This is a significant step in France’s support for Ukraine, which is sometimes considered too timid, especially by countries on Europe’s eastern flank. The Ministry of the Armed Forces is said to have chosen to support the training mission for Ukrainian soldiers decided on this summer by the European Union (EU), and has set the main principles of its participation. French military personnel are expected set up in Poland, where they will provide five weeks of training in dedicated army camps. The general staff has allegedly indicated its desire to move quickly and be operational before the end of 2022. Questioned by Le Monde, the ministry said that “consultations are still underway.”
The idea of a European assistance and training mission, called the European Union Training Mission (EUTM), was approved on August 30 during a meeting in Prague of European defense and foreign affairs ministers. Its objective is to “improve the operations of the Ukrainian army,” explained Josep Borrell, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. “We can respond better by pooling capabilities” he said. This training mission could be entrusted to the European Union’s Military Planning and Conduct Capability (MPCC), which already manages certain trainings for African armies in Mozambique and Somalia, after having done so in the past in the Central African Republic and Mali.
The content of the EUTM Ukraine mission is still being planned and is not expected to be revealed before mid-October, but according to Le Monde’s information the EU would like to focus on “training formed units” capable of replacing those wounded or killed in combat. The EU is also considering specializing its offering by responding to more specific training requests from the Ukrainian armed forces, notably in mine clearance, medical support in operations or logistics. “The Ukrainians do not need combat training in urban areas, where they probably have more experience today than Westerners. They want training in high-tech areas,” said François Heisbourg, European advisor to the International Institute for Strategic Studies. Poland and Slovakia have applied to host these courses.
Strong commitment from Paris
While requested by Kyiv, this EUTM mission is also a way for the EU to respond to the United Kingdom, which launched a major training program for Ukrainian troops in July. Called Interflex, the British operation has already provided infantry training to “nearly 5,000 soldiers,” the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense announced on September 14. Supported by Canada and New Zealand, and also by half a dozen European countries (the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, etc.), Interflex plans to train 10,000 soldiers every quarter. This mission follows Operation Orbital, launched by the United Kingdom in 2015, a year after Russia annexed Crimea. Operation Orbital trained 22,000 Ukrainian military personnel over seven years.
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