EU military aid to Ukraine: Training mission and replenishment of weapons stockpiles
This week, the EU has launched a training mission for Ukrainian soldiers. It is the largest EU military mission so far. At the defence ministers’ meeting in Brussels, its outlines became clearer. When it comes to delivering weapons to Ukraine to replenish depleted stocks, the EU warns individual member states against going it alone.
At the beginning of this week, the EU officially launched a training mission for Ukrainian troops called the European Union Assistance Mission Ukraine (EUMAM Ukraine). The general decision to install the training mission had already been taken by the foreign ministers on October 17. Hungary was the only country that did not vote in favor, but made use of the possibility of a constructive abstention, which means that the country is neither participating in nor financing the mission. Austria had already declared it would support the mission, but did not plan to be an active part of it.
This is the largest military training mission the EU has ever launched. It aims to prepare an initial 15,000 Ukrainian troops for the battlefield. The mission is initially designed for two years and expected to cost around 60 million euros per annum. The money comes from the bloc’s European Peace Facility, a fund that has already been severely strained, as it is also tapped to cover the cost of weapon deliveries by EU members toUkraine. The mission will be carried out by some twenty member states.
Mission headquarters in Poland and Germany
The main hub for the mission will be in Ukraine’s neighboring country Poland, with secondary headquarters set up in Germany. Germany’s Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht said at a meeting with EU counterparts in Brussels that Berlin was planning to train 5,000 Ukrainians “in a wide range of skills” by next June.
Slovenia will participate in the EU mission to train Ukrainian troops with a few dozen instructors, who are expected to be deployed to Germany, Defence Ministry State Secretary Damir Črnčec announced in Brussels on Tuesday. The instructors are to provide mostly specialist training, he said, noting that the proposal was yet to be confirmed by the government. The ministry is holding internal discussions as to in what way Slovenia could participate and which specialist skills of Slovenian army members could be useful. What kind of experts Slovenia will send also depends on the needs of the Ukrainian army, Črnčec said. But he added that for the time being there were no plans for Ukrainian soldiers to be trained in Slovenia.
Other countries’ participation
Spain’s Minister of Defence, Margarita Robles, announced at Tuesday’s Council meeting that the country will be able to train 2,400 Ukrainian troops per year within the framework of this mission, although she recalled that Spain has already trained more than one hundred members of the Ukrainian armed forces individually in Zaragoza, Almería, Toledo and Madrid.
“Spain has always been an ally that has been involved in all European Union missions, and we understand that this mission is important in order to help Ukraine,” Robles said in Brussels.
Belgian Minister of Defene Ludivine Dedonder announced that her country would make 50 to 100 soldiers available for the mission. The Belgian army is specialized in demining on land and at sea and is ready to share this knowhow. Last month the government already decided to invite Ukrainian soldiers to Belgium next year to learn how to operate new equipment to defuse explosives. But depending on the needs and requests of Kiev, Belgium would also be willing to provide other forms of training, such as combat training and fire support, communications and traumatology on the battlefield.
Within the framework of EUMAM Ukraine, Bulgaria will train four units of a total of 60 Ukrainian military nurses and medical staff in Sofia. The country is hoping to be ready for a parliament decision on military equipment support as early as next week.
At the foreign ministers’ meeting on November 14, Romanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Bogdan Aurescu highlighted the need to continue EU support for Ukraine on all levels – political, financial, military and economic. He hailed the launch and rapid operationalization of EUMAM Ukraine and the adoption of assistance measures by the European Peace Facility. He also mentioned that Romania will continue to provide multidimensional support for Ukraine and recalled Romania’s efforts to facilitate the export of grain and other Ukrainian products through Romanian sea ports.
Unclear situation in Croatia
The Croatian government wants to participate in the training mission for Ukrainian soldiers, but it is not certain that this will happen, because President Zoran Milanović, who has authority over the army, opposes the idea. As commander-in-chief of the armed forces, the president can block the government’s decision. His opposition can be overridden by a two-thirds majority in parliament. After reiterating his opposition on November 15, Milanović stated: “Let Parliament discuss the matter, if two-thirds of MPs make a decision to that effect, I will accept it.”
The Croatian government accuses Milanović of having pro-Russian views, whereas he believes that by participating in EUMAM Ukraine, Croatia would become involved in the war. President Milanović accuses the government and ministers of attempting to circumvent him in decision-making on foreign affairs and defence.
After Tuesday’s meeting, Defence Minister Mario Banožić was unable to say how exactly Croatia would be involved, “I cannot comment on the mode until it passes coordinating bodies, primarily the government. The mode was proposed by the Croatian army, based on its experience in previous missions and operations.” Asked if Ukrainian soldiers would be trained in Croatia or some other EU member country if the decision was approved, Banožić said that both modes had been proposed.
Common weapon purchases
The defence ministers also discussed the joint procurement of weapons. Croatian Minister Banožić welcomed the previous results of a working group in terms of potential cooperation and joint procurement. Belgium is also in favor of joint procurement in the EU and has already purchased weapons together with its neighbors Luxembourg and the Netherlands. After the meeting, EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said that needs had been identified and the EU would now reach out to the industry.
Before the meeting, Borrell warned that the continent could fall into a competitive race to replenish depleted stocks after already having provided so many arms to Ukraine this year.
“The important is to go together, to avoid splitting the market, to avoid competition,” Borrell said in Brussels. He said a situation like during the Covid-19 pandemic, when EU member states raced to buy vaccines for their own countries, should be avoided.
“Everybody together, all together makes better prices, better quality and better time,” he said.
Brussels said that including deliveries by individual member states, the European Union had thus far provided arms and military equipment with a total value of eight billion euros to Ukraine. That’s around 45 percent of the value of arms deliveries provided by the United States.
DISCLAIMER: This longread is written by the EU news agencies Agerpres, AFP, APA, Belga, BTA, dpa, HINA, EFE, and STA, on the initiative of the European News Room ENR (https://europeannewsroom.com)
Belgian minister of defence Ludivine Dedonder ©BELGA PHOTO JONAS ROOSENS