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Top US general publicly contradicts controversial statement Biden made about American troops in Poland

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Win McNamee/Getty Images

Gen. Tod Wolters, commander of United States European Command, publicly contradicted President Joe Biden on Tuesday.

What is the background?

Biden sowed international confusion last week when he appeared to tell soldiers with the 82nd Airborne that they were headed to Ukraine.

"You’re going to see when you’re there, and some of you have been there, you’re gonna see — you’re gonna see women, young people standing in the middle in front of a damned tank just saying, ‘I’m not leaving, I’m holding my ground,’" Biden said.

The White House was forced to clarify Biden's comments, reiterating that U.S. troops are not going to Ukraine. But Biden caused further confusion on Monday when he was asked to personally clarify his comments, and he said that American troops are training Ukrainian soldiers in Poland.

"I was talking to the troops. We were talking about helping train the Ukrainian troops that are in Poland," Biden said, then adding, "I was referring to being with, and talking with, the Ukrainian troops that are in Poland."

What did Wolters say?

While testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) asked Wolters about Biden's claim.

Wolters said that "liaisons" are being "given advice" — presumably by American personnel — but Wolters clarified that American troops are not training Ukrainian soldiers as Biden suggested.

"I do not believe we are in the process of currently training military forces from Ukraine in Poland," Wolters said. "There are liaisons that are there that are being given advice, and that’s different than I think you’re referring to with respect to training."

March 29, 2022: Senator Cotton Q&A during Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing youtu.be

Biden's apparent admission that U.S. personnel are training Ukrainian soldiers in Poland triggered controversy, which Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) highlighted in an interview Monday.

"If that's the case, then it's surely classified. It may be that he’s explaining classified secrets on national television," Cruz said on Fox News. "This is like Mr. McGoo as president, where every time he explains one thing, it gets worse and worse and worse, and we’ve got nuclear weapons pointed at each other. It is incredibly dangerous, this kind of presidential weakness."

The White House was asked about Biden's remarks and Cruz's concern on Tuesday, but only played coy.

A reporter asked, "Yesterday, did the president accidentally reveal a previously unknown effort for the U.S. to be training Ukrainian forces in Poland during his answer in the press conference?"

White House communications director Kate Bedingfield responded, "No. The troops that he met with in Poland routinely interact with Ukrainians. That is something that’s known. ... That is in no way revealing compromised information. That being said, there’s nothing further that I have to say on that beyond what the president said yesterday."

Just last week, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said that American troops were not training the Ukrainian military.

"We do not have U.S. troops currently training Ukrainians. We do not have U.S. troops on the territory of Ukraine," Sullivan said. "We do, of course, have U.S. troops defending NATO territory, providing reassurance to our allies, deterring Russian aggression."

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