Lost in the whirlwind of midterm election news last week was an announcement that not only will Washington send $400 million worth of additional weapons to Ukraine, but it is pushing forward with a new joint forces command, to be stationed in Germany, to "handle weapons shipments and personnel training."
According to the Department of Defense, the new command, which was previously reported this summer, will be officially called the Security Assistance Group Ukraine, or SAGU, and will be based out of U.S. Army Europe and Africa headquarters in Wiesbaden, Germany. It will be a led by a 3-star general.
The command will involve 300 U.S. military personnel but will likely work closely with U.S. Army Europe and Africa’s training center in Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels as well as the service’s garrison in Baumholder. In addition, "the thousands of U.S. soldiers now positioned at training areas in Poland and Romania ... could factor into the plans," Stars & Stripes reported.
The new command is expected to have a long term presence, according to Stars & Stripes:
By establishing a dedicated headquarters focused on Ukraine support, the Pentagon is putting in place an organization to carry out what is expected to be a long-term mission.
The Wiesbaden headquarters is slated to be manned with personnel from across the military branches, making it a joint service operation. Tours are initially planned to last between six months and a year, but longer accompanied tours are also possible.
The U.S. government has now provided over $18 billion in weapons to Ukraine, and officials are crediting Kyiv's successes against the Russian invasion to a constant flow of military assistance to the country. This new command signals a digging-in by the Western powers with the U.S. at the head, my Quincy Institute colleagues tell me.
"It is definitely a sign that the U.S. is preparing for a long war in Ukraine and long-term military competition with Russia," says George Beebe. "You don't put a 3-star in charge just to keep track of weapons flows in Ukraine."
Anatol Lieven suggests this cements the current trajectory of US-European security. "In my view, it indicates that Ukraine is to be a 'major non-NATO ally' and a U.S. dependency, and that the U.S. will try to build the whole of European security around support for Ukraine and hostility to Russia."
Of course, Washington has stopped short of putting U.S. boots on the ground in Ukraine to help President Zelensky in his aim of driving Russia out of his country. Polls continue to show that is not what the American people want. But having a 3-star just over the border, commanding billions in weapons and training efforts is getting as close as it gets.
It will be interesting to see if the administration keeps up its recent ostensible desire for peace negotiations. Certainly this new command "shows Moscow that the alternative to compromise is a U.S. that is ready and willing to provide robust military support for Ukraine for a long time to come," says Beebe.