Oct 3, 2021
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“A gesture of solidarity”: why the EU is thinking about creating a military training mission in Ukraine

The European Union is considering the possibility of creating a Military Advisory and Training Mission (EUATM) in Ukraine to increase the country’s defense potential. According to an internal document of the European External Relations Service, which is referred to by the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag, such a step would become “an expression of solidarity” with Kiev against the background of the allegedly continuing “military activity of Russia.” It is noted that the request for the formation of such a structure was previously made by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defense of Ukraine in their address to the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell. According to experts, the plans to establish a mission are just a gesture on the part of Brussels, which is unlikely to somehow affect the defense capability of the host state. In addition, analysts see this as the EU’s desire to pursue a more autonomous foreign policy line.

The European Union is considering the possibility of creating a military training mission in Ukraine to increase the country’s defense potential. This was reported by the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag with reference to an internal document of the European External Action Service (EEAS). It is noted that such a mission will become “an expression of solidarity with Ukraine against the background of Russia’s continuing military activity on the border with Ukraine” and the situation with Crimea.

“The military mission will emphasize … the commitment to the countries of partnership,” the document is quoted as saying.

The structure, if created, will be called the EU Military Advisory and Training Mission to Ukraine (EUATM). Its primary task will be to train Ukrainian officers. It is alleged that the heads of the diplomatic and defense departments of Ukraine made a request to establish such a mission at the end of July. The appeal was stated in a confidential letter addressed to the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell. At the same time, Welt am Sonntag notes that the “three Baltic countries”, as well as Poland, Romania and Slovakia, are actively supporting this initiative. Sweden and Finland are also in favor of the mission, the newspaper writes.

In addition, the EEAS document outlines three more ways to strengthen the military capabilities of the Ukrainian army. One of them is the expansion of the EU Civil Security Reform Advisory Mission in Ukraine, which was established in 2014.

Heading east

It is noteworthy that earlier, on September 16, the European Parliament adopted a report by the Lithuanian deputy Andrius Kubilius, urging the EU authorities to reconsider relations with Russia. In addition to statements about the need to contain Moscow by all means, the document also contains recommendations for strengthening EU cooperation with the countries of the Eastern Partnership.

“The EU needs to strengthen its cooperation with the friendly countries of the Eastern Partnership through the European Defense Agency and in areas such as information and cyber resilience and intelligence sharing. It should also step up the conduct of joint military exercises, ”the report says.

  • European Parliament building
  • Reuters
  • © Vincent Kessler

It is also argued that the EU should recognize the “European aspirations” of its neighboring countries and the fact that it “bears strategic responsibility for the stability and development of neighboring countries”, especially the Eastern Partnership region. In this regard, the EU, both individually and with the assistance of NATO and international partners, should take steps to contain Russia, including “forcing the Russian authorities not to interfere in the affairs of the countries of the EU’s eastern and southern neighborhoods.”

Russia then expressed regret that the European Union did not want to establish a mutually beneficial dialogue and resolve existing problems and disagreements “through communication at various levels and through various channels.” As the press secretary of the President of the Russian Federation Dmitry Peskov noted, “the only thing that can be given a discount is that this is a document that is purely recommendatory in nature.”

It is also worth noting that the announcement of plans to create a new military mission in Ukraine coincided with the signing by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky of the law on reforming the country’s military-industrial complex (MIC). Within its framework, in particular, the state concern Ukroboronprom, which united more than 100 separate defense enterprises, should be liquidated. They, as noted in the concern itself, are being transformed into economic societies and will be united on a sectoral basis. The unifying structure in the form of Ukroboronprom will be replaced by a joint-stock company, which will be responsible for organizing the transformation of defense enterprises and attracting investments. Its owner will be the Ukrainian Cabinet.

Thanks to this reform, according to the concern itself, in the future it will be possible to avoid corruption risks, conflicts of interest and direct political influence. According to the general director of Ukroboronprom Group of Companies Yuriy Gusev, the reform of the concern will become “a new starting point for the Ukrainian defense industry”.

