Uncertainty in Ukraine causes EUCOM to cancel exercise
June 25, 2009
STUTTGART, Germany — The U.S. military has called off an annual multinational training exercise scheduled for next month off the coast of Ukraine, where political turmoil has crippled the former Soviet-bloc nation’s ability to make the necessary preparations.
U.S. European Command was forced to withdraw after the Ukrainian parliament failed to grant permission for foreign militaries to enter the country’s territory — a precondition for conducting maneuvers around Ukraine’s Black Sea coastline, EUCOM confirmed. With no deal reached, time had run out for getting equipment in place for the start of the Sea Breeze exercise, which was scheduled to run July 13-26.
Some 2,000 U.S. military personnel, including sailors of the Navy’s 6th Fleet and a battalion of Marines were slated to take part in the exercise. It was to include servicemembers from 19 countries.
"That’s going to be it for this year," said Lt. Col. John Dorrian, a EUCOM spokesman, saying that the event will not be rescheduled for later in 2009.
However, EUCOM will soon begin planning Sea Breeze 2010 with its Ukrainian counterparts.
"There are no plans to cancel. Building partner capacity and interoperability, that’s what we do," Dorrian said.
But Ukraine, which has been hit hard by the global economic crisis, is in a state of political disarray. It has no defense minister or foreign minister in place. And, infighting and an ongoing feud between the country’s president and prime minister has ground government business to a standstill. The country is even in jeopardy of losing its position as host of the 2012 European soccer championships because it is far behind schedule in building the required facilities, according to Ukrainian news reports.
With so much political uncertainty, it is unclear what the future holds for future Sea Breeze exercises, which first started in 1997. The 2006 exercise also was nixed because of a lack of parliamentary approval.
This year’s exercise was to have a special focus on anti-piracy techniques in preparation for Ukraine’s participation in the NATO mission off the coast of Somalia, according to Ukrainian news accounts.
The joint operations are aimed at improving the capacity of militaries to communicate and work together on missions.