Between Peace and War

EU training mission for 15,000 Ukrainian soldiers will soon begin. They will also be trained for offensives against the Russian-occupied regions. Will this be considered entry into the war?

BERLIN/KIEV (Own report) The EU is deliberately assisting the Ukrainian offensive against the Russian-occupied regions with its imminent training mission for Ukrainian soldiers. This has become apparent through details disclosed over the weekend concerning the EU training mission, due to be decided on Monday next week. Already some time ago, insiders had pointed out that, in recent years, Ukrainian armed forces had specialized in defensive tactics to ward off a Russian attack, but now they need an offensive capability to reconquer Russian positions. In Great Britain, Ukrainian soldiers are already training in urban warfare to capture cities such as Kherson. Instructors from EU countries, including soldiers from the German Bundeswehr, are supposed to train them additional skills. The question, whether this crosses the threshold of actively entering the war, is now being raised with a new urgency. This is happening at a time when presumed acts of sabotage in Germany have triggered a Bundeswehr general to declare that the country is in limbo between peace and war.

Military Training for Ukraine

Military training for Ukrainian soldiers has so far been conducted only on a purely national level, with Great Britain providing the most comprehensive activities. Nearly 5,000 Ukrainian recruits have passed through the Operation Interflex training program, supported by military instructors sent to the UK from several NATO countries as well as from New Zealand.[1] The initial plan is to train about 10,000 Ukrainians, but an extension of the program is presently under positive consideration. France officially admits to an instruction of only about 40 Ukrainian soldiers in the use of the Caesar howitzer. Insiders hinted however, that other “specialized” training programs are being carried out but are not officially announced. Poland in turn is already training Ukrainians to use anti-aircraft defense missiles, while Germany is instructing them in the handling of, for example, the self-propelled howitzer 2000 and the Gepard anti-aircraft tank. The training is taking place at the Bundeswehr Artillery School in Idar-Oberstein (Rhineland-Palatinate) [2] and at the Putlos military training area (Schleswig-Holstein).

EU Training Mission

The bundling of continental European training programs for Ukrainian soldiers in a training mission under central control has for months been repeatedly demanded. On August 30, the EU defense ministers finally gave their green light. The drafting of the program has been apparently nearly completed. Josep Borrell, the EU’s Foreign Affairs Commissioner, announced that the mission – possibly under the name European Union Military Assistance Mission (EUMAM) – will be launched next Monday (October 17).[3] According to reports the training of an initial 15,000 Ukrainian soldiers is planned – with a possible expansion. Two mission headquarters will be playing central roles, one in Poland and the other in Germany. In Poland, training programs in cyber, NBC and air defense, as well as in artillery operations are planned.[4] In Germany, the focus will reportedly be on training in mine clearance and tactics.[5] Individual measures in other EU states are planned. The mandate for the upcoming training mission is said to initially be for a period of two years, but can be extended without problems.

Urban Warfare, Conquering Territories

The planned training measures, some of which have already taken place, go beyond the mere initiation in operating western weaponry that the Ukrainian soldiers have never used before. For example, Ukrainian soldiers are being trained at a facility in Kent, where British troops were trained for deployment in Northern Ireland, Afghanistan and Iraq. There the program includes urban warfare – skills needed to retake key cities such as Kherson or Melitopol.[6] For the planned military offensives to retake Russian-annexed territory, they will also need training on how to tackle Russian fortifications and clear minefields. According to current planning, training in the latter is supposed to be taken on by the Bundeswehr, in possible cooperation with the military of The Netherlands. Given the fact that, for years, the Ukrainian military has been mainly concentrating on warding off a Russian attack, specialists have concentrated on re-training them to become a successful attacking force. “It’s like asking the goalkeeper to become the attacker.”[7]

The Question of Entering the War

After the war began, the German government was reluctant to have the Bundeswehr become involved in training Ukrainian soldiers, because it was unclear whether this could be considered becoming a party to the war. In mid-March, the Reference and Research Service of the German Bundestag concluded in an analysis that arms deliveries are no problem. However, if “also instruction of the party to the conflict” is undertaken in how to use the supplied weapons, “this would mean leaving the non-belligerent realm of the conflict.”[8] Whereas the defense ministry is certain that this is not the case, Justice Minister Marco Bushmann was quoted to have stated that “95 percent of international jurisprudence” declares training measures to be absolutely harmless.[9] However, first of all, the analysis made by the Bundestag’s Reference and Research Service has raised doubts, and second, it is unknown which international legal standpoint is followed by the Russian government. Therefore, the German government initially had decided to at least reject an expansion of the individual EU countries’ military training measures to a comprehensive EU training mission. Now Berlin has changed its mind.

Attack Against the Infrastructure

The EU training mission, which could signify becoming a belligerent party to the war, is being launched at a time, when, in Germany, an act of sabotage has led to considerable concern. During the night from Friday to Saturday, the communication cables of the German railway network were severed in two places – in the vicinity of Berlin and in North Rhine Westphalia – causing train cancellations for several hours in Northern Germany. The Deutsche Bahn railway characterized the act – which required an exceptionally detailed knowledge of the railway’s infrastructure – an “act of sabotage.”[10] The investigation is still ongoing. Yesterday, Sunday, the commander of the Bundeswehr’s Territorial Tasks Command, Gen. Carsten Breuer, placed the attack in the context of the war in Ukraine. “We are preparing ourselves ... for hybrid threats,” Breuer declared. Attacks could be carried out at any time, for example, against power plants or substations, i.e. on the power supply. “That is the situation between no longer at peace, but also not yet really at war.”[11]


[1] The countries named are Denmark, future NATO countries Sweden and Finland, Lithuania, The Netherlands and Canada. Cristina Gallardo, Clea Caulcutt: Ukraine’s military recruits need training. Only one of Europe’s giants is pulling its weight. 16.09.2022.

[2] See also The Hub of War – Rhineland-Palatinate.

[3] Josep Borrell: Revisiting the question of Europe’s order. 05.10.2022.

[4] EU will bis zu 15.000 ukrainische Soldaten ausbilden – mit Einsatzhauptquartieren in Deutschland und Polen. 09.10.2022.

[5] Claudia Heider: Bericht: EU will bis zu 15.000 ukrainische Soldaten ausbilden. 09.10.2022.

[6], [7] Cristina Gallardo, Clea Caulcutt: Ukraine’s military recruits need training. Only one of Europe’s giants is pulling its weight. 16.09.2022.

[8] Sachstand: Rechtsfragen der militärischen Unterstützung der Ukraine durch NATO-Staaten zwischen Neutralität und Konfliktteilnahme. Deutscher Bundestag, Wissenschaftliche Dienste. WD 2 – 3000 – 019/22. Berlin, 16.03.2022.

[9] Ausbildung ukrainischer Soldaten an Panzerhaubitzen gestartet. 11.05.2022.

[10] Bahn-Ermittlungen „in alle Richtungen“. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 10.10.2022.

[11] General Breuer warnt vor mehr Anschlägen. 09.10.2022.