Ukraine

  1. babelthuap says:

    Any contractor that signs up for this either does not value their life much or they are just mentally unstable. This isn’t an Afghanistan or Iraq base where it’s relatively safe with a guarded perimeter to include CAS and QRF.

    Anyone and anything pointing something in Ukraine at Russian forces can be hit fairy easy. Might get away with it for a little while but so does a car running stop signs and red lights. Eventually gonna get your ass handed to you.

  2. walrus says:

    TTG: “How far is this from Colonel Lang’s idea of an AVG flying A-10s instead of P-40s? I bet there are plenty of F-16 pilots just chomping at the bit to have a real go at the Ivans.”

    You are living in a fantasy world along with most americans. In this fantasy, we are always the good guys, everyone likes us and we always win.

    Pray that we are let down gently and slowly. reintroduced to reality without too much pain.

    the way things are heading, in my opinion, the ukraine army is going to break. we will be reviled for encouraging them into a fools errand – making war on russia.

    • TTG says:


      What you call a fools errand is Ukrainians defending themselves from a Russian invasion. Russia is making war on Ukraine. Our support of Ukraine is far more the action of a “good guy” than our invasion of Afghanistan, which started as an act of vengeance and continued out of pure obstinacy, or our second invasion of Iraq which was pure aggression and neocon fever dream.

      Colonel Lang and I talked about this often. We both thought standing by Ukraine against a Russian invasion was an easy and righteous decision.

      • English Outsider says:

        TTG – Had the Russians restricted themselves to only moving into the Donbass then both you and Colonel Lang would not have objected. That would have been, in practical terms, little more that the implementation by force of Minsk 2.

        It would have gone further than what I believe would have been the “best” solution, Minsk 2 itself. That would have left the Donbass part of Ukraine but with safeguards. But given that Minsk 2 was out of reach by February 2022 then the solution you and Colonel Lang would have accepted was one that would have been far preferable to what’s occurred since.

        The question then is, why did the Russians go further than the solution you and Colonel Lang would have accepted? A lot further – they did not merely invade the Donbass. They invaded Ukraine beyond the Donbass! That is what you and Colonel Lang found entirely unacceptable.

        The question then is, would Washington itself have found acceptable the solution you and Colonel Lang would have found acceptable. You believe that had the Russians stopped at the LoC Washington would not have imposed the sanctions. You point to statements from Washington that show the US had already signalled it would not impose the sanctions had Russia stopped at the LoC.

        But there was no formal agreement between the US and Russia that the US would find a Russian takeover of the Donbass acceptable provided the Russians went no further. As far as is known there was no informal agreement between Biden and Putin, or between American and Russian diplomats, to that effect either.

        The Russians would have looked great fools had they stopped at the LoC and still been hit with the sanctions. In the absence of an agreement with the US, formal or informal, that was a risk they could not have taken nor have been expected to take.

        Not only that, had the Russians stopped at the LoC and had the US not accepted the takeover of the Donbass, the Russians would have found themselves in a most difficult military position. That also was a risk, as Rudskoy explained at the time, that it would have been foolish for them to take.

        TTG – it’s not that I believe you and Colonel Lang were demonstrably wrong in your belief that Washington would have accepted Russian occupation of the Donbass provided it stopped at that. I do believe, however, that in the absence of formal or informal assurances to that effect it’s unreasonable to expect the Russians to have taken that risk.


        That’s only dealing with the events of February 2022. Since then Russian demands have ballooned like a demented airbag. It’s no longer a question merely of safeguarding the Donbass. Nor even a question of wanting a different “Security Architecture” in Europe. In his Moscow Foreign Ministry speech Putin seemed to be demanding a new “Security Architecture” for the entirety of Eurasia! With participants to that from far beyond Europe.

        He won’t get it of course. Not from Washington. Certainly not from Brussels unless Brussels gets itself a collective brain transplant. What he’ll get is a new cold war that’ll be more far reaching than the old. It’ll be a cold war between an economically derelict and politically dysfunctional West and as much of the other seven billion as choose to take the other side.

        As was apparent as soon as it all kicked off in February 2022. I recollect writing to the Germans on Dr North’s site around them, “You damned fools! The world’s splitting into two halves and you’ve got yourselves in the wrong one!”

