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Germany and Spain to train Ukraine troops under EU programme

Germany and Spain are planning to train thousands of Ukrainian troops under an EU programme to help bolster Kyiv's fightback against Russia, officials said Tuesday.

Germany and Spain to train Ukraine troops under EU programme
Ukrainian soldiers in Saporischschja, Ukraine at the end of October.

Their assistance adds to announcements already given by other EU countries that they will train Ukrainian soldiers on their territories.

The European Union is launching its largest ever military training mission aimed at preparing an initial 15,000 Ukrainian troops for the battlefield.

The main hub for the mission will be in Ukraine’s EU neighbour Poland, with a secondary headquarters set up in Germany.

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Germany’s Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht said at a meeting of EU counterparts in Brussels that Berlin was planning to train 5,000 Ukrainians “in a wide range of skills” by next June.

Spanish Defence Minister Margarita Robles said her country would train 400 troops every two months, with a total capacity of 2,400 a year.

She said facilities had already been put in place at a training facility in the central city of Toledo to house the troops.

France last month announced that it would train up to 2,000 Ukrainian soldiers.

Britain, Canada and the United States — all fellow NATO countries — have already been training Ukrainian military personnel, in Britain and at a US base in Germany.

EU fund under strain

The EU training mission is set up for an initial two years and is expected to cost around €60 million euros annually.

The money comes from the bloc’s European Peace Facility, a fund that has been severely strained as it is tapped to cover the cost of weapon deliveries by EU members to Ukraine.

Defence ministers were discussing whether to bolster the fund, as €3.1 billion — of its total €5.7 billion budget to 2027 — has already been allocated to arming Ukraine.

Brussels says that, along with deliveries by individual member states, the European Union has overall provided military arms and equipment worth eight billion euros to Ukraine.

That’s around 45 percent of the value of arms deliveries provided by the United States.

Kyiv’s European backers have been buoyed by Ukraine’s recent liberation of the key city of Kherson from Russian forces and have pledged to keep the support flowing.

“It means that the help that Ukraine is getting — weapons but also training — is working in the battlefield,” said Dutch Defence Minister Kajsa Ollongren.

“It means the Ukraine has a very good military strategy. So I think it’s extremely important and it means that we have to continue our support to Ukraine,” she said.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, also attending the defence ministers’ meeting, said that the “very sophisticated” nature of modern weapons and tactics required that armies employing them “be completely trained”.

He hailed the Ukrainian army’s advances.

“Russia’s troops are retreating. The war is taking a completely different turn than (Russian President Vladimir) Putin could have imagined when he launched this attack against Ukraine nine months ago,” he said.

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MILITARY

EXPLAINED: How strong is Spain’s military?

Spain may be known for sun, sand and sangria, but many people don't realise that it's also a pretty serious military power.

EXPLAINED: How strong is Spain's military?

Military might isn’t exactly the first thing many people think of when they think of sun soaked Spain. Age old stereotypes like paella, bullfighting, and flamenco dancing are likely to come to mind, but not brute strength.

Yet Spain is a NATO member, and has taken a leading role in arming the Ukrainians as war with Russia rumbles on. With war in Europe for the first time in decades, many Spaniards now might be wondering what their country’s military capabilities are for the first time in their lives.

But how strong is Spain’s military exactly? How big is it, and how does it stack up against other nations?

Overall rankings

According to rankings from Global Firepower, a website that ranks military power along different criteria including defence budget, manpower, land, naval and air capabilities, Spain ranks 19th in the world of the 142 nations included in the standings.

Not bad at all – in terms of comparisons, Spain’s overall military power is comparable to that of Australia, Israel, and Saudi Arabia.

Manpower

According to Global Firepower’s data, Spain has 215,000 total military personnel. Of that figure, 120,000 are active soldiers, which is around 0.3 percent of Spain’s total population and ranks 31st in the world.

Spain also maintains around 15,000 reserve soldiers, 36th best in the world, and a significant number of paramilitary forces – around 80,000, 23rd best in the world.

READ ALSO: Why Spain is still in the wrong time zone because of Hitler

Aircraft

The Spanish military has 503 total aircraft, which is ranked 23rd in the world. Of that 503, 140 are fighter craft (18th in the world), 119 are helicopters (31st in the world) and 15 are considered ‘special mission’ aircraft (19th in the world).

Naval

The Spanish military boasts 139 pieces of naval equipment in total, which ranks 22nd best in the world. Interestingly, Spain has no destroyer (the smaller, more mobile ships that travel and defend convoys) but does have an aircraft carrier, something only seven other countries in the world have: Russia, India, France, China, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Spain has just 2 naval submarines, compared to Italy (8), Pakistan (9), North Korea (35), the United States (68), Russia (70) and China (79).

Land

Spain has 327 tanks (44th in the world) and a significant number of armoured vehicles – 5033, in fact, which ranks 22nd in the world.

Spending

If consider Spain’s defence budget spending (21st overall) compared to its overall global rank (19th) then the Spanish military is relatively good value for money.

According to the Global Firepower figures, Spain spends almost $12 billion a year on its military ($11,750,000,000 to be exact) a much lower annual spend than those countries with similar military might such as Israel ($17,800,000,000 a year) and Australia ($44,618,000,000).

Unsurprisingly, these total spend rankings are dominated by the usual suspects. The United States spends a staggering $770 billion on defence, more than three times China in second place, with $230 billion, while 3rd place Russia spends around $154 billion a year.

Most of Spain’s Defense budget covers personnel expenses (57.2 percent), while 16 percent is spent on operations and maintenance, and 0.8 percent on military infrastructure.

All NATO members are set a target of 20 percent spending on equipment, a threshold Spain easily surpasses – allocating 26.2 percent of its defence budget towards it.

Spanish power?

In this sense, though Spain can’t realistically be considered one of the world’s top military superpowers it is unquestionably a strong military country that spends its budget well – good value for money, in other words.

Though Spain will likely never be able to compete with the world’s military superpowers, its role and strategic partnerships on the global stage mean that it punches above its weight and is surrounded by bigger, stronger allies. It is a NATO member, permanent guest of the G20, and a close military ally of the world’s biggest military behemoth – the United States – even hosting crucial American military bases in Spain.

The Spanish military packs a punch, and has the allies to back it up.

READ ALSO: Where are the US’s military bases in Spain and why are they there?

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