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28 Aug, 2023 10:31

Kiev sends 71-year-old soldier for NATO training – FT

The age and ability of Ukrainian troops arriving in Europe to learn use of Western weapons “varies widely,” news outlet reports
Kiev sends 71-year-old soldier for NATO training – FT

One of the Ukrainian recruits sent by Kiev to Germany for training in the use of Western weapons is 71 years old, the Financial Times has reported.

The elderly man in question had volunteered to join the Ukrainian military, the British outlet reported on Monday.

NATO instructors working at a military base near Klietz in northeastern Germany told the FT that while they were impressed by the “tremendous motivation” of the Ukrainian trainees, the age and ability of those arriving to learn arms usage “varies widely.”

Ukrainian commanders on the front line often prefer to keep their best soldiers in the trenches with them instead of sending them for training abroad, the instructors complained.

Nick Reynolds, a research fellow in land warfare at British defense and security think tank the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), told the FT that on many occasions the military training provided by the West has not met Kiev’s expectations.

Ukraine wants its troops to exercise with tanks, armored vehicles, artillery and drones, in conditions that match those on the actual battlefield but which can also be risky for the service personnel involved, Reynolds pointed out. However, European nations have low tolerance for training accidents, and this approach “doesn’t mesh well with [Kiev’s] requirements for trainees,” he explained.

One of the German trainers reported that he’s had some tensions with older Ukrainian commanders, who’d received their military education in Soviet times and “think they know better.”

But “challenge number one” for the European program to teach the Ukrainian troops to use Western equipment is the lack of interpreters, Martin Bonn, a Dutch brigadier general who is deputy head of the multinational EU training mission, told FT.

“The big challenge is the translation of words used in a military or technical context … words no one uses in everyday life,” Bonn said.

Language problems have also reportedly impeded the training of Ukrainian pilots to fly US-designed F-16 fighter jets, a program currently underway in Denmark.

Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh warned last week that Washington won’t greenlight the transfer of F-16s to Kiev by European countries until the Ukrainian airmen learn to speak English properly.

Moscow has repeatedly warned that deliveries of weapons to Ukraine by the US and its European allies only prolongs the fighting and increases the risk of a direct confrontation between Russia and NATO. According to Russian officials, the supply of arms and training to Kiev’s troops, as well as intelligence-sharing, means that Western nations are already de-facto parties to the conflict.

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