Ukraine's military needs mastery of English to boost cooperation with NATO
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Ukraineâs military is improving its combat effectiveness and interoperability with NATO, but it still needs to improve its English-language skills and continue embracing modern military thinking, the allianceâs senior representatives of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) asserted on Oct. 22.
A SHAPE delegation came to Ukraine on Oct. 22 to pay visits and give lectures as part of the NATO days held at three major military academies in Kyiv, Odesa and Kharkiv.
Speaking to the Kyiv Post prior to the tour, the delegationâs head, Major General Odd Pedersen, noted that Ukraineâs efforts towards transforming its military has already resulted in having a number of combat formations that actually meet the 29-member allianceâs criteria of high-combat effectiveness.
âHaving Ukraine as part of many of NATOâs operations throughout the years have been the most successful,â Petersen said.
âBecause you troops have represented their country very well, and they have done well in complicated scenarios. Iâm taking about Afghanistan and Kosovo, but also about the Sea Guardian, the maritime operations (aimed to ensure security in the Mediterranean).â
Last month, he added, NATOâs Allied Land Command (LANDCOM) successfully evaluated two Ukrainian combat formations belonging to the countryâs Special Operations Forces, particularly a engineering company, as well as an SBRN (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear) defense company.
By doing this, the NATO command officially confirmed that the evaluated units were completely interoperable and capable of operating with NATO standards and procedures â" which is basically an ultimate goal for the whole Ukrainian defense and security sector under its 2020 reform.
âI cannot speak for all of the Ukrainian Armed Forces,â Pedersen concluded. âBut those evaluated units that I have seen are doing well.â
NATOâs SHAPE Major General Odd Pedersen talks to the Kyiv Post during a meeting at NATO Liaison Office in Kyiv on Oct. 22. (Oleg Petrasiuk)
However, as Pedersen noted, there remains a considerable problem standing on th e way: an insufficient level of proficiency in a foreign language among many of Ukraineâs military personnel.
âEnglish and French are two languages spoken in the alliance,â the general asserted.
âAnd if you want to be listened to and to able to get to your point, you need to speak quite good English. And that is sometimes complicated for the Ukrainian Armed Forces.â
Upon that, many of Ukraineâs military personnel of older age, who started their career long before the westernization of the Ukrainian army was launched, tend to have problems with foreign languages, while the youth in uniform demonstrate excellent result in this realm.
âThis tells me itâs probably a generation thing,â Pedersen concluded.
Besides, he added, another thing that Ukraine should stick to is âchallenging the old way of doing thingsâ in the military.
However, from his perspective, even though Ukraine needs reforms in the defense and security sector , another thing that should be always remembered is that such massive transformations that the Ukrainian forces assumed under the 2020 reform could not be done in just a snap, and that it will take years of steadfast evolutionary work to reach a complete compatibility with NATO benchmarks.
âYou can ask your neighbor Romania how many years did it take for them to change their armed forces according to NATO doctrines and standards. That took them 15 years,â General said.
But apart from improving its English, Ukrainian army is absolutely welcome to participate in even more joint drills and operations with NATO, which greatly helps forge better relations between the Ukrainian and NATO military forces.
Soon, Ukrainian troops would get another good chance to show themselves: as General Pedersen said, Ukraine would join NATO drills in the Baltic Sea region Trident Juncture between Oct. 25 and Nov. 7.
âI have a responsibility for more than 400 activities in 2019, which is a huge amount of activities for me,â he concluded. âAnd this is probably the largest number of activities in any country that we are dealing with from the partnership side.â
âSo Ukraine is doing well, it gets a lot of attention, but of course, are we there? Probably not yet.â
On numerous occasions, NATO officials provided rather positive feedback specifically regarding the development of professional sergeant corps in the Ukrainian army under Western model of non-commissioned officers rather than old Soviet-style approach.
With the new model, Ukrainian sergeants will become the ones who are trained to assume all duties on ensuring discipline, morale, training, and taking care of soldiersâ everyday needs, letting officers to concentrate on their command-and-control functions.
Chief Warrant Officer Martin Cartier from the Canadian Armed Forces, also a member of SHAPE delegation to Ukraine, a lso stressed that this aspect of the defense reform is marked with a considerable progress.
âThe NCO corps progress is indeed a success story.â Chief Warrant Officer Cartier told the Kyiv Post. âIt is well on its way to achieving their goals.â
NATOâs SHAPE Senior Enlisted Leader Martin Cartier talks to the Kyiv Post during a meeting at NATO Liaison Office in Kyiv on Oct. 22. (Oleg Petrasiuk)
âI know it is successful just because I see the fact that it keeps progressing all the time. It is being recognized worldwide in various training and exercises. About the (Ukrainian) guys in Kosovo, I hear nothing but good. They are improving their status and their level of interoperability (with NATO forces).â
He, however, also noted that the lack of proficiency in foreign languages among Ukrainian military is still a problem to progress.
âIt is speaking English that sometimes creates a barrier for development, unfortunately,â Cartier said.
âWe have to get better at developing (Ukrainian) NCOs that speak English for NATO environment. It will just be easier for them and easier for the allied countries theyâre working on.â
But then again, he added, thereâs no point waiting for immediate results: such a profound reform would take lots of time.
âThe last thing you want to do in the process of reforms is to rush through it,â Cartier said. âA human being is reluctant to change â" itâs a normal fact. If you rush through this, youâll be pushing people to do what they are not ready to do.â
âAnother thing is that they need to accept the change before. You have to take your time, because to change such thing a thing as a rank structure, it takes time. And you donât want to do it once â" you need to go through every step to ensure youâre doing it properly so that when you implement it, e verybodyâs understanding what it is, everybody agrees with what it is, and everybody would follow that.â
But even so, he expressed optimism towards the future of Ukraineâs defense and security reform.
âAre you on the right path? Yes. Are you doing it quick and well? Yes. How long will it take? It is impossible to say, because it also needs the support from all the entities, and the (Ukrainian) government has to be behind everything else,â Cartier said.
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Source: Google News Ukraine | Netizen 24 Ukraine