It’s easy to see international cooperation in black and white terms: either you’re “in” a particular body or organisation or you’re “out”.  This is often tied to “zero-sum” thinking, which argues that something which is good for one person or country has to be bad for another.  In reality, however, international relations includes a vast array of different forms of cooperation, many of which are not zero-sum but “win-win” ie things which are good for one country or person are good for another too.

I thought of this when on 1 July Ukraine joined the Greek-led Balkan EU Battle Group, sometimes also known as the HELBROC Battle Group (an acronym for HELlas, Bulgaria, Romania, Cyprus).  An EU Battle Group is a stand-by military force designed to give member states the ability to provide rapid response elements in support of the Petersberg tasks (“military tasks of a humanitarian, peacekeeping and peacemaking nature”).  This is the first time Ukraine has joined such a group and she will work alongside the other nations for a six-month period, contributing 10 staff officers, a company of Ukrainian marines with their armoured vehicles, and an IL-76 strategic lift aircraft.

This is good stuff and shows the ability of the Ukrainian armed forces to cooperate with those of EU member states to practical effect.  It also reflects on support provided by the UK, including a month-long training package in Crimea designed to help Ukrainian troops work with those of other countries; and English-language and other professional training.  The Ukrainian marines have a good reputation – the UK is grateful to them for having helped evacuate British nationals, alongside Ukrainians and other nationalities, from Tripoli in April.  By working with other nations in the EU Battle Group, the Ukrainian armed forces boost the ability of all the countries involved to work together in the interests of peace, promoting people-people links and basic trust and understanding in a way which 20 years ago would have seemed almost inconceivable.   

Leigh Turner


British Ambassador to Ukraine
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