Britain, Ukraine and Poles make pact on defence

A trilateral defence arrangement between Britain, Poland and Ukraine has been unveiled, as 3,500 British troops in Poland carry out the largest armoured exercise since the Gulf War.

They will conduct manoeuvres in the wide spaces of a former member of the Warsaw Pact which Nato spent 35 years preparing to fight.

The British Army is delighted with the new training facilities among the rolling woodland and lakes of Prussia, which dwarf anything available in Britain or Germany, where it is increasingly cramped. But the deal has a greater importance.

The arrangement bridges the gap between Poland - a leading candidate for Nato membership - and Ukraine, which has until recently opposed expansion of Nato and is unlikely to join. It also gives Britain a foothold in eastern Europe.

Poland and Ukraine have a joint population of more than 80 million - the same as Germany - and, at 450,000-strong, Ukraine's armed forces are Europe's largest after Russia's and Turkey's.

Ukraine's Defence Minister, Lieutenant General Oleksandr Kuzmuk, signalled that Ukraine's opposition to Nato's eastward expansion had softened. "It is the sovereign right of any country to decide to which bloc they want to belong to. For us, it is the will of our president, parliament and the Ukrainian nation that we are a non-bloc nation," he said. "But we are for cooperation with any of our neighbours, east, north or west." The Polish Defence Minister, Stanislaw Dobrzanski, stressed that Poland's desire to be in Nato was not aimed "to be against anyone or threaten anyone".

Ukraine has also been concerned that the extension of the Nato nuclear guarantee to Poland might mean nuclear weapons being based on Polish soil, although with modern nuclear weapons that would not be necessary. "Ukraine was the third nuclear state in size [after the US and Russia] but it has relinquished its nuclear status," Lt Gen Kuzmuk, a former Soviet tank brigade commander, said. "So you must take account of Ukraine's view that nuclear weapons should remain where they are now."

Even more extraordinary than the reconciliation between former Nato and Warsaw Pact enemies is the warming of relations between Poland and Ukraine, after centuries of territorial disputes and bloodshed.

The Ukrainian and Polish ministers were joined by the British armed forces minister, Nicholas Soames. They confirmed they had agreed a trilateral defence arrangement which would include the use of each other's training facilities and a joint parachute exercise. A joint Polish-Ukrainian battalion is to be set up to specialise in peacekeeping operations.

The most radical innovation may be the British use of air-to-ground ranges in Ukraine.

The British were delighted with the 400-square-kilometre training area. After nine days of training by the individual armoured battle groups (about 1,000 troops each), they combine for a four-day rehearsal of full armoured warfare.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executives - Outbound & Inbound

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'