My Enemy’s Enemies Are My Friends—Even If Some of Them May Be Neo-Nazis

July 26, 2022 Updated: July 26, 2022

Commentary

As the war in Ukraine grinds on, the UK is stepping up its support for the embattled nation by training new recruits for its depleted army on British soil. When I recently contacted the Ministry of Defense (MOD) for details I was informed, “The UK-led training programme has capacity to train up to 10,000 Ukrainian soldiers every 120 days.”

The spokesperson added: “We have a long history of military cooperation with Ukraine that predates Russia’s invasion in February 2022. This includes Operation ORBITAL during which British troops trained more than 22,000 members of the Ukrainian Armed Forces between 2015 and 2022.”

Over a thousand UK service personnel from 11 Security Force Assistance Brigade have been deployed to run the program, which is part of a nearly $3 billion defense support package to Ukraine.

Defense minister Ben Wallace has said, “Using the world-class expertise of the British Army, we will help Ukraine to rebuild its forces and scale-up its resistance as they defend their country’s sovereignty and their right to choose their own future.”

The new soldiers will be given uniforms and equipment to take to the front line, including AK assault rifles, or Kalashnikovs as they’re better known. Ironically, perhaps, these were originally made in Russia and are also used by the Ukrainian army, but not the British.

When I asked the MOD where they got them from, I was told, “The government has rapidly procured AK variant assault rifles through a combination of international donations and private purchase, meaning Ukrainian soldiers can train on the type of weapons they will be using on the front line.”

The spokesperson didn’t elaborate as to which nations those donations had come from, but to make sure they worked proficiently, soldiers from the Welsh Guards were brought in to test more than 2,400 of them. As 10,000 will be needed every four months, that’s a lot of rifles to test.

One of those who will be training the Ukrainians is Sgt. Dan Hayes, and he told The Times of London: “I’ve been in the army 14 years, and I chose to join. These guys are all civvies [civilians] … and we are investing everything we can because we know they are going to need it.”

But are they really all civvies doing their bit? When I asked the MOD if their numbers might include members of the alleged neo-Nazi Azov Regiment, I was told, “The Armed Forces of Ukraine undertake vetting of Ukrainian personnel coming to the UK for military training.”

Which means they probably have no idea about the backgrounds of those who will be coming.

The Azov Regiment, with its neo-Nazi origins, recently suffered heavy losses at the huge Azovastal complex in Mariupol in the south of the country and was eventually ordered to surrender by the Ukrainian General Staff.

Whether or not its new recruits find their way onto the UK training program, there’s also the issue of how much of Britain’s weaponry found its way to the Azovs and other far-right volunteer fighters in Ukraine itself.

Unusually, Ukraine has numerous private or volunteer armies as well as its regular forces: Some are foreign fighters and mercenaries; some are nationalist; some are Muslim; some are funded directly by the government and some by oligarchs.

Back in 2015, Kateryna Zarembo was working as deputy director of the Institute of World Policy in Kyiv. She told Deutsche Welle: “Oligarchs are the most powerful people in Ukraine. It’s the oligarchs that are subsidizing the politicians and control much of the mass media in the country.”

Efforts have been made to bring these armed groups under the state, and in 2022 many, but not all, were reorganized to form the official Territorial Defense Force.

When I asked the MOD directly if the British government is working with the Azovs in Ukraine itself, they stated, “The British government does not work with or fund the Azov Brigade.”

However, how much control does the British government have over how the billions of dollars it has given to the Ukrainian government are spent? It would certainly make sense to give your best weapons to your best troops, and the Azovs have consistently proven their battle skills.

I was further told by the MOD, “We have a very strong relationship with the Armed Forces of Ukraine who have been clear with us that the weapons provided by the UK are not intended for targeting into Russia but will be used to defend Ukraine, in Ukraine.”

But by whom exactly in Ukraine? That isn’t so clear. But it’s reassuring to hear that steps have been taken to prevent British weapons firing into Russia itself and the unthinkable mission creep that this could bring with it.

Especially following scary comments by the new head of the British Army, Gen. Sir Patrick Sanders, that “the world has changed since February 24 and there is now a burning imperative to forge an army capable of fighting alongside our allies and defeating Russia in battle.”

Now, there was I thinking the Cold War had ended, but you know old soldiers and politicians.

When I asked what steps are in place to prevent Britain’s support for Ukraine turning into a hot war between Russia and the United Kingdom, the MOD spokesman explained, “The UK maintains a diplomatic framework that allows us to keep open a channel for crisis communication with Russia and space for diplomacy.”

Nazis? What Nazis?

When Vladimir Putin sent his troops into Ukraine, he claimed his purpose was “the demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine.”

This was dismissed with incredulity by Western leaders who believed that its Jewish leader, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, would never countenance an openly Nazi group as part of his nation’s defense force. NBC News even ran a story titled “Putin using false ‘Nazi’ narrative to justify Russia’s attack on Ukraine, experts say.”

It reported Michael McFaul, a former U.S. ambassador to Russia from 2012–2014, saying on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program: “He’s talking about denazification. There are no Nazis in Ukraine.” Really, Mr. Ambassador?

Professor Kim Lane Scheppele of Princeton University told the Financial Times about the fall-out from the decision to include the Azovs in the National Guard: “Once the Azov battalion is in the Ukrainian military, it causes lots of problems. So, for example, the U.S. government discovered there was this neo-Nazi battalion – literally, in the U.S. legislation it says, no money shall go to this battalion.”

So, were the Azovs also receiving training from Britain at that time as part of “Operation ORBITAL?”

Times Change, Minds Change

As early as March 7, Zelenskyy told ABC News that he was now ready for his country to become neutral and he had given up his ambitions to join NATO. He said, “I have cooled down regarding this question a long time ago after we understood that … NATO is not prepared to accept Ukraine.”

Had he said this just 17 days earlier at the Munich Security Conference on Feb. 19, instead of making his provocative speech where he said, “I want to believe that the North Atlantic Treaty and Article 5 will be more effective than the Budapest Memorandum”—i.e., we want to join NATO—the Russians might not have invaded his country five days later on Feb. 24.

But the emboldened President Vladimir Putin’s price is now much higher. He’s demanding more than neutrality; he also wants Russia’s claims to Crimea and the Donbas region to be recognized, which Zelenskyy refuses, and so the fighting continues.

Whatever the outcome of this unnecessary and terrible conflict is, the fortune of the Azov Regiment is likely to rise in post-war Ukraine due to the sacrifices it has made. This is what happened in November 2014 after the last major conflict when it was enrolled into the Ukrainian National Guard and began to receive state funding.

As for Britain, even with Boris Johnson soon to leave office, its foreign policy is not about to change. The final comment I received from the MOD was, “We maintain the right to continue this relationship and deliver lethal and non-lethal defensive equipment to enable Ukraine to better defend itself against Russian aggression.”

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Andrew Davies is a UK-based video producer and writer. His award-winning video on underage sex abuse helped Barnardos children’s charity change UK law, while his documentary “Batons, Bows and Bruises: A History of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra,” ran for six years on the Sky Arts Channel.