CNN reported on Tuesday, June 25 that White House officials are thrashing out the details of a plan to allow military contractors to deploy to Ukraine to help Kyiv’s military to maintain US-provided weapons systems.

While stressing that the proposal had not yet been submitted to or agreed by President Joe Biden, CNN reported that the change would present yet another major change in the US stance towards its support for Ukraine.

An official from within the administration told CNN that: “We have not made any decisions and any discussion of this is premature.” The executive also said that the president remained firmly against any suggestion of sending US troops to Ukraine.

The US withdrew all of its military personnel involved in training or other support to Ukraine’s forces before Russia’s full-scale February 2022 invasion of Ukraine. Since then, Washington has taken great pains to make it clear that the US military and other official representatives have no direct involvement in combat operations.

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The State Department has explicitly warned US citizens against traveling to Ukraine since the war began.

The result of US reticence is that if any of the military equipment that it provided sustains damage, it must be transported to Poland, Romania, or another NATO country for repair.

While US troops can help with routine maintenance procedures online that also comes with inherent limitations. The process in both circumstances takes time and resources and keeps vital weapons systems out of service for longer periods than if the work could be done by US experts onsite in Ukraine.

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US officials said that positioning US-funded contractors in Ukraine would mean maintenance and repair for high-value equipment would be carried out much faster. The F-16 fighter aircraft, which Ukraine is about to receive will require almost continuous routine work to keep them in the air.

According to the CNN report, the catalyst for a change of heart in the US government over the last few months has been Russian gains on the battlefield that were partly facilitated by the seven-month block on funding caused by Congress.

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The possibility of deploying contracted companies to Ukraine comes after Washington took more recent proactive decisions to support Ukraine. This included Biden’s agreement to allow Kyiv to strike targets inside Russia, close to the border city of Kharkiv – a request the US had turned down in the past. Last week the US seemed to relax the limitations on the use of its weapons further when National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said that US weapons could be used to hit Moscow’s forces anywhere along the Ukraine-Russia border.

Officials cited by CNN made it clear that the deployment of US contractors would be limited to essential tasks and only when adequate threat mitigation plans were developed. Ukraine would not see the mass contractor presence that occurred in Iraq or Afghanistan.

“This would be a much more focused and thoughtful effort to support Ukraine in country,” according to Alex Vindman, who was the director for European Affairs on President Donald Trump’s National Security Council.

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CNN said Vindman had been pushing the Biden administration to allow contractor deployment for nearly two years and said the White House had been working on the plan since earlier this year.

“Ukraine is an ally,” Vindman told CNN. “The US has keen, critical national security interests in supporting Ukraine, and there are plenty of risk mitigation measures.”

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