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'Better The Brits Than NATO:' Security Analyst Plays Down U.K. Troops In Ukraine

London has announced that it is sending 75 military personnel to Ukraine to help Lyiv train its army. (file photo)
London has announced that it is sending 75 military personnel to Ukraine to help Lyiv train its army. (file photo)

UK Prime Minister David Cameron announced on February 24 that Britain would send military personnel to Ukraine soon to help train its army. RFE/RL's Rikard Jozwiak spoke to Judy Dempsey, senior associate at Carnegie Europe and editor-in-chief of the blog Strategic Europe about the significance of the move.

RFE/RL: British Prime Minister David Cameron announced this week that his country will send 75 military personnel to Ukraine. Do you think this might be a game changer in the Ukraine conflict?

Judy Dempsey: No. They are sending them for training, for civilian-military relations, for sorting how the military on some levels is to be organized. It is not about military preparedness. It is not about training them to go to eastern Ukraine. It is about putting modern structures into the Ukrainian Army, which is in desperate need of it.

I presume that they will be working closely with NATO as well which is involved in some kind of training program as well that was announced at Cardiff last September at the [NATO] summit.

RFE/RL: Do you think that other countries might follow suit? Poland has for example said that they are considering doing something similar.

Dempsey: It is about modernizing an army. If other countries want to follow, I am sure they will unless they contribute to some kind of NATO training program. Actually if you think of it, it is far better that the Brits probably do it like this, very small scale, rather than NATO doing a big song and dance about it. You mention NATO, all the red flags go up in Russia.

Judy Dempsey (click to enlarge)
Judy Dempsey (click to enlarge)

RFE/RL: Do you think that a move like this could damage European unity over Ukraine, especially considering that Britain didn't inform its European allies?

Dempsey: The unity over the sanctions has held. As for the unity over this issue, it does surprise me that actually that the British didn't consult its European allies on this. What is interesting is that it seems like a real bilateral thing at the moment and has nothing to do with the European security and defense policy, which actually is entirely absent from the entire Ukraine crisis which I find very interesting.

RFE/RL: Do you think that this move might open up the possibility of European countries sending lethal arms to Ukraine since Cameron did say that Britain may be open to this in the future?

Dempsey: No. When you are trying to implement a cease-fire I don't think -- especially Germany and France -- don't want somebody to muddy the waters. I wonder what is behind the British prime minister's motivation on this though...

RFE/RL: What do you think his motivation is?

Dempsey: I don't know. Maybe the Ukrainians asked for some help. Maybe the Ukrainians feel it is better to go though Britain, which has a tradition of training armies and establishing strong civilian military relations. I don't know. I really don't know, it is a very strange time. But if it's to show or send a signal to Russia that Britain is involved in helping to slowly, slowly modernize the Ukrainian Army maybe that is his motive. But 75 [troops] is not a huge number frankly.