Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Ukraine Weighs Up Afghanistan Role

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine is among several countries under pressure from the U.S to send troops to Afghanistan to fight the Taliban. American Defense Secretary Robert Gates has asked 10 countries in south-east Europe to provide 3,000 troops.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates speaks during a meeting in Kiev October 21, 2007.

Robert Gates made the appeal during a meeting of South-East European Defence Ministers in Ukraine’s capital, Kiev:

“I am not satisfied that an alliance whose members have over 2 million soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen cannot find the modest additional resources that have been committed for Afghanistan”.

NATO Membership

Ukraine is keen to join NATO, and helping America in Afghanistan would bolster its standing among Washington’s elites.

Some experts say Ukraine will keep its army on stand-by unless it gets some political and economic incentives.

”This defence council is like an incubator for NATO members. But it doesn’t require sending troops anywhere. Before doing so, Ukraine will consider political and human risks. A very small percent of Ukrainians support their membership in NATO,” said Nikolay Syngyrovsky, Director of Military Programmes of the Razumkov Center.

Bitter Memories

As a part of the Soviet Union, Ukraine lost more than 3,000 people in the war in Afghanistan in the 1980s. So any indication that its men will go to war there again opens up old wounds.

If Ukraine commits troops to the conflict, for some people this could seem a repeat of the Soviet-Afghan war, but now on the side of the enemy.

To refute this theory, Ukraine’s Defence Minister promised that member states are not obliged to fight and will only do so after consulting the President and parliament.

Source: Russia Today

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