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  Issue 12 – October 2003

Regional co-operation in the Ukrainian–Polish Peacekeeping Battalion

Poland and Ukraine have recently made great steps to overcome historic tensions between the two countries.

Ukraine has a staunch ally in Poland in its bid to join both NATO and the EU. An example of this co-operation can be seen in the Ukrainian–Polish Battalion (UKPOLBAT). This is an area where Peacekeeping English projects from both countries have been closely involved from the start.

Display Team David Pardoe, Manager, PEP Ukraine (back row, left), Paul Woods, PEP Director (back row, third left) and Walter Nowlan (back row, centre), with members of the Ukrainian Parachute Display Team at the Kaliniv Helicopter Base

A few years ago the historic tension came to a head when the local government in Lviv cancelled the opening of a military cemetery by Polish President, Alexander Kwasniewski. The reason was the word ‘heroic’ on a momument. This word described fallen Polish soldiers who had fought against opposing troops in 1918 when the country took control of a sizeable chunk of the Ukraine. Local authorities had taken exception, claiming that fallen Ukrainians had not been similarly honoured in Poland, and that ‘heroic’ should not be used in the context of imperialism.

With this background it is commendable that something like the UKPOLBAT exists at all. However, the battalion has proved to be the jewel in the crown of Ukraine’s rapidly changing armed forces. Military reform is a slow and difficult progress, but UKPOLBAT is a model of focusing resources on need, and selecting and training the best people. It is a Ukrainian success story in which PEP has played a significant shaping role.

All communication between Polish soldiers and their Ukrainian counterparts is officially conducted in English. Their training focuses on peacekeeping operations, which they successfully do in Kosovo as part of the KFOR group. English language is integral to that training process.

The brigade was formed in 1997, and has been receiving language tuition since then in both Poland and Ukraine. The courses were initially intensive – four hours a day over five days. In 2000 troops from the brigade were sent to Kosovo. PEP taught the second contingent. When the first contingent returned lessons had been reduced to three days to fit in with other training needs. However, the teachers were surprised by an increase in language ability, especially in colloquial language. It seems contact with a multinational force had paid off. The highest level taught in Ukraine has been at Upper-Intermediate/STANAG 3 level.

During this time the brigade was downsized to a battalion, so we saw a subsequent drop in student numbers, which allowed us greater flexibility in using our budget. Teaching in Poland has stopped now as they have successfully reached their language target for officers within the battalion.

This year in Ukraine we have reduced direct teaching to just four hours a week for two groups. In addition resources will be donated on a monthly basis from the newly opened Self-Access Centre in Lviv to help those not taking lessons to maintain or improve their level of English. We will also be recording what the potential student does within the battalion and their plans for the future. By assessing their suitability for training we will help focus resources more effectively, and help weed out people who hope to take advantage of service in Kosovo, because it entitles them to benefits. We aim to target those learners who need English for more long-term careers in the military. This is in line with the Ukrainian MOD’s own plans to target training at some 2,500 identified posts which need ELT.

Although this has been a joint effort on both sides of the Polish–Ukrainian border, the two countries have followed very different training plans. It is our task now to increase the regional co-operation both on the part of PEP and at state level within the MODs so that Ukraine can learn from Poland’s experience along the road to NATO membership. This co-operation in the area of ELT will undoubtedly have an effect of building up trust and increasing regional stability. In PEP we have several promising initiatives to step up this process of regional co-operation. Mark Crossey (PEP Manager, Poland) will be visiting Ukraine on a STANAG consultancy to share experiences of Poland and we have planned a joint teacher training event in Lviv. On a more personal level it is refreshing to see Polish car number plates outside the battalion’s training centre. We just wonder how much vodka has been enjoyed in toasting the success of continued Ukrainian–Polish co-operation.

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