Despite Western military assistance to Kiev, its scope has thus far been insignificant and therefore, this gesture is most likely an imitation of support rather than real preparedness by Washington to arm Kiev.
U.S. soldiers stand on guard, during opening ceremony of the 'Fearless Guardian - 2015', Ukrainian-U.S. Peacekeeping and Security command and staff training, in the Lviv region, western Ukraine, Monday, April 20, 2015. Photo: AP
For a very different take, read "Why American military assistance to Ukraine matters"
At the end of April, American servicemen arrived in Ukraine and started training Ukrainian security forces, mainly in the Lviv region. Within Russian society, this news caused serious unease. Immediately, an official statement was made that such actions could destabilize the situation.
As a result, the Russian Ministry of Defense accused the United States of sending instructors into the zone of military operations, and the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that the peace process as agreed upon as part of the Minsk 2 agreements had reached a dead-end.
The Americans, on the other hand, claim that Russia is increasing the number of troops along its Ukrainian border and is arming “its separatist henchmen.” That said, for some reason, militants in Syria fighting against the legal government of Bashar al-Assad are not called “pro-American” (or pro-Western or pro-Saudi) separatists – they are called the “armed opposition.” It would seem that such a term could also be applied to Eastern Ukraine, regardless of how much the West denies it.
All this is taking place against a background of military tension, with much unnecessary talk about militias (i.e. the armed opposition) preparing for an attack on Mariupol, which is not the case. In reality, no one is planning an attack towards Mariupol, this can clearly be seen by the composition of military units in the area. We are talking here about another provocation and an attempt to call in new soldiers to replace heavy losses at Donetsk Airport.
One must observe that, in the West, a lot of attention is placed on anti-Russian sanctions, which have not turned out to be overly effective. Even considering that until June, Russia will hold back from providing assistance to the militias in order to avoid an even tougher financial and economic sanctions regime from the EU. However, this is absolutely not the case.
Moscow is simply supporting a balance of power in the region and will allow it to change in Kiev’s favor. And if the West were so concerned about the peace process in Eastern Ukraine, then they could demand that Kiev fulfills the obligations, which its representatives agreed to at the contact group for regulating the situation in Ukraine, the complex of measures for the implementation of the Minsk 2 agreements.
In particular, Russian media announce that Ukrainian security forces, as before, are shelling Donetsk and Luhansk territory using heavy military equipment: tanks, artillery and mortars with a caliber greater than 100 mm. This is a flagrant violation of the Minsk 2 agreements. [Although the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kiev denies such accusations and declares that Ukraine is not involved in any artillery shelling – Editor’s note].
At present Kiev does not have sufficient resources to organize large scale attacks. Another fifth wave of partial mobilization is leading more frequently to largely covert resistance.
The motivation to continue military operations is possessed not only by volunteer battalions in the territories being defended. It is even more based on the high wages provided by Ukraine’s oligarchs. It is their will that will be carried out, and not that of the military or political leadership of the country. For this reason, the Kiev authorities probably fear their own volunteer battalions more than the armed forces in Novorossiya.
Servicemen in the Ukrainian army have absolutely no motivation to continue the war but are afraid of leaving the frontline because of the unavoidable reprisals against their relatives. The technical equipment of the army has fallen substantially, since losing arms and military equipment at the “Debaltsevo boiler” they have not been able to compensate using their own extremely limited manufacturing, nor from delivery of supplies from overseas. [The “Debaltsevo boiler” is part of the territories controlled by the rebels. Militia groups in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic surrounded the Ukrainian army there, cutting it off from the supply of provisions and ammunition before and during the signing the Minsk 2 agreements – Editor’s note.] The material and technical support for the forces remains low.
The question naturally arises: How, in such circumstances, American and British instructors will be able to increase the combat capability of the Ukrainian army? The answer is obvious – in the absence of adequate motivation among the soldiers being prepared, even experienced instructors cannot significantly improve the combat capability of the Ukrainian army.
A striking confirmation of this were the events of August 2008, when in South Ossetia, the Georgian army, which had been well trained by American instructors, was completely broken by Russian forces.
On the other hand, American instructors have not just come to help strengthen the Ukrainian army, but also have appeared near the front line.
During the civil war, the U.S. and its NATO allies have carried out military exercises in Ukrainian territory and some of them (Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary) have supplied (or are supplying) armored vehicles. All of this is extremely provocative, and thereforethe Russian Foreign Ministry and the Defense Ministry have expressed concerns about the sending of American instructors to Ukraine.
Worse still, the Ukrainian government-owned company Ukroboronprom has reported that Poland will help Ukraine to modernize its 300 T-72 tanks to the level of the RT-91 (the Polish version of the tank). It is unclear how this can be carried out in practice. Perhaps it is a front for the covert transmission of Polish tanks to Ukraine, which has already previously taken place. And, of course, there is little doubt that this Polish initiative was authorized by the United States.
Given the above, one can agree with those Western experts who believe that the American instructors’ mission is more of a consolation prize than a valuable contribution to the regulation of the Ukrainian crisis. The American training mission, Fearless Guardian, will do little to change the balance of power in eastern Ukraine.
However, this clearly contravenes Minsk 2 (Point 10), which demands “a withdrawal of all foreign armed units, military technology, and also mercenaries from the territory of Ukraine being monitored by the OSCE [the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe], the disarmament of all illegal groups”.
In the current case, American instructors can be seen as “foreign armed units,” which in principle should not be in the zones where military operations are taking place, including for training purposes. Besides this, American mercenaries are also present, in various units of military companies.
Understanding this, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is awaiting, not military instructors, but large supplies of modern, offensive weapons, and even an introduction of NATO forces into Ukrainian territory. However, no one in the West is interested in fighting for Kiev’s interests.
Deliveries of modern weaponry to the Ukrainian authorities are not only meaningless, given the unavoidable fact that equivalent supplies will be provided to the militias by Russia, but also dangerous. In particular, the weapons that Kiev is demanding will be sufficient to export them not only to Syria but to Yemen as well. Radical Islamists will be happy to receive such deliveries, and it is doubtful whether they will increase American or European security.
In this manner, the U.S. has sent 300 military instructors to Ukraine for training as well as over the course of six months, 900 National Guard members, and also provided Kiev with 300 armored humvees, which for some reason will be used for Ukrainian security, radiolocation stations for counter artillery suppression and drones.
France is prepared to provide Ukrainian security forces tactical level communication devices, and Poland and several other NATO countries are offering Soviet armored vehicles. All this confirms that the Americans and their allies are providing Kiev with military assistance, but its scope for numerous reasons is insignificant. This leads to the conclusion that it is largely an imitation of support, rather than real preparedness from the U.S. to provide the current Ukrainian authorities with effective military assistance.
The opinion of the author may not necessarily reflect the position of Russia Direct or its staff.