Dhe European Union could play a stronger role in training Ukrainian soldiers. All member states have agreed to “start the necessary work to define the parameters of a military support operation for Ukraine,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said after deliberations with defense ministers in Prague. However, no decision had yet been made, he immediately added. This and the tortuous formulation showed that the topic is sensitive.
“It is clear that there is a need for greater coordination of training measures, but also of support in general,” said Parliamentary State Secretary in the Ministry of Defence, Siemtje Möller, before the meeting. She represented the minister and SPD party colleague Christine Lambrecht, who preferred to take part in the cabinet retreat in Schloss Meseberg. Brussels should initially only coordinate the efforts of the member states, several of which have been training Ukrainian soldiers for months on weapon systems that they are making available to the country. Germany did the same for the Panzerhaubitze 2000, the anti-aircraft tank Gepard and the multiple rocket launcher MARS II.
The Foreign Representative points to Kiev’s needs
But Borrell’s plans go well beyond that. The foreign representative wants to set up his own mission under the EU flag. This should be “complementary” to national efforts so that they “reinforce each other,” he wrote in a discussion paper sent to member states in mid-August. The Spaniard referred to specific training needs that the Ukrainians had reported: for medical personnel, explosive ordnance disposal and snipers. “One or more” of these tasks could be supported by an EU mission, Borrell said.
When asked, he defended this concept on Tuesday. The Ukrainian Defense Minister, Oleksiy Resnikov, has outlined the short, medium and long-term needs of his country, connected from Kyiv. “I’m sure we can do that better by pooling the capabilities of member states and identifying the unique capabilities of each,” Borrell said. Even before the meeting, he had dismissed the objection that such an operation would further escalate the conflict with Russia. “How can we provide military equipment but not military training? What’s the difference between the two?” he said. Of course, Russia will be “not happy” about that, but that also applies to the arms deliveries to Kyiv, which the EU has so far supported with 2.5 billion euros from its peace facility, a special item in addition to the regular budget.
When Borrell made an initial push for an EU training mission for Ukraine last year, several countries rejected it, with Germany at the fore. There was concern that this would further strain the difficult relationship with Russia. France opposed such a mission, as did the Balts, Poles and Swedes.