Ukrainian president rallies frontline troops after meeting with NATO Military Committee chief
This morning the Ukrainian English-language press confirms that President Volodymyr Zelensky has arrived on the front line between government troops and the independent Donbass region of former Eastern Ukraine. While there he presented awards to service members and pledged to “remember every warrior who died defending our state.”
Earlier the website of the Ukrainian head of state announced that ‘Volodymyr Zelenskyy is going to Donbas as the Supreme Commander-in-Chief to communicate with the military and support the fighting spirit of the defenders.” That is, he’s gone there in a military and not a political or diplomatic capacity.
Yesterday Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, chairman of the NATO Military Committee and senior military advisor to NATO’s Secretary General, left the Ukrainian capital after a two-day visit there. During his stay he met with President Zelenskyy and the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Colonel-General Ruslan Khomchak.
NATO reported that Peach toured Ukraine’s National Land Forces Academy and discussed NATO-Ukraine military cooperation and “the security situation in and around Ukraine.”
The chairman of NATO’s 30-nation Military Committee stated – hours before Zelensky departed for the eastern war zone: “NATO Allies are united in their condemnation of Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea, and its aggressive actions in eastern Ukraine. We call on Russia to end its support for militants in eastern Ukraine and withdraw its forces from Ukrainian territory. Ukraine is one of NATO’s closest and most important partners.”
If the Zelensky administration – and others in the world who pay attention to such matters – had any remaining doubts where NATO stood in relation to the armed conflict in the Donbass region, Peace’s unequivocal, indeed blunt if not bellicose, comments should dispel them readily enough.
Peach also visited Lviv, where he consulted with the head of the nation’s military, Colonel-General Ruslan Khomchak. The two are reported to have discussed Ukraine’s Enhanced Opportunities Partnership with NATO and its continuing role in the military bloc’s Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan, Kosovo Force in Kosovo and the NATO Response Force. Three days ago it was announced that Ukraine became the first non-NATO member to join the Response Force. NATO’s training of Ukrainian armed forces in war zones and post-war missions has been instrumental in preparing them for the war they’re waging now.
On June 12, 2020 NATO declared Ukraine to be an Enhanced Opportunity Partner, which in the words of Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg would provide the nation with greater overall military and weapons interoperability with NATO while integrating its military in exercises inside the country and outside it.
In short, since Ukraine became the first nation incorporated into NATO’s Partnership for Peace program in 1994, the military alliance has been developing it as the proxy military force it has been operating as in the seven-year war in the Donbass.
The UNIAN news agency also reports today that Britain’s Secretary of State for Defense Ben Wallace hosted a virtual meeting with fellow NATO member state colleagues from the U.S. (Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Amanda Dory), Canada, Lithuania and Poland – the latter two NATO’s main military assets near Ukraine – in which the five nations’ defense officials “condemned Russia’s military activity near the borders with Ukraine” and “reaffirmed their unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and Euro-Atlantic aspirations.”
Again, Ukraine’s comedian-cum-commander-in-chief Zelensky could be excused for believing he has the full weight of American and NATO support behind him as he inches closer to war with Russia,