Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has approved the treatment of wounded Ukrainian soldiers at a US military hospital in Germany, according to a memo obtained by CNN and confirmed by two US defense officials.
The plan would allow Ukrainian troops to be treated in a US military hospital for the first time since Russia invaded the country in February. It can treat up to 18 wounded soldiers at a time in a regional medical center in Landstuhl, the huge hospital in Germany where the army has treated American soldiers injured in combat for years.
Austin offered verbal guidance on May 26 to begin offering care to injured Ukrainian soldiers, according to the memo. On June 29, Austin formalized the verbal advice in a memo titled “Advice for the Medical Treatment of Injured Ukrainian Servicemen.”
Although the plan received final approval nearly a month ago, Landstuhl has yet to receive Ukrainian service members for medical treatment. A U.S. European Command official told CNN, “We did not process any Ukrainian troops at Landstuhl.”
The official said the purpose of the memo was to remove any bureaucracy that would slow down the process of offering treatment should the need arise. The plan would allow for treatment if there was no facility available in Ukraine or a closer country. Landstuhl is about 700 miles from the Ukrainian border.
If Landstuhl were to receive wounded Ukrainian soldiers, the military would have to leave Ukraine by train or car before the United States, which has no troops in Ukraine, could airlift them to Ramstein Air Base. .
On Monday, Anton Gerashchenko, adviser to the Ukrainian Interior Minister, posted a video on Twitter showing Ukrainian soldiers receiving prostheses at a Chicago hospital. A second video released on Tuesday showed the soldiers stepping on the prosthetic limbs.
But this would appear to be the first authorization for Ukrainian troops to receive treatment at military facilities instead of civilian hospitals.
In late April, a bipartisan group of members of Congress wrote a letter to Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging the administration to do more to support “struggling health care systems” in Ukraine and Poland. One of the requests was to “expand” the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center to treat sick and injured Ukrainians. The authors said this would follow the US decision to offer treatment to Afghan refugees who transited through the adjacent Ramstein Air Base last year. The letter also urged the administration to send armored ambulances and establish several military field hospitals along the Polish-Ukrainian border.
“You have a unique opportunity to show American leadership by providing medical support to Ukrainians that will inspire other NATO states to follow suit,” the authors wrote.
Then-Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Austin received the April 22 letter and would “certainly take it seriously and respond appropriately.” Kirby said any decision to provide field hospitals or US humanitarian support would be made in consultation with the host nation.
CNN has reached out to a number of letter signatories for comment.
On the day Austin issued verbal instructions to begin offering treatment to Ukrainian soldiers, the American general spoke with his Ukrainian counterpart. A reading of the conversation between the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, and the Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, General Valery Zaluzhny, makes no mention of the opening of US military medical facilities to Ukrainian military.
A month later, Austin made the verbal directives official the day he spoke with Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov. According to a reading of the call, Austin provided an update on US security assistance efforts, but there is no mention of offering treatment to Ukrainian soldiers.