The Biden Administration is in the early stages of potentially sending special operations forces (SOF) into Ukraine for the very limited mission of helping guard the US Embassy in Kyiv, according to several US officials. The idea of using SOF is in very preliminary stages and has not yet been presented to President Joe Biden for a decision, the sources said.
The embassy was re-opened last week after being closed for about three months.
For now, the embassy and its limited number of personnel are protected by State Department diplomatic security officials. The discussion centers around whether an increase in security is needed if the number of personnel increase, and whether SOF is best equipped to fulfill those requirements.
US Marines typically guard US embassies around the world but in Kyiv, for now, there is a general agreement that the typical Marine Corps embassy guard personnel may not be suited to the uncertain security picture in Ukraine without additional forces, officials say.
The US doesn’t believe Russia would overtly attack the Embassy. But the concern is that Russia air defenses or missiles could inadvertently target the compound and the situation could dramatically escalate the officials say. US officials say Russia has a thorough understanding on an official basis that the US uses military personnel to guard its embassies around the world and any presence should not be viewed as escalatory. Still an introduction of US forces into Ukraine could raise concerns that it could lead to a perception of US escalation since President Biden has been adamant that US ground troops will not fight in Ukraine.
The concern is if special operations forces go into Ukraine then the US must be able to provide a rapid means of getting them and embassy personnel out of Ukraine in a crisis. Currently the only options are vehicle or rail transport to the border.
For now, there is no appetite at the Pentagon to provide air support such as helicopters or fixed wing transport. If that was done, it could rapidly escalate the US military footprint because of the need to then provide potential rescue and reconnaissance forces if a US pilot was to go down.
The WSJ first reported that special operations forces are being considered for embassy security.