Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 171

Cossack Steppe-2000,” an exercise of rapid-deployment troops, has been underway since September 11 at Ukraine’s military training range Opuk near Feodosya on the Black Sea. Some 900 soldiers–including British Royal Marines, Polish airborne troops and Ukrainian marine infantry [marines]–as well as forty armored vehicles, six aircraft and five naval ships are involved in this exercise on the eastern Crimean coast under NATO’s Partnership for Peace program. The ten-day exercise is designed to practice joint staff planning of a peacekeeping operation and its execution by Ukrainian and NATO countries’ forces.

The scenario is said to envisage an outbreak of externally inspired ethnic strife, necessitating a joint response by Ukrainian and NATO peacekeeping troops. These would stage an amphibious and airborne landing in the conflict area, form safety zones, disarm unlawful paramilitary units, participate in humanitarian relief operations, support restoration of the constitutional order, and buttress a new security structure to stabilize the area. This scenario has irritated local Communist groups into picketing the Feodosya area.

Cossack Steppe is the latest in a series of major NATO activities hosted by Ukraine this year (see the Monitor, March 6, June 26, July 18; Fortnight in Review, March 17, July 7). Elsewhere, Ukrainian troops serve in Kosovo as part of the peacekeeping force under NATO command. Cementing that relationship, the Ukrainian contingent in Kosovo is now made up of troops of the Ukrainian-Polish joint battalion (UkrPolBat) which officially began its mission in Kosovo on September 6.

UkrPolBat is one of only two units thus far set up by a post-Soviet country with a NATO country, the other unit of this type being the Lithuanian-Polish battalion. Last week the Ukrainian Defense Minister, General Oleksandr Kuzmuk, signed cooperation agreements with his counterparts in Latvia and Lithuania, frontrunner countries–together with Estonia–for admission to NATO. In the course of his visit, Kuzmuk publicly expressed thinly-veiled sympathy for the Baltic states’ aspiration to join the NATO alliance (UNIAN, September 6, 11-12; BNS, LETA, September 4, 6).