MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti military commentator Ilya Kramnik) - Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine intend to create a combined military unit: a Lithuanian-Polish-Ukrainian brigade.
Ukraine believes a joint formation can help its armed forces meet NATO standards. The agreement was reached at talks in Brussels, attended by Ukraine's acting Defense Minister Valery Ivashchenko, Lithuania's Minister of National Defense Rasa Jukneviciene and Poland's Undersecretary of State for Defense Stanislaw Komorowski.
Combined units are a common practice in military cooperation. Within NATO, for example, a joint Franco-German brigade was organized in 1987. This alliance marked a milestone in cooperation between France and Germany, formerly enemies and later partners in post-war Europe.
In 1992, a rapid response force was established, consisting of troops from France, Germany, Spain, Belgium and Luxembourg. Now the unit is seen as one of the building blocks of the EU combined armed forces.
In 1999, Denmark, Germany and Poland set up a corps now known as Multinational Corps Northeast (MNC NE). Initially, it included Polish, Danish and German units and was later joined by the Baltic countries, Romania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia and the United States. The core, however, is still made up of troops from the three founding nations, with headquarters in Stettin. In its ten years, its personnel have taken part in many drills and operations, including NATO's Afghanistan operation.
So, the Baltic military has cooperation experience with Polish troops. The Ukrainian military, too, has cooperation experience with NATO within the Partnership for Peace program.
There is also the Polish-Ukrainian peacekeeping battalion set up in the late 1990s, which includes units of the Polish 14th Tank Brigade and Ukrainian 310th Mechanized Regiment.
Establishment of a permanent brigade-class joint unit is expected to improve teamwork, allowing Ukrainians to grow into NATO's command, staff, tactical and logistic culture.
What are the aims and strategic objectives of the joint unit? Ukrainian NATO membership does not make much sense as an objective. The decision to accept a new member is a question for all NATO members, and the stand taken by Germany, Italy and some other bloc members makes it doubtful that Ukraine will soon join the North Atlantic Pact. Another key requirement for candidates is upgrading their armed forces to meet the bloc's standards. Ukraine, which is going through a deep economic and political crisis, has nothing to boast of in this respect. Ukrainian participation in the new brigade will not change this.
Nor it is likely that the purpose is to step up the peacekeeping efforts of Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine. Considering the situation in these countries, they cannot improve much over their current contributions to international operations.
Yet the new brigade may have a political objective. It is meant to set up an alternative center of military consolidation for West European projects, a center which could embrace former Soviet republics (above all Ukraine), now outside NATO. There is no doubt who will control this process, considering U.S. influence in Poland and the Baltics.
Such a unit would allow the U.S. to preserve and strengthen its influence in Eastern Europe, even if West European countries follow through with their project of establishing joint EU armed forces, which would weaken the U.S.'s role in NATO. Also, this formation would fit into the strategy of establishing a "cordon sanitaire" involving some East European countries and former Soviet republics, which would serve as a barrier to closer contacts and cooperation between Russia and Western Europe. True, the original intent of the strategy was to oppose Communist ideas, but this makes its present mission appear less than clear.
What's interesting about the report is that other countries can join the agreement reached by Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.
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