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Estonian PM: NATO training soldiers in Ukraine won't escalate war

by Kateryna Denisova and The Kyiv Independent news desk May 20, 2024 10:48 AM 2 min read
Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas speaks to reporters in Brussels, Belgium, on Dec. 15, 2023. (Miguel Medina/AFP via Getty Images)
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The NATO allies' fears that sending troops to Ukraine to train the country's soldiers could draw them into war with Russia "are not well-founded," Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said in an interview with the Financial Times published on May 20.

Some NATO member states are discussing the possibility of sending military instructors or contractors to Ukraine to train Ukrainian troops and assist with equipment repairs, the New York Times reported last week.

Kyiv has asked the U.S. and other NATO countries to help train 150,000 soldiers closer to the front lines, the outlet wrote.

"There are countries who are training soldiers on the ground already," Kallas told FT, adding that they did so at their own risk.

The prime minister did not name any specific countries or provide any further details on their purported operations.

If Russia attacked the training personnel, it would not automatically trigger NATO's Article 5 on mutual defense, according to the prime minister.

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Kallas said that helping to train Ukrainian troops on their own territory, rather than elsewhere in Europe, will not escalate the war with Russia.

"I can't possibly imagine that if somebody is hurt there, then those who have sent their people will say 'it's article 5. Let's ... bomb Russia.' It is not how it works. It's not automatic," Kallas said.

The debate on the potential presence of NATO troops in Ukraine was sparked by comments made by French President Emmanuel Macron in February, in which he considered the possibility of sending troops to Ukraine if requested.

The U.S. and multiple European allies, as well as NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, have distanced themselves from Macron's statement. However, several countries have not ruled out sending troops for non-combat missions, such as training the Ukrainian military.

Estonian Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur said on May 14 that the idea of sending Western troops to Ukraine has not advanced either in Estonia or at the EU level since "there is no clear understanding among the allies what it would bring."

Macron says he would consider sending troops to Ukraine in case of Russian breakthrough, Ukrainian request
French President Emmanuel Macron added that such conditions did not currently exist.
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