Rapid Trident-2017: Are Ukrainians ready to stand side by side with NATO troops?

Author : Iryna Sampan

Source : 112 Ukraine

The purpose of these military exercises, held in Lviv region, is to ensure the compatibility of the Ukrainian armed forces with NATO forces
10:05, 20 September 2017

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Now the enemy has crossed the state border and launched an offensive. First, his reconnaissance groups entered the territory of the country, after which one unit came in the direction of the defense of the second mechanized battalion of the allies. Currently, the battle for the first line of defense is taking place. The enemy's goal is to join the separatist groups that operate on Ukrainian territory and continue the offensive in the direction of city X. The task of the Ukrainian army and allies is not to let the enemy pass the line of defense, not to unite with the separatist groupings and defend city X.

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To combat the enemy's army, multinational division, which consists of three brigades - Ukrainian, Polish, Lithuanian, is launched. A group of National Guards was sent to suppress the separatist groups. Another airborne-assault company comes to help. Groups, whose actions are directed against the integrity of the state, must be eliminated.

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For two weeks, this scenario has been worked out during the Rapid Trident Ukrainian-American exercises, held at Yavorivsky test site in Lviv region (Western Ukraine). Representatives of 15 countries are involved in the drills, servicemen of the 30th and 95th Brigades of the Armed Forces represent Ukrainian side.

The purpose of these exercises is to ensure the compatibility of the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) with NATO forces. NATO standards are not something ephemeral and not "just to be better than you are." To make it clearer, these are like state standards; they are the same for all members of the Alliance, from food to planning operations and conducting combat operations. For example, when forming an assault group for stripping a building with four military personnel (Briton, American, Lithuanian, and German), the commander only distributes the role of everyone, without detailed explaining what to do. They already know this.

"You're the first". If I am first, I burst into the room and get into the first right corner, because everyone in NATO who first enters the building is taught this way. "You are the second." If I am the second, then I burst into the room, issue a line to the enemy, which is at the end of the room, and get into the next corner, following NATO standards.

Therefore, the key questions are whether the servicemen of the countries of the North Atlantic Alliance are ready to fight in any conditions with Ukrainian servicemen, and how much the Ukrainian army or some of its representatives are prepared for combat alongside Americans, Germans, Estonians, French.

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While the military, together with the Defense Minister, were happy to open a new Center for Simulation, the journalists were looking for something sensational. Some of them were interviewing the Americans, "when will you give us Javelins," others chased the military from Moldova who "disobeyed their president and came to Ukraine for study," while others decided to ask Ukraine’s Defense Minister Poltorak whether  Ukrainian soldiers in Donbas are not allowed to dig trenches. None of the journalists has found something sensational, because servicemen from the United States are incompetent to speak for Trump about the provision of lethal weapons, the Moldovans did not comment on the policy, saying only: "We did not violate anything, it was an order of the Minister of Defense and the order of the Cabinet", and Stepan Poltorak smiled in the answer to the question about the trenches, assuring that "this is not true."

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Here are some opinions of partners about the Ukrainian army, and what Ukrainians say about those who help Ukraine’s Armed Forces. Americans do not longer train the Ukrainians, but directly observe Ukrainian instructors who conduct classes, and then point out to them their mistakes. This was told by Captain Kyle Christopher, officer of the Public Relations Department of the 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the United Multinational Training Group - Ukraine. American servicemen also learned a lot from their Ukrainian colleagues.

"I am very impressed by Ukrainian soldiers’ desire to train. We have been partners for a long time. I am amazed how they have improved their work on an individual level and at the level of individual teachings. I expect to see more interaction between our servicemen, starting from the individual level, the command headquarters and the brigade," the representative of the American contingent, Mr. Miller, shares his impressions of the exercises.

Some of the 95th brigade fighters who are currently trained have experience of participation in anti-terrorist operation in Donbas (ATO). For most, this is the first and only experience of combat. The Americans have their own experience, learned in Afghanistan or Iraq, and it is completely different. On the question, whether there were conflicts on this basis, Captain Christopher answered that there have been such cases.