        Apocalyptic stuff. I was of course wrong. The world’s been doing that for the last couple of decades at least. It’s just that this present conflict in Ukraine has finally made us notice it.

      • English Outsider says:

        What fool designed the qwerty keyboard? Putting an n next to an m indeed. “… writing to the Germans on Dr North’s site around then“.

        And why, in this IT-ridden world, is it still not possible to talk into a mike and have the machine get on with the typing? Used to be, in the long distant past, you could talk into a dictaphone and have someone a lot prettier than a collection of circuit boards doing just that. We are going backwards so fast.

        But you’ve had worse typing from me, TTG, so will I hope forgive the error.

    • Mark Logan says:


      It’s the warrior mentality, something looked for in the selection process and fostered in fighter pilots. Everybody that goes to war can be labeled a fool, I suppose. The Col’s AVG idea is plenty viable. There would be a long line of guys signing up.

      My bud who flew F15s told me he volunteered to help the Dutch and the Brits to train Ukrainian pilots and he wishes dearly the Ukrainians were given F15s because he absolutely wants to fly for them. He’s no fool, just a recently retired fighter pilot with a full career under his belt. Flew a ton of missions over Iraq. Pouting like a child about them turning him down due to his having never flown an F16. He knows he could be teaching weapon and SAM systems for them. Nope, they tell him, we got enough of that. Go home old man! He’s 42…

      Only mentioning to pass on something he said about the training. He is not at all shocked at the long delay. Yes, you can take a fighter jock from an SU to an F16 and get him able to fly it in perhaps a 3 week crash program, but being able to do something with it is another matter. One must master everything one can hang on the wings, which is a lot of stuff, and in an array of scenarios. Typically a pilot spends a year as a wingman before he or she is considered really a fighter pilot. More to the point, the trainers know Ukraine is only going to have a handful of planes and pilots and putting them up in the current SAM environment and Russian AF experienced pilots half-trained would be a recipe for failure.

      • walrus says:

        Mark, nobody in the USAF, including your friend, has seen this type of warfare, watch “masters of the Air” – and think about the 30%+ casualty rates our grandfathers suffered in WWII bombing the Axis, think about the fighters. Most Spitfires never got much older than 25 hours total time. Most of the war stories you read are written by the kids who got to Europe in 1944 – when the germans were well and truly beaten and the hard and bloody work had already been done.

        That is why I pray we will be let down gently. No one knows how F16’s or F – anythings are going to perform against Russias integrated air defences.

        As others have pointed out, the Russian Army may look unskilled and crude, but looks are deceiving.

        • Mark Logan says:


          FWIW, he has expressed to me a deep respect for both the S300 and S400 systems, along with Russian EW capabilities in general, which is why he believes there will be no corner-cutting in the training of the handful of Ukrainian pilots.

        • TTG says:


          Russia’s integrated air defense is definitely capable of keeping the Ukrainian Air Force flying just feet off the ground and unable to fly past the front lines. They, like the Russians are limited to flying/dropping their ordnance on their side of the front.

          But Ukrainian drones are another story. The Russian integrated air defense seems stymied by Ukraines slow flying, long range drones. The equivalent of a Piper Cub flies 1,000 kilometers to strike targets.

          That integrated air defense also seems to have a hard time defending itself from missiles and drones.

  3. James says:

    The US, from the beginning, has been giving Ukraine just enough help to keep the fighting stalemated. To maximize the number of men, on both sides, that will be pushed into the meat grinder.

    It is the “dual containment” strategy from the Iran-Iraq war all over again.

    This is just the latest tactic in the service of that overall strategy.

  4. English Outsider says:

    This will go down in the books as the FAFO war.

    Put a large NATO trained and equipped army on the LoC. Many of whom believe it’s their righteous duty to kill or ethnically cleanse any Russians who live in the Donbass. And have already done plenty of that in the recent past just to show they mean business.

    Pour in an increasing volume of artillery fire across the LoC. Deliberately screw up the UN approved peace settlement the Russians had been trying to get implemented for years.

    Ignore all requests from Russia to move the army back. How did the losers in Washington and Brussels ever think they’d get away with such blatant provocation?

