A trove of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) documents that were leaked online show that multiple western nations have had special forces actively engaged on the ground in Ukraine, contradicting some previous statements made by officials in NATO countries.
According to a daily update document for military officials dated March 23 — one of dozens of documents leaked online, some designated “top secret” — the number of special operations personnel in Ukraine include:
- United Kingdom: 50
- Latvia: 17
- France: 15
- United Staes: 14
- The Netherlands: 1
Confirmation of their presence in Ukraine is likely to be seized upon by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has argued that Moscow is not only confronting Ukraine, but NATO as well, according to the BBC.
The documents did not specify what role the special operators are playing or where they are located.
In December 2021, President Joe Biden said that the U.S. putting troops on the ground in Ukraine was “not on the table.”
In September 2022, during a national address, Putin said NATO troops were in fact on the ground, accusing them of being “de-facto commanders” of Ukranian forces.
Just two months later, the Pentagon confirmed U.S. military personnel were on the ground in Ukraine, but stated they were simply “small teams that are comprised of embassy personnel” that were conducting “inspections of security assistance delivery” to “track U.S.-provided capabilities and to prevent the illicit spread throughout Eastern Europe,” Reuters reported.
The leaked classified documents feature an array of material, including slides detailing Ukranian military positions, assessments of international support for Ukraine, and under what circumstances Putin may use nuclear weapons, according to the Washington Post.
CNN reviewed at least 53 of the leaked documents and said that some show “the degree to which the United States has penetrated the Russian Ministry of Defense and the Russian mercenary organization Wagner Group.” The news outlet also said that a handful of documents held light on some of the intelligence that officials have gathered about China.