Assessment has already been done, says defence minister
Portugal is ready to give military training to Ukrainian soldiers, and has already carried out an assessment of the type of training it can offer, minister of defence, Helena Carreiras told journalists last night.
Speaking in Brussels where she was attending a meeting of NATO defence chiefs, Ms Carreiras said: “at this moment, the sending of more military material” to Ukraine “is not on the table” – particularly where heavy material is concerned – but Portugal could provide training to Ukraine’s armed forces in Portugal itself.
This would, for example, be training in how to manoeuvre Leopard tanks – “equipment they have and for which they need to train their soldiers, and perhaps also training in the area of demining and inactivation of explosive devices.
“We already have an assessment done of the type of training we can offer,” she said.
While acknowledging there has not yet been any kind of “concrete request” from the Ukrainian authorities, the minister said there is a notion that “it is a need that will arise”.
Only a few days ago, militarywatchmagazine online reported that Spain was “planning the provision of 40 Leopard 2A4 tanks to bolster Kyiv’s position. The tanks have been in storage for a decade in a Spanish Army logistics base”, said the site, suggesting training could be given on how to use them by Spanish troops stationed in Latvia.
If however Ukraine requests Portugal’s support “and we always work along these lines, that is, we respond according to the needs of Ukraine”, said Ms Carreiras, “this training can be provided right away. It is not in fact a post-war situation.”
Hours earlier, at a news conference ahead of the meeting, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said alliance members were willing to provide modern heavy weapons to Ukraine, as requested by Kyiv, but for that to happen Ukraine’s military had to be trained to use them.
“We took the measure as a matter of urgency, but these efforts require time,” he said. “The transition from Soviet-era equipment to modern NATO equipment means Ukrainians must be prepared. It is a difficult and demanding transition…”
The process, he explained, involves modern “artillery, long-range systems and anti-aircraft systems” that need training and maintenance.
Other NATO countries have already been actively training Ukrainian soldiers – particularly the UK and US (which has been using military bases in Germany for this purpose).
Portugal meantime has already provided several tonnes of “military material, lethal and non-lethal, equipment, ammunition, weapons, as well as communications and health material”, stressed Ms Carreiras. The country has also said that it is “willing to receive Ukrainian wounded if necessary”.
Today in Kyiv, French president Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi have met with Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy, promising continued European support and help when it comes to rebuilding the country.
The United States yesterday pledged another billion dollars worth of arms for Ukrainian forces, with President Biden quoted as saying that “the bravery, resilience, and determination of the Ukrainian people continues to inspire the world.”
Sources in Russia meantime have sought to belittle new pledges of weapons support, deriding them as “absolutely useless” and likely only to “cause further damage to the country”.
Sources: Lusa / Portugal Resident