    FAFO indeed and the politicians of the West who dreamed all this up should be impeached, the lot of them. Except for Scholz, who should be given a good long time in gaol as well for getting us all into this mess in the first place. True heir to Merkel for duplicity and the man who wrecked the only viable economy in the West.

    Brilliant information war though. Have to give the politicians that. A real feat, persuading pretty well a billion people the war was “unprovoked”. Put it down as the FAFO war and move on to Cold War II.

    • John Minehan says:


      Maybe, Maybe not. I tend to agree with the “Chicken Kiev” speech.

      Something that went a lot further than it should have?


      When the Russian Offensive on Kiev failed, the Russians lost. The US was going to double down on Kiev and so would the EU. Too many frontline states have bad memories of the Eastern Bloc to go otherwise.

      Clearly the idea that Putin would try to go further was nonsense. The war demonstrated he can barely cope with Ukraine.

      On the other hand, if Kiev had fallen in around the time same we took to take Baghdad in 2003, Putin would have picked up a lot of “cred” and would have gained influence in Europe. He would likely have broken NATO and would have had no reason to go further.

      On the other hand, Putin has demonstrated the US no longer has the economic power it had. It is the time of the ascendant BRICs and a country with the mineral wealth Russia has is tough to effectively boycott. McCain was right. It is a “Gas Station with nukes: but that counts a LOT on the World stage.

      This is a race between the Ukrainian forces collapsing due to heavy losses and a smaller population and the Russians collapsing due to their Lines of Communications collapsing and their forces collapsing due traditional Russian lack of supply discipline and cut supply lines.

      It also is apparent due to targeting success in Crimea and the fact that most Orthodox Churches in the “Occupied Territories” looking to Kiev and not Moscow, that the Russian support in the Donbas and Crimea clearly either did not justify this or has lost its justification over time.

      Ukraine has been physically ravaged.

      The RF, the US and NATO have come out of this with their reputations in shreds.

      As the Delphic Oracle told the Lydian King, “if you go to war you will destroy a great empire.” The Oracle did not specify which one and today it can be all involved.

      • “It is a “Gas Station with nukes”

        Hello … Do you have the slightest knowledge of the contributions ethnic Russians have made to mathematics and science?
        To start, you might Google “Who invented the periodic table”.
        At Wikipedia, there is
        That includes many outstanding Jewish mathematicians, but many are not Jewish.
        As a path breaking contemporary example, a recipient of the Fields Medal, there is

        Pardon my rudeness,
        but so many people are repeating that ignorant slur against Russia and Russians that a strong response is needed, IMO.
        It only indicates their ignorance or bias.

      • English Outsider says:

        John Minehan – that’s a fascinating contrast, between my take and yours.

        In February ’22 it seemed obvious to me that Ukraine had no chance. Just on the basics. Bicycle against a truck. And NATO didn’t have enough in that theatre to tip the balance.

        Still the case, but to me as just a member of the British public looking on, and still contentedly sunk in the old myths, there’ve been some startling revelations.

        I’d assumed as a matter of course that the real Russian army wasn’t that fit. A big sloppy peacetime army, probably riddled with corruption. Fancy weapons, of course, which as we’ve seen make the fight no contest, and like the Americans with some very good units, but nothing special when it came to the mass of it and probably living in the past when it came to the demands of modern war.

        Well, the Russians have shown different. I still think it was probably sloppy and corrupt in the beginning but if so they’ve tightened up with astonishing speed. The “parquet generals”, who I take to be the equivalent of Colonel Lang’s “pampered princes”, are being shifted out of the way and they’re insistent on not letting corruption get in the way of producing the goods. And their very good units they deployed just right.

        The initial phase of the SMO was I now suspect a textbook operation. Stunning. What they’ve done since equally so. Obviously when you’ve got hundreds of thousand of men milling around the place there are going to be screw-ups galore – were for a certainty – but on their basic approach they’ve not put a foot wrong throughout.

        It’s a brutal approach. The only approach possible in these circumstances. Unless the Russians are prepared to pack up their toys and go home this is the approach they have to take.

        What are “these circumstances”? What are they up against?

        They are up against the combined West but in a very limited war in which all the West has at its disposal are a huge quantity of troops, most of them tough and high quality troops, and as much equipment as the West can manage to send in.

