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12 Aug, 2023 16:30

Ukrainians underprepared by NATO training – report

The bloc's commanders typically plan “with a weaker enemy in mind,” a source has told OpenDemocracy
Ukrainians underprepared by NATO training – report

Western military instructors are leaving their Ukrainian charges “underprepared” to fight Russia, a Ukrainian Army officer told London-based news site OpenDemocracy on Wednesday.

‘Dutchman’, a senior intelligence sergeant in Kiev’s 41st Mechanized Brigade, complained that his country’s NATO benefactors simply do not understand the differences between the counterinsurgency wars they have waged in the Middle East in recent decades and the realities of the fighting in Ukraine.

For the most part, [Western instructors] have fought wars in cities and towns – urban settings,” the officer pointed out, arguing that the NATO commanders’ experience of kicking in doors to hunt “insurgents” in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria was “not really relevant to us.” 

They don’t quite understand our situation and how we are fighting. 

NATO commanders typically plan “with a weaker enemy in mind,” he said, confident they can overwhelm their enemies with superior firepower and other technology – a strategy that has failed to dislodge the well-armed Russian military.

We need people to understand how to effectively clear trenches, enter them, how to throw grenades effectively, how not to trip on booby traps, to understand what grenades the [Russians] throw – essentially to understand the enemy,” Dutchman continued, lamenting that Ukrainian soldiers had not been taught to think on their feet. “There’s never going to be a warning regarding an offensive,” he added.

It would be better if either [the instructors] came here to see what we’re facing or we went there to train their instructors to train our troops,” he told the think tank, explaining that while “the Western training is good and the guys gain experience… the most useful training is still done in Ukraine.”

Dutchman acknowledged that NATO instructors flying to Ukraine to teach new recruits how to more effectively kill Russians was a violation of the alliance’s “no boots on the ground” policy, which is ostensibly intended to avert a direct clash with Moscow. 

From a legal, regulatory, safety, and permissions perspective, we can’t do [the type of training Ukrainians want], unless we make some fairly serious policy changes,” analyst Nick Reynolds of UK think tank the Royal United Services Institute agreed.

NATO rules aside, the US military has been training Ukrainians locally in offensive tactics since at least 2014. The CIA has trained operatives in Ukraine for decades – long before the 2014 coup that removed democratically elected president Viktor Yanukovych from power – and stepped up its presence in 2015, offering weeks-long courses in weapons, intelligence and stay-behind network strategy. While Washington officially categorized these as non-offensive, a former CIA official told Yahoo News a month before Moscow’s military operation began that the US was “training an insurgency,” teaching Ukrainians “to kill Russians.