European Union countries have yet to reach the unanimous agreement needed to launch a military training mission for Ukraine, but said they were working out the details.
Defense ministers from the 27 EU countries discussed the possibility of the mission at a meeting in Prague on Tuesday.
“We need to create the foundations of an army that has to fight and will have to fight long enough,” said EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who has spoken publicly in favor of creating such a mission.
“Most member states agreed that it could be done better together. We will study to define the parameters of a potential mission,” Borrell added.
But for EU countries, this is not necessarily obvious.
“Even if there is a possibility that such a mission will exist in the future, further discussions regarding any specific involvement of the Czech Republic would be necessary,” the press office of the Czech Ministry of Defense told DW News in a written statement after the meeting.
After more than 6 months of war, rebuilding the capabilities of the Ukrainian army is becoming a priority.
The UK is currently holding a 90-day basic training mission for 10,000 soldiers joining the Ukrainian army to fight.
Several EU countries, including Germany, have organized smaller-scale training directly with Ukraine on German soil.
The United States also trained troops on the weapons and equipment it sent to war.
From left to right: European Foreign Minister Josep Borrell, Czech Defense Minister Jana Cernochova and Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist in Prague on August 30.
The European Union’s foreign policy arm, the European External Action Service (EEAS), will now start determining what type of mission could potentially be acceptable to member states.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov attended EU meetings in Prague via video link.
Kyiv has specific demands on what it wants these trainings to focus on: medical support, sniper training and mine clearance expertise.
Military experts say increased training is vital for Ukraine to continue waging war.
“People who know war know that it’s not just the number of soldiers and the equipment that wins them. You have to have a lot of training and a lot of logistics,” said Jim Townsend, former deputy undersecretary to Obama’s defense. administration, told DW News.
“These things are just as essential to winning,” he added.
The choice of command for any potential training mission is also a complicating factor. This would be the first EU operation of this nature to take place on EU soil itself – usually these training missions take place in the targeted country.
“It is not clear whether the existing center for EU training missions would be in charge of coordinating this one,” Elena Lazarou, head of external policies at the European Parliamentary Research Service, told DW News.
“The Military Planning and Conduct Capability (MPCC) is in charge of three current missions in Africa – in Mali, Central African Republic and Somalia – but this may be different as we expect the Ukrainian mission to take place on EU territory,” Lazarou said.
The institutional knowledge of the MPCC makes it possible to launch these missions quickly once the political agreement has been reached, but the host countries may also wish to be controlled.
Any mission should also be organized in cooperation with the NATO military alliance, according to observers.
“Everything that is done must be done in coordination with like-minded allies. We have seen that in the sanctions and the sending of military equipment,” Lazarou said. “The last thing we need right now is redundant help or duplication of effort.”
The potential training mission would also send a political signal to Russia that the EU is stepping up its support for Ukraine.
“In Putin’s mind, the EU has already shoved a million pokers in his eye. It’s just another grievance he’ll sell as anti-Russia, but Europe shouldn’t care anymore” , said Townsend, a colleague at the Hawkish Center. for New American Security says.
“If you’re in it for the long haul and you don’t have unlimited manpower, which Ukraine doesn’t have, you need to focus on training,” he added. “They will not be able to launch counter-offensives [like the one to retake Kherson] if they are not ready because they will not have the manpower ready to replace those who are lost in the battles.
In July 2022, 700,000 people were registered in the Armed Forces of Ukraine. That number jumps to one million if the national guard, police and border guards are included, according to the country’s defense ministry.
The expansion of the Armed Forces of Ukraine has been significant – in 2021 there were just under a quarter of a million conscripted personnel.
“Guys who come to the front line untrained can be really dangerous,” Townsend said. “It’s more of a hindrance than a help if you have someone there who can’t keep their gun clean, and it ends up turning around and hurting them.”
The meeting of defense ministers in Prague was an “informal” meeting, meaning they were not required to issue any concrete conclusions or statements.
This means that details on the size of the potential mission remain unknown.
“It’s very difficult to judge anything on size or scale at the moment,” said Niklas Nováky, senior fellow at the Wilfried Martens Center for European Studies. “That would be entirely mandate dependent. And that we will only know once there is an agreement.
Nováky expects that after Borrell’s comments during the Prague meetings, the EEAS office will draw up a “political framework for the crisis approach” – the official planning document for such a mission which will then be presented to EU defense ministers.
The next time EU governments are likely to discuss this issue will be at the Foreign Affairs Council in mid-October.
Edited by Kristen Allen