        Very high quality troops, those Ukrainians, at least at the beginning. You’re watching the fighting and you’re seeing plenty of evidence of that. They have their screw-ups too – show me a war that doesn’t have plenty of those – but they fight like tigers. The Generals were rubbish. The Milley-Caroli-Radakin-Zaluzhnyi performance was pitiful. But when it comes to the men those Ukrainians are in the main as good as or better soldiers than any others the West has at its disposal.

        The Russian approach has been two-pronged. They consistently leave the door open for a settlement. They’re not fooling around on that and have made genuine attempts at a settlement throughout.

        But (strictly my personal view) the Russian General Staff has always thought a settlement was for the birds. They have known that from ’22 on. Probably from well before. They have known in their hearts that the West will have no truck with “settlements” and that this one’s going all the way. As Josep Borrell said – not such a fool as he looked, Borrell – “this war will be decided on the battlefield”. It was always going to be.

        (That’s, I stress, my personal view. Can’t defend it. Can only assert it. A two- pronged or multi-pronged approach is how most of us deal with difficulties. It’s only in the history books that everything gets simplified with post hoc propter hoc reasoning)

        The Russian approach, the battlefield prong if you will, has been as simple and I’m afraid as brutal as can be. Dispose of the men the combined West has at its disposal. Dispose of the equipment.

        Using their artillery and missile superiority they’ve been doing that for two years now. Sometimes the enemy comes to them to be disposed of of its own volition. Sometimes it has to be forced to come to them.

        We’re seeing the latter at the moment. The big fortress cities and settlements are slowly being taken. Slowly, because the Russians are casualty averse to an extreme degree. The Ukrainians must defend. To do that they pour in troops and equipment that get shot up. Or the Russians put in a limited attack in a new area, as we saw recently in the north. The Ukrainians move up their best troops to hold them and as they move up to do that they get shot up. The troops holding them get shot up. The positions further south are weakened by the movement of some units north so they can’t hold their positions as easily and get shot up. It’s more like extermination than true war and it’ll go on until there aren’t that many left to be shot up. The men conscripted to replace the dead are not as good quality or as well trained so presumably the process of extermination will become easier as time goes by.

        The many analysts who say that in these circumstances the Ukrainians should withdraw and regroup are dumb. They say that all the time but one can only wince as one reads or listens to them. That would only mean the same process would happen further west. And keep happening. Theoretically, if there were enough Ukrainians and equipment left it would keep happening until the Polish border was reached.

        This is what losing a war against superior forces means. There is no way out except surrender.

        What we’re looking at is what would have happened had Paulus not surrendered. His men would simply have been shot up until the last one was dead. Continuing to fight a lost battle inevitably results in that. Biden’s election team is hoping that this process of extermination will last until after the election. The Americans have probably got the leverage over Kiev to ensure it does, so we might see that happen.

        Though Washington and Kiev aren’t maybe the only deciders. The men getting exterminated could possibly decide an American election isn’t worth getting shot up for.

        So that was the first big surprise. The Russian army and General Staff is far more capable than was generally thought in ’22. The other big surprise was NATO.

        NATO used to be quite something. The German component was formidable in its own right. The Americans were here in force, bases and pre-positioned equipment all over the place. We had the BAOR and that wasn’t a joke either. Some of my friends were in it and they certainly thought we were capable of giving a good account of ourselves if anything kicked off.

        Many of us still have that set-up in our heads. We think we’ve still got the NATO of the old days. Our politicians still talk as if we have.

        But most serious analysts talk of the US army now being, as far as mounting a serious expeditionary land force goes, a “boutique army”. The American military strengths are not strengths that can be deployed in this theatre. And even those strengths, though formidable, have got behind technologically. So in this theatre it really is a “boutique army”. Do people think that the European armies are even up to that? If so they’re deluded.

        That was, then, the other surprise. NATO being a busted flush. Kujat drives that point home mercilessly. No one listens to him. About time they did.

        That’s my take, Mr Minehan. Has been since ’22. Your take is mostly similar. But the few differences between our two takes are I think crucial.