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“I will say that there have been some units that when I came in were initially resistant to learning what we had to teach them because of that exact impression. You know – we’ve been there, we know what it’s like. So basically what we are trying to do is not necessarily push our tactics and techniques on to them, but it’s rather an exchange. So they show us how they do things, we show them how we do things. And then we talk through why do you do it that way, and then they tell us well you know, in ATO.. this happens. And we say ok, let’s take the best practice of what you know and incorporate the best what we know to make the training unique to you. So they have become less resistant to the teaching because they understand that we do have valuable experience to teach them and we also try to incorporate the things that they know so we can tailor the training specifically for each unit,” she noted.

On Friday, Ukrainian servicemen have demonstrated their skills to the high-ranking guests, representatives of armies of 15 countries, and journalists. Several episodes in different locations: attack response of the sabotage-reconnaissance group, evacuation by helicopter, break through the checkpoint, cleaning and liquidation of the enemy in buildings and other elements.

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In addition to UAF, 103 representatives of the National Guard of Ukraine were involved in the exercises. More than half of them have been to ATO zone, they have combat experience. At the Rapid Trident-2017 exercises, UAF unit performs a number of tasks, including service at roadblocks, just like in the real life. According to the plan, National guards still perform escorts for UAF columns and a number of other tasks.

Related: NATO: Belarusian-Russian drills West-2017 look like preparation for big war

War is war, but do not forget about the lunch. Several kinds of salads, side dishes, meat. Vegetables, fruits, juices, tea. Lviv training range, along with some other training centers, has recently switched to a new food system. Now it is following NATO standards, by the way.

The scenario of the exercises was not disclosed, so that the military themselves did not know what exactly would happen.

"All the enemy's actions that we see on the simulation system are a surprise for us, we must react to them according to the situation that develops, we do not have the opportunity to plan our war in advance. That is, it is planned, but we can learn in real time how the enemy behaves," the head of G3 section Serhiy Chyhyryn explains.

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He remembered the "system of simulation." Therefore, this is another standard of NATO, which Ukraine together with its partners has developed and has been improving for the past two years. On Friday, Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak opened the Simulation Center on the territory of the International Peacekeeping Center, pointing out that such an event is "the next step to the criteria that the UAF needs to join the Alliance."

That is, in simple terms, this is an interactive map, which is quickly reflected in everything that happens in the conflict zone and on the front line in particular. It operates from the level of the "battalion" and the sectors of UAF and ends with the General Staff, the Minister of Defense, the Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council and the President. Each user has his own account, and there is a general chat, a conversation where you can very quickly deliver information. For example, the battalion commander found something in the zone of his responsibility, he puts a conditional mark on the map, describes what it is, and this information is instantly seen by the brigade headquarters, headquarters of the UAF and by the General Staff.

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According to UAF soldier Marat Utyushev, the partners are still timid about the system, since for colleagues from different countries this is a new and unexplored project. However, this system is already two years old; for a year and a half it has been working in ATO zone.

"We have created it for 6-7 months, now we are adding different services. We take maps from space imagery and adapt to the needs of the army," Utyushev stated. "To date, we are using the approaches that NATO will use in 2020. We are already using them to avoid this path, not to waste time and money," he added.

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They have created the building of the Simulation Center for the funds of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, but the equipment was purchased by the US and they spent more than $ 22 million on it. Such data was voiced by Stepan Poltorak at a briefing for Ukrainian and foreign media and assured that similar centers will be opened in other training centers.

The journalists were not very interested in the modeling center, they had the opportunity to ask the minister some other questions - about the deceased fighter, about opening fire in response, about NATO, about "Javelins" and so on.

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Minister of Defense reported that the inventory of weapons in the Armed Forces is on a monthly basis. "I have no complaints from our partners about the availability of the equipment and equipment that they we were given," assured Stepan Poltorak Americans again shook their heads approvingly. And some journalists needed to ask once again about "Javelins."

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"As for equipment, in recent years, America has been helping Ukraine with equipment that helps to save lives for military personnel, equipment that is used purely for the purposes of state defense, including first-aid kits and radars for determining enemy forces," said the head of the US contingent in the operation (JMTG-U) "Joined Multinational Training Group - Ukraine" Colonel David Jordan.

He added that the JMTG-U group will stay in Ukraine until 2020, until “Ukraine independently assumes this responsibility. Regarding other issues, they concern politics at the state level.”

“For 55 days, the unit of the 95th Brigade was trained in NATO standards. This is training, which includes both individual level and battalion level. All servicemen who have received training meet NATO standards, and we are ready to stand next to them at any time," Poltorak notes.

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