Decision 2024

Poland hopes new NATO training center could prepare Ukrainians living abroad to fight Russia

WASHINGTON — (AP) — A new joint training center in Poland that NATO is setting up with Ukraine ideally would be used to provide military training to potentially "millions" of Ukrainian civilians living abroad who would be willing to come home to join the fight against Russia, a senior Polish security official said.

Jacek Siewiera, the head of Poland’s National Security Bureau, spoke to The Associated Press on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Washington.

Siewiera is one of the officials most closely involved in his country's work supporting Ukraine's fight and building up its own defenses against Russia. He spoke of that possible use of the new training center, which NATO announced early this year, as he pointed to Russia's success greatly expanding its military ranks during the war in Ukraine.

More than two years into the war, Ukraine, with a population much smaller than Russia's, is having difficulty fielding enough recruits. Eastern European countries including Poland are sounding the alarm about Russia's strengthening military, saying President Vladimir Putin may be emboldened to turn his sights on more countries if his fight against Ukraine's Western-allied government succeeds.

The new NATO-Ukraine center in Bydgoszcz, Poland, itself is intended to up NATO's long-term commitment to Ukraine. That's coming as the possibility of a new Donald Trump presidency leaves the future of U.S. support for Ukraine and NATO in some doubt.

The joint training center is planned in part to have Ukrainians teach NATO member countries some of the lessons Ukrainians have learned about fighting Russian forces in an affordable and effective ways, such as using civilian drones in the battlefield, Siewiera noted.

For NATO member militaries, “those details ... are absolutely crucial to have,” he said.

Siewiera in his conversation with the AP on Tuesday also spoke of a second possible use for the new NATO center in his country.

The West also has to look at the NATO center as a potential center for training Ukrainians for volunteer forces, “the volunteers who are now present in European countries and are willing to defend Ukraine in the future, because there are millions of them,” he said.

Some of those forces would prefer to have their training in European countries, he said. Ukraine's military is straining to provide battlefield-readiness to raw recruits even as it fights Russia.

Siewiera also spoke in favor of Ukraine being allowed to use the weapons that it gets from NATO allies against Russian military targets in Russia. The Biden administration is greatly limiting Ukraine's use of U.S.-provided weapons inside Russia for fear of provoking greater Russian escalation.

“It's up to Ukrainians how they use their weapons" once they get them, he argued.

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