- Foreign governments have begun reopening their embassies in Kyiv.
- The US is among them, sending a new ambassador and other diplomats back to the Ukrainian capital.
- The Diplomatic Security Service is also on the ground to protect the embassy and its personnel.
As most of the combat has shifted to the eastern and southern Ukraine, life in Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities has resumed.
Foreign counties have started reopening their diplomatic missions in Ukraine despite the constant threat of Russian long-range strikes. The US has followed suit, reopening the US Embassy in Kyiv and appointing a new ambassador.
Because the US is a major supporter of Ukraine’s government and military and because Russia remains a threat throughout Ukraine — Ukraine’s security services are constantly tracking Russian supporters and collaborators — the reopened embassy, other diplomatic facilities, and Americans in the country could be targeted.
As a result, the White House is considering sending US special operators to guard the facility.
Special operators in Kyiv?
According to The Wall Street Journal, the State Department and the Department of Defense are weighing whether to send US special-operations teams to guard the US Embassy in Kyiv and to protect American diplomats in Ukraine.
Any deployment of special operators would complement security teams from the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service. Insider understands that Diplomatic Security Service special agents are among the staff who have returned to Kyiv.
While the State Department is in “close touch” with the Pentagon regarding the security requirements for the reopened diplomatic mission in Kyiv, no decisions have been made about sending US troops to Ukraine to protect the embassy, the State Department says.
The Pentagon has echoed that statement, saying that no decisions have been made and that there is not a specific proposal “about the return of US military members to Ukraine for that or any other purpose” being debated at senior defense levels.
“As a matter of policy, we do not discuss specific security measures at our facilities, but the department always ensures that our posts have appropriate security resources, as determined by our security professionals, to complement the requirements of the host nation as detailed in the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations,” a State Department spokesperson told Insider.
“The safety and security of US personnel are among our highest priorities,” the spokesperson added.
Ever since a mob of Iranian students stormed the US Embassy in Tehran in 1979 and captured more than 60 Americans who were held hostage for 444 days, US special-operations units have created contingency plans for most American diplomatic facilities.
The tier-one special mission units of Joint Special Operations Command — primarily the Army’s Delta Force and the Navy’s Naval Special Warfare Development Group (formerly known as SEAL Team 6) — are responsible for counterterrorism and hostage-rescue operations. If a US diplomatic mission is under attack or American diplomats were taken hostage anywhere in the world, it would likely be these two units that responded.
Protecting diplomats in war zones
Under the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, the primary responsibility for the external security and protection of embassies and consulates falls on the host government — for example, US law enforcement is responsible for ensuring that nothing happens to the Chinese or Russian embassies in DC, and that applies to accredited foreign personnel as well.
When it comes to perimeter security of US diplomatic missions, an initiative called the Local Guard program provides outside security, including perimeter access control and early threat identification and deterrence. There are also US personnel guarding diplomatic missions.
The State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service complements host-nation security and support and is responsible for the security of diplomatic facilities and locations, to include physical, technical, and procedural security.
Diplomatic Security Service special agents, known as Regional Security Officers when overseas, work with other DSS team members — including security engineering officers and security technical specialists — and Marines assigned to the Marine Corps Embassy Security Group “to provide flexible and effective security,” the State Department spokesperson added.
The service is the law-enforcement and security arm of the State Department, and its roughly 2,500 active special agents have four primary mission sets: protect US diplomats, perform passport and visa fraud investigations, ensure the integrity of classified US travel documents, and conduct security background checks.
With offices in 29 US cities and 270 locations around the world, the Diplomatic Security Service has the broadest global responsibilities in the US federal law-enforcement community.
Stavros Atlamazoglou is a defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate.