EU might consider military training mission for Ukraine

The legitimacy of the EU's missions and operations currently stems from unanimity, which means all member states would need to agree. [Shutterstock/Bumble Dee]

The EU is considering a training mission for Ukrainian officers due to the “ongoing military activities” of Russia as relations between Kyiv and Moscow remain tense.

An EU working document, first cited by Germany’s Welt am Sonntag newspaper on Sunday (3 October), mentions an independent training program called the EU Military Advisory and Training Mission Ukraine (EUATM).

According to the media report, Ukrainian foreign and defence ministers had asked for the training program in a letter addressed to EU’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell in July this year.

“A military mission would underscore the visibility and commitment to the countries of the Eastern Partnership initiative,” the cited working document from the EU’s diplomatic service (EEAS) reads.

The Eastern Partnership, launched in 2009 to support Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, Belarus, Armenia and Azerbaijan, has no military dimension.

Such a military mission would “be an expression of solidarity with Ukraine in view of the ongoing military activities of Russia on the borders with Ukraine and in the illegally annexed Crimea”.

Kyiv says the conflict in Eastern Ukraine has so far killed 14,000 people since 2014.

Other options to help improve Ukraine’s military capabilities would include the European Union Advisory Mission Ukraine responsible for civilian security-sector reform.

The push for the mission comes after several member states had repeatedly expressed concern over Russia’s military exercises close to their and the EU’s borders, including Zapad-2021 in September and a massive Russian troop build-up near Ukraine in April.

Moscow had denied claims by Kyiv and its Western allies that it reinforced troops on its western border in spring to invade Ukraine.

However, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy had stated in September that all-out war with neighbouring Russia was a possibility.

Crimea features high in recent EU-Russia communication

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday (8 September) told European Council President Charles Michel that the EU was continuing to discriminate against residents of Crimea, the Kremlin said in a readout of a phone call between Putin and Michel.

While according to the reports it is especially Eastern Europeans arguing in favour of the military training mission, Nordic member states Sweden and Finland have also expressed support.

Italy, Greece and Cyprus are reportedly amongst those that advocated against “unnecessary provocations” towards Moscow. The legitimacy of the EU’s missions and operations currently stems from unanimity, which means all member states would need to agree.

“Ukraine calls on the EU member states and especially Germany to get this robust military training mission underway as quickly as possible,” Ukraine’s ambassador to Germany, Andrij Melnyk, told the same newspaper on Monday (4 October).

Kyiv hopes that both the present and the future German government will actively support this historic initiative and contribute significantly to building consensus within the EU,” he said.

Ukraine, which applied to join NATO in 2008, had repeatedly asked the alliance to accelerate the country’s membership, saying it was the only way to end fighting with pro-Russia separatists.

However, influential NATO members remain reluctant to embrace Ukraine for fear of ratcheting up tensions with Moscow.

The Brief, powered by EPRA – The Crimea question

The “countdown for the de-occupation” is running, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said at the first Crimea Platform summit last month, where 46 summit participants, including 14 national leaders, stressed the possibilities for Ukraine to regain full control of the peninsula.

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