  5. Lars says:

    I find broad agreement in EU that Russia represents an existential threat and many Americans agree that it also impacts our security. A security that has prevented a major war in Europe for very long and NATO is at the center of that. Our world is even more connected now than it has in the past and that is now being threatened by various authoritarian entities. At this point there is a containment policy at work and hopefully it will remain such. This is more like Cold War 2.0 than anything else and in the end, economics will matter like it did the last time and there the liberal world will still have an edge. Time and time again, it has been shown that the top down approach has a ceiling beyond where there is no further advancement and they end up where Reagan called the “ash heap of history”. You can quibble about the best way to wear them all down, but the seeds of their destruction is baked in the system. So, adding yeast is a good policy and it will get results.

    • Jovan P says:


      it’s wonderfull if the ,,liberal world” still has the edge, but it would be very nice from the ,,liberal world” to stop forcing and promoting satanism, gender ideology, colonialism, double standards and etc. in the ,,authoritarian or not so democratic states.”

    • walrus says:

      Paranoid rubbish! Since when has Russia invaded the West for its own agrandisement? Ever? In History? The answer is never. It has engaged like most nations in skirmishes along its borders and two expeditionary campaigns – the first against Napoleon, the second against Hitler and in both of those campaigns it was allied with us!

      Oh! But Communism, you say! Communism is long dead and in any case it was a system dreamed up by Marx in the British Museum that had plenty of adherents in the West long before Russia came along. The only “existential threat” these days is global robber baron style capitalism – which has no love for western so called liberalism either! .

      • TTG says:


        Russia became the Russian Empire through its own aggrandizement. Nothing unusual there. Every empire has done that, including ours although we never called ours an empire. The Kremlin sought to expand across into Western Europe and Africa during the Cold War. Have you forgot Greece and Italy and the Warsaw Pact self-interventions? Communism was but a phase in Russia’s history.

        I do see your point about global robber baron style capitalism being a threat. But I don’t think a turn to a Tokugawa Japan style sakoku is the answer to rampant globalism.

  6. Some ways Russia is considering retaliating
    for the U.S. supply of weapons to Ukraine:

    “Putin warns that this would be a major escalation,
    and he threatened to retaliate
    by providing weapons to Western adversaries elsewhere in the world.

    He reinforced that argument by signing a mutual defense pact with North Korea in June and holding the door open for arms supplies to Pyongyang.

    He declared that just as the West says Ukraine can decide how to use Western weapons,
    Moscow could provide arms to North Korea and
    “similarly say that we supply something to somebody
    but have no control over what happens afterward” — an apparent hint at Pyongyang’s role as arms trader.

    Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy head of Russia’s Security Council, noted
    Moscow could arm anyone who considers the U.S. and its allies their enemies,
    “regardless of their political beliefs and international recognition.” “

  7. Yeah, Right says:

    You know, every time I look at the ventral air intake on an F16 I think to myself: definitely not the jet you want to operate from Ukrainian “airfield”.

    Still, go for it. I suspect the are a lot of RuAF fighter jocks just itching to have an encounter with an F16 flown by “exUSAF” pilots.

    • English Outsider says:

      This man seems to think F16’s will be the game changer. Not that he thinks the game needs changing much anyway.

      “‘Putin simply can’t do it’ as Kharkiv collapse leads to Russian ‘retreat’ in Crimea | Robert Fox”

      A more realistic note is struck by Helmer. If what he’s reporting is correct the drones used over the Black Sea to direct NATO missiles and marine drones are replaced by manned aircraft. Based in nearby NATO territory.

      Both the video and the article linked to focus on Crimea and the Black Sea as areas of operation NATO considers of great importance. You mention the F16’s. They could lead to escalation of the conflict but there’s also a danger of escalation from sending those aircraft over the Black Sea to guide missiles and drones attacking the Russians. I cannot imagine what the US response would be were the Russians using their missiles and guidance systems to attack the US from Cuba..

      Possible also that we’re also encouraging Kiev to have another go at the ZNPP. Also attacking civilian areas across the border still, though the claim is that we’re hitting Russian logistics and troops concentrations there. This is a very risky time, all these ineffectual but provocative pokes at the Bear. Sooner the Russians get this show wrapped up the better. With the White House in disarray some chancer there might give the Bear one poke too many.

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