  • Ukrainian serviceman
  • Reuters
  • © Valentin Ogirenko

In addition, earlier a RT source at the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense noted that Kiev periodically turns to EU member states for military assistance, which, however, most often does not meet the expectations of the Ukrainian authorities. So, at the end of September, Lithuania announced plans to transfer to the republic on a gratuitous basis a batch of military ammunition worth about € 677,000 in the form of body armor and ballistic belts.

Also, military support to Ukraine at different times was provided by Latvia and Estonia, providing it with outdated samples of Soviet and NATO weapons. So, in the summer of 2020, Estonia informed about its intentions to send to Kiev about 2.4 thousand Makarov pistols, which were not used by the Estonian army due to non-compliance with NATO standards. And Latvia in January 2021 handed over to the republic seven Snatch Land Rover medical vehicles, which had previously been repeatedly criticized for insufficient protection.

“Irritation is brewing in Kiev”

According to experts interviewed by RT, the steps of the European Union to develop Ukrainian military potential are nothing more than an attempt to demonstrate interest in the affairs of the republic.

“Europeans feel that irritation is brewing in Kiev that Brussels is not helping it enough. And this is one such opportunity to show that the EU is doing something for Ukraine. Although there is no real need for such a mission, since maneuvers are constantly being carried out there, the Ukrainian military goes to study at NATO centers. In general, the EU is making a gesture of military solidarity, which does not change anything in the military alignment, “Vadim Kozyulin, head of the Center for Global Studies and International Relations of the IAMP of the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Foreign Ministry, told RT.

He also suggested that plans to create another European mission in Ukraine may indicate an intention to return the attention of the United States to this area, which is increasingly turning towards the Asia-Pacific region.

In turn, the deputy director of the Institute of History and Politics of the Moscow State Pedagogical University, Vladimir Shapovalov, in a commentary to RT, expressed the opinion that if such a mission is organized, it could call into question the EU’s status as a mediator in the conflict in southeastern Ukraine.

“It’s no secret that the leading countries of the European Union, that is, France and Germany, are viewed as mediators in the conflict in the south-east of Ukraine, I mean the Normandy format. If the idea arises that in this internal Ukrainian conflict the EU is deploying its own military mission on the territory of Ukraine at the request of the Kiev authorities, then they cease to be mediators, but become a party to the conflict, “Shapovalov explained.

At the same time, Sergei Sudakov, Corresponding Member of the Academy of Military Sciences, believes that the possibility of creating a military training mission by the Europeans rather reflects the EU’s intentions to demonstrate to the United States a course of self-made decisions, which Brussels is trying to promote after the situation with the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, as well as after the creation by the Americans new military partnership with Great Britain and Australia (AUKUS).

“The EU has existed for a long time under the dictates of the United States. In practice, the sovereignty of Europe was in question. The recent events have clearly shown to the European Union that at any moment Washington can start its own game without taking into account the interests of the EU. However, the United States is now busy with its congressional elections, so their attention to Europe has weakened a little, which it is in a hurry to take advantage of. The plans for a new mission are an attempt by the EU to pursue its own policy, to show that the union is a sufficiently important subject of international law, “Sudakov explained in an interview with RT.

  • Polish servicemen at the opening ceremony of Rapid Trident-2020 joint military exercises between Ukraine and NATO countries
  • RIA News

In addition, he believes that the proposed mission can be more regarded as a desire to put pressure on Russia than as assistance to Ukraine. In his opinion, the main focus of EUATM will be cyber training of Ukrainian military personnel.

“That is, all this will be connected with the area that does not require exorbitant investments, because the most important thing for Europe is to tick the box and not spend a lot of money,” the expert explained.

From the point of view of Volodymyr Shapovalov, Ukrainians should think about the actions of the country’s authorities in the situation when “Ukraine is being used by Western countries.”

“On the territory of Ukraine, military exercises are taking place, Western warships come here, some provocative actions against Russia from the West are taking place … At the same time, no one invites Ukraine to NATO, to the European Union. This means that there are no commitments on the part of Europe and America regarding Ukraine, ”the expert summed up.

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