KYIV - Partnership is a two-way street; a mutually beneficial relationship that leverages both entities abilities to achieve a greater result as one. The ever-deepening ties between NATO Allied Land Command and Ukraine's Land Forces is a good example of building that street.
NATO Allied Land Command commander U.S. Army Lieutenant General Roger Cloutier, with his command team and 15 staff members, traveled to Ukraine's Land Forces Headquarters from July 5 - 8, 2021 to conduct Land staff talks in order to deepen cooperation and support with the Enhanced Opportunity Partner.
"These talks will link our staffs closer together," Lieutenant General Cloutier stated during opening remarks to the LANDCOM and Ukraine staff teams. "So, if in the middle of the night you need to pick up the phone to call your friend, you know who that person is, and you've seen them face-to-face."
The first Land Staff Talks with Ukraine coincided with the signing of a Letter of Cooperation in 2018, signifying the intent for a deeper partnership between the two organizations. Ukraine's alignment with NATO dates as far back as the early 90's, and has been a consistent and robust partner to the NATO Alliance; contributing forces to NATO-led exercises, operations in Afghanistan and Kosovo (to name a few), and the NATO Response Force. The second iterations of talks were originally scheduled for spring of 2020, but travel restrictions due to COVID-19 postponed the event no less than three times.
Breaking into staff sections representing both forces, these syndicates worked to understand similarities and differences between the two organizations to bring Ukraine closer to NATO standards, and by consequence, making the country a more interoperable partner. From Intelligence to Civilian-Military Cooperation, the whole spectrum of staff work was represented and engaged with the goal of building an action plan for future, more technically specific, activities.
"This time with my Ukrainian counterpart was essential to understand their engineer tasks and capabilities," said U.S. Army Major Donald Verpoorten, LANDCOM's general engineering plans officer. "Addressing their most pressing issue, the IED threat in the Donbass and Luhansk regions, we are working together to develop an MTT program to better posture Ukrainian soldiers on the ground against explosive threats."
The next morning, the syndicates reconvened in the auditorium to deliver the results of their time together, and present courses of action tailored to improve capability at the section level. Some actions included additional visits for Ukraine Land Forces Headquarters by a Mobile Training Team, internships at LANDCOM headquarters, and consistent communication.
As LANDCOM's staff syndicate returned to Turkey, Lt. Gen. Cloutier and CSEL Mathers, not missing the extended their visit to get out of the office and observe tactical training of Ukrainian Land Forces, and meet the US Army Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine currently manned by Task Force Raven, 81st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, Washington National Guard. Through observing training events designed to improve trench warfare, sniper, wet gap crossing, and urban operations, LANDCOM's command team had a better sense of the capabilities of the Ukrainian soldier who are openly engaged in hostilities by Russian forces.
Ukraine's combat experience is a critical component of the LANDCOM-Ukraine partnership. While LANDCOM presents the NATO standard, Ukraine Land Forces' leadership is able to share their procedures honed from combatting Russian aggression. The latest round of Land Staff Talks were just the latest example of the two-way street growing